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Page 1:
Intro
Ninja Gaiden (Arcade)

Page 2:
NES Trilogy Introduction
Ninja Gaiden (NES)

Page 3:
Ninja Gaiden II (NES)
Ninja Gaiden III (NES)

Page 4:
Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Sega Games

Page 5:
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden Sigma

Page 6:
Dragon Sword

Page 7:
Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360)
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Page 8:
Ninja Gaiden 3
Razor's Edge

Page 9:
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Page 10:
Ninja Gaiden Old & New
Bosses Gallery

Page 11:
Mobile
Other

Page 12:
Interview: Masato Kato

Discuss on the Forums!

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Ninja Ryūkenden GB: Matenroo Kessen (忍者龍剣伝GB 摩天楼決戦) / Ninja Gaiden Shadow / Shadow Warriors - Game Boy (1991)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

After The Ancient Ship of Doom Tecmo abandoned the Ninja Gaiden franchise, for all that matters. Until their re-release of the NES games as Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, licensing was all that kept the series alive. That is really sad, considering how much other action series gained from their step to 16-bit. Who knows how a "real" SNES Ninja Gaiden would have looked and played like?

Instead, in 1991, Tecmo "adopted" the Game Boy port of Natsume's Shadow of the Ninja. The two heroes of that game were replaced with Ryu Hayabusa, the introduction, otherwise nearly identical to Natsume's NES game, got an unrelated sentence like "Jaquio has not yet been awakened" attached, to "connect" its storyline with the other games, and finished was the new Ninja Gaiden. Oh, there's also the Art of the Fire Wheel, which is the only special attack in the game.

But everything else still smells like Shadow of the Ninja - the extra containers lying on the floor, the identical music tunes, the hand-to-hand shimmying instead of wall climbing (plus a cool new grapple hook, whose use is limited to pulling Ryu straight up vertically, though), the enemy and stage design and whatnot. There's even proof that the change came upon the game pretty late in development, as Nintendo Power previewed the game as Shadow of the Ninja as late as September 1991, only three months before the final game came out. The American title even sounds like it pays tribute to its roots, but the Japanese subtitle just means "Skyscraper Showdown".

Shadow of the Ninja Game Boy Preview

It's quite interesting to see how Ninja Gaiden III seems to have already been inspired greatly by Shadow of the Ninja in turn. Suddenly, Ninja Gaiden has mechanical enemies, hand-to-hand shimmering (though this also may be rooted in the arcade game) and a sword upgrade? No comment. To finish the circle, you can bet the creators at Natsume weren't quite unfamiliar with Ninja Gaiden to begin with.

But back to Ninja Gaiden Shadow. It's a much stripped down version, no matter whether it's viewed it from the Ninja Gaiden or the Shadow of the Ninja standpoint. There's no in-game storytelling other than the intro, your attacks are very limited and the level design is rather boring most of the time, though not entirely without fun ideas. Not bad for an early Game Boy title, but it won't keep you occupied for long. At least the music is pretty good - some of it sounds very similar to Shadow of the Ninja, but there are a few classic Ninja Gaiden tunes interspersed as well.

Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy)

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Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy)

Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy)

Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy)

Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy)

Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy)


Comparison Screenshots: Ninja Gaiden Shadow & Shadow of the Ninja


Comparison Screenshots: Ninja Gaiden III & Shadow of the Ninja


Ninja Gaiden (忍者外伝) - Game Gear (1991)

Japanese Cover

European Cover

In 1991, Sega began to release licensed Ninja Gaiden games for their own hardware. In the title screens they all state "Reprogrammed Game Copyright Sega 199X", but they're all new and original games and not based on any of the previous ones.

Ninja Gaiden for the Sega Game Gear was the first one to share one title for all regions. If anything, Sega Europe had more balls than Nintendo and made do without family friendly self-censorship. On top of that, now the title "Gaiden" finally made sense, since the plot of the game wasn't related to the main series at all. This story, though, is definitely the stupidest one in any series entry ever. Ryu is hunting a terrorist demon, who wants to bring the whole world to war. None of the following events make any real sense, and it's best to just ignore it and play the game.

On the other hand, the gameplay isn't too hot, either. The controls feel rather loose and hectic and most of the weapons got replaced by more common and boring energy shots. At least you can run and slash your sword at the same time, making for a very different feel than the other games. The level design is very simple, and most of the time you just need to rush from left to right, or up a skyscraper while stuff is falling down on Ryu. The only refreshing exception brings the fourth (and last!) act, where you have to jump from wall to wall and can turn around with certain wall segments. The bosses are easy to beat, but you should never get hit by them when you are right above their heads, because if that happens, you'll most likely bounce of and get hit again until you're dead, and that doesn't take a lot of hits.

The graphics look boring and glitchy, and there's terrible flickering in the skyscraper stage. Everything's bright and colorful, though, so you won't have any trouble recognizing stuff. Playing this game for longer than an hour would be terribly boring. Fortunately (?), it can easily be finished well before that hour passes.

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Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)

Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)

Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)


Ninja Gaiden - Master System (1992)

Cover

Sega's next endeavor in the Ninja Gaiden series was released for the Master System in 1992, but only in PAL territories, because they were the only ones that didn't notice that the Master System was dead in the rest of the world (In fact, it should stay alive at least in Brazil for a long time). This time, Sega actually produced a decent game out of the franchise, though it seems likely that it was actually outsourced to SIMS. Not only does it share code segments and credited pseudonyms with other SIMS games, but it also uses the exact same font for story sequences as the Master System version of Psychic World by SIMS (however, it's hard to tell to what degree there was an exchange of resources between Sega and their third parties). Too bad hardly anyone would have noticed the game at the time of its release, anyway.

After all his adventures in America - that's as far as the plot connection to the other games goes - Ryu now finally could return to his home town in Japan, only to find it completely destroyed and it's most valuable treasure, the Shinobido scroll stolen by the evil (and demonic, of course) Dark Shogun. With their second try Sega actually paid attention to the story development and cinematic cut scenes, though they are rather slow paced, lack interesting plot twists and aren't as exciting as the NES games' cut scenes by far.

Unlike the Game Gear title, the game also has an appropriate length with eight stages, with many sections partly inspired by previous Ninja Gaiden games or common platforming clichés, like an ice stage, a volcano stage and a waterfall stage. The bombs lying around in some levels certainly remind one of Sega's Shinobi series. Compared to its predecessors, climbing is an even more important factor in these stages, despite the fact that Ryu's abilities have become more limited. Instead of clinging onto walls, you now immediately have to time your wall jump and continue, or you will fall down. You still can cling onto the branches of trees and poles, but there's no hand-over-hand climbing. These changes make the climbing much more challenging, but scaling difficult heights becomes a lot of fun.

Ryu's arsenal has been changed once again. The Windmill Shuriken makes its comeback, but now it's just a strong shuriken that doesn't return to you. Other weapons include a projectile that is cast into the four main directions and homing fireballs. The latter one are the greatest flaw of the game, because they totally destroy the balance. The developers took a lot of pain to come up with creative and challenging boss fights, but all their efforts are in vain if you just can stand in a corner and comfortably spawn your fireballs to beat them. The game suffers from heavy Castlevania syndrome, so you are not likely to ever run out of ammo. You even can get an unlimited amount if you ever reach 999 charges. It's a shame to see a game with such a good potential be spoiled by unnecessary, stupid design flaws, but if you restrain yourself to not using any special weapons against the bosses, you can have a fun and challenging game. Ryu can now also perform a completely useless "desperation attack", which kills every enemy on screen except bosses, but depletes a fourth of his health, which is more than any group of enemies could ever do to him, as long as you're not acting extremely clumsy.

Though the game finally manages to at least reach near the quality of its more popular siblings, the same thing certainly can't be said about the music. Most of it is based on very repetitive loops that are played throughout the very long stages without any variation, and it gets on one's nerves very fast. It's lacking drum samples like those in the NES games, so overall it carries a lot less of the musical punch that made those so catchy.

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Ninja Gaiden (Master System)

Ninja Gaiden (Master System)

Ninja Gaiden (Master System)

Ninja Gaiden (Master System)

Ninja Gaiden (Master System)

Ninja Gaiden (Master System)


Ninja Gaiden - Genesis (unreleased, ca. 1992-1993)

Ninja Gaiden (Genesis)

Sega even had a third Ninja Gaiden project running, this time for the Mega Drive. Once again, the development was done by a third party. This time it seems to have been the mostly unknown developer called Opus, as in-game art and the sound engine used indicate. This game was never released, probably due to quality issues, but a beta copy was leaked and can be played on emulators nowadays. The game tries to build upon the concept of the original arcade game, but feels more like a very bad approach to the Streets of Rage school of beat-em-ups. It is obvious that it either was in a rather early development stage (an EGM preview for November 1992 labeled it 60% complete, but it's unknown if that was the version that got dumped), or Sega did right to pull the plug on this botched mess.

The game features a lot of cut scenes, all of them in the finest Engrish. The chapter titles are in Japanese, though. The story doesn't make any sense, at least not in its presented state. Later in the game, you meet people you should know but don't, and about halfway through the game you get to know that your goal from the beginning was to rescue Ryu's kidnapped ninja lady friend.

The controls are odd, because you can't walk straight forward - instead, you can only walk diagonally. This is completely absurd, because the screen isn't viewed from an isometric angle. Not only is it difficult to line up attacks, but you'll often end up double tapping the controller, which sends Ryu rolling all over the screen. Everything looks, feels, and sounds unnatural, especially when you're trying to pummel someone.

Once again, Sega couldn't resist to build in a desperation attack that consumes a quarter of your life. You'll never need it though, since your enemies are dumb as hell. You retain your standard combo and Guillotine Throw from the arcade game, but there isn't any climbing action. There are poles in some levels who look like they might have been intended for such a purpose, but at least in the surviving version, there is nothing to do with them.

A few stages are reminiscent of the arcade game, but there are no traps and they are as boring as the rest of the game. This title is much longer, though, and so the levels are filled up with not-so-exciting "innovations" like a bar stage, or a level that takes place on an elevator. In the beta, you can jump to any level you want by pausing the game and selecting the stage number, which is displayed in place of the remaining time, but you won't find any decent stages, no matter how hard you look. There are actually a few visually well designed bosses, like the punk rock guitarist who constantly gives Ryu the finger, or the final boss monster with its long extending arm, but gameplay-wise, they're just as stupid and boring as the rest.

There's really nothing good about this game, and it stayed unreleased for a reason. Give it a wide berth. Follow-ups to the original arcade game just didn't seem to get any luck. Reportedly, there was a Ninja Gaiden II for the arcades in development, on nothing less than Neo Geo hardware, and went as far as having location tests in July 1994, but it soon disappeared, barely leaving any traces at all. An old online profile of composer Takuya Hanaoka listed 6 BGM tracks for the Neo Geo Ninja Gaiden 2 among his portfolio.

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  • Opus

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Ninja Gaiden (Genesis)

Ninja Gaiden (Genesis)

Ninja Gaiden (Genesis)

Ninja Gaiden (Genesis)

Ninja Gaiden (Genesis)


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Ninja Gaiden (Arcade)

Page 2:
NES Trilogy Introduction
Ninja Gaiden (NES)

Page 3:
Ninja Gaiden II (NES)
Ninja Gaiden III (NES)

Page 4:
Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Sega Games

Page 5:
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden Sigma

Page 6:
Dragon Sword

Page 7:
Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360)
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Page 8:
Ninja Gaiden 3
Razor's Edge

Page 9:
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Page 10:
Ninja Gaiden Old & New
Bosses Gallery

Page 11:
Mobile
Other

Page 12:
Interview: Masato Kato

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index