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Ninja Gaiden

忍者龍剣伝 [NES]

Developer / Publisher: Tecmo
09 December 1988
Ninja Gaiden [忍者龍剣伝 [NES]] - cover art
Glitchwave rating
3.37 / 5.0
0.5
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400 Ratings / 3 Reviews
#1,563 All-time
#6 for 1988
Ryu travel to America to seek vengeance for his father’s murder and uncover a plot that threatens the world.
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忍者龍剣伝 ファミリーコンピュータ版
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2007 Tecmo  
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2009 Tecmo  
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2012 Tecmo Koei Tecmo  
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2012 Tecmo Koei Tecmo  
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2018 Tecmo Nintendo  
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Title
The ninja way
Ninja Gaiden for the NES was developed alongside the arcade game of the same name and came out relatively late into the NES lifespan. Despite that fact, the two games offer very different experiences. The one on the NES is a side-scroller platformer with gameplay akin to Castlevania only much faster. You have to be very precise whenever you're making those jumps but also daring enough to keep moving forward. I found Ninja Garden at its best whenever I was rushing ahead and slicing up enemies in mid-air all while narrowly avoiding taking any damage.

And contributing to those cool moments were the controls. Which I found to be responsive for the most part. Wall climbing can be slightly finicky and sometimes you can get stuck on the ledge with no way to climb back up, meaning you have to fall and start over. Also, I wished I had some more control during aerial movement.
Sadly those moments where like I felt like a true ninja were few and between as the game can be very laborious due to its level design.
The enemies are often found patrolling on very short ledges right after deadly jumps, requiring you to have pinpoint accuracy as well as perfect timing to get past them.
There are also various NES quirks and now largely outdated design choices that make the game way harder than it needs to be.
Such as:
The endlessly respawning enemies whenever you move the screen left or right.
Major knockback- regardless of what enemy you hit, often resulting in you falling into pits.
Tiny invincibility frames that don't help in the slightest.

Keeping those problems in mind, trying to play Ninja Gaiden is as much a test of your reflexes and concentration as it is a test of your memorization skills and finding ways to exploit the game to your favor.
These are the reasons this game is often cited as one of the hardest games on the NES and some of the later levels, including the part where you get sent back 3 levels if you die to either of the final bosses phases- truly do justice showcasing that fact.
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fleshtache 2023-12-24T15:36:16Z
2023-12-24T15:36:16Z
3.5
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6.5

One thing I hate more than anything in gaming is annoying birds. See Elden Ring in 2023, see Ninja Gaiden in the late 80s. I love the action here, I love the primitive action story with awesome cutscenes for the time. I despise many trap levels and annoying enemies. I can never get close to mastering this game, so there’s only a certain level I can enjoy
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FatherMcKenzie 2023-09-05T14:51:51Z
2023-09-05T14:51:51Z
2.5
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Ninja Gaiden is the epitome of NES hard. The original arcade version of Ninja Gaiden is a completely different beast. It’s a beat-em-up in the vein of Double Dragon. The NES Ninja Gaiden couldn’t have given the player some clemency by offering a simple beat-em-up. The developers wanted all the children of the 1980’s to get their parent’s money’s worth, so they transformed the IP into a 2D platformer, the apex of challenge in the 8-bit era. Ninja Gaiden makes games like Castlevania look like a walk in the fucking park. I don’t think there is another 2D platformer from this era that is so chaotic, overwhelming, and unrelentingly hard. Why did I even bother to play this game then? If you know my gaming pedigree and what I gravitate to, I live to play games that feel like getting smacked around like a pinball. This game is another hot pepper I must ingest to not only feel accomplished for doing it, but to give my life some dangerous flavor.

Although I do gravitate towards more difficult games, I have limits to what I’m willing to put up with (fuck you, Ghosts ‘n Goblins). It’s not the relentlessness of an NES game that can deter me from playing it, but the very primitive arcade-like ethos of challenge. Limited continues and little margin of error are the two biggest aspects that will make me weary of an NES game. Konami games like this and Castlevania have more forgiving aspects to them like health bars, unlimited continues, power ups, etc. It gives the illusion that this game is accessible when it is anything but. The first few levels of Ninja Gaiden are even relatively easy to lull you into a false sense of security like a lot of 2D platformers do. It’s at about Level 2-2 where the true colors of this game rear their ugly heads, and the game does not let up.

The ingredients for difficulty in Ninja Gaiden boil down to three essential elements: enemy placements, enemy variety, and getting knocked back ten feet in the air whenever you get hit by anything. Simon Belmont just gets blown back a little bit, but Ryu gets absolutely dusted by anything. No matter if it’s a bullet, a sword swipe, or the swipe of a wild animal, Ryu is about as durable as a paper being blown away by the wind. More than not, he’ll be blown away into a crevice, prematurely emptying your health-bar and having you start from the beginning of the level. This will happen a lot due to the borderline unfair enemy placements in this game. Many enemies will be standing at the edge of a cliff and many of them are also either shooting you or they’ll lob objects at you. Enemies in this game will also walk back and forth on narrow platforms giving you meager legroom. I don’t think I have to mention that if you fuck up, you’ll fall in a pit and die. There is very little room for error in this game. Oftentimes, there will be another enemy that appears out of nowhere, most likely a wildcat or the stray bullet of another enemy that will more than likely knock you off the ledge into a pitfall right after you’ve taken care of the enemy on the ledge. There are usually tons of different enemies on the screen ranging from commandos with AK-47s and bazookas to a bevy of wild animals like bats and wildcats. The eagles are the bane of my existence. They dive at you at an erratic pace, they take off a third of your health if they hit you, and they are EVERYWHERE past a certain point in the game. If the enemies with weapons don’t get you trying to get to a platform, the eagles will certainly make it their mission to. The rudimentary flaws of the NES also bring enemies back to life if you defeat them and move back a little bit. The impetus of doing this is to prepare for an accurate jump on a platform, but the game demands that you defeat the enemy and jump at the same time, requiring extreme precision. Through extreme practice and memorization, Ninja Gaiden won’t be easy, but it will be at least feasible. Once you gain a rhythm of each level, you will feel as spry and skilled as an actual ninja.

Fortunately, Tecmo gives you plenty of devices to get through this relentless endeavor. Like in Castlevania, there are power ups you acquire by smashing light sources (in Castlevania they’re candles and in Ninja Gaiden they’re oriental lamps). These powerups include a fire shield, shurikens, and a spin slash move. My advice is to just stick with the spin slash because it is essential when dealing with enemies on narrow platforms surrounded by pits. These also have an energy limit like in Castlevania except it is replenished by something called “ninpo” instead of hearts. Ryu moves very tightly as you’d expect from a ninja and thank god because if he didn’t, this game would be unplayable. The only time when this isn’t the case is with the wall-jumping mechanic. It works in the grand scheme of ninja acrobatics, but it feels a tad stilted and you can only jump between walls and not climb up them unless there is a ladder attached. If you find yourself clinging to a wall without another one parallel to it, breathe a heavy sigh and try again because you’re fucked.

Besides the infamous level of difficulty, Ninja Gaiden is one of the best games on the NES in terms of presentation. The 8-bit graphics are some of the best from the era. Each level is a different foreground ranging from cities, jungles, mountains, etc. and they all look fantastic. I notice there is a deep hue in each of the graphics which gives them a little more depth. This is also one of the very few NES games to implement a cinematic story told through a series of comic-book-like cutscenes. They may seem a little dated now, but this was practically unheard of during this era. The story of Ninja Gaiden is Ryu, the main character, travelling to America to avenge his father’s death. That must explain the abundance of eagles. His father was working on a project with another man to resurrect an ancient demon using two demon statues. Forget the pirates versus ninjas debate. Let’s use Ninja Gaiden to start the ninjas versus demons debate. It turns out his father is still alive, but the demon is coming very close to being resurrected and Ryu must stop it. This is probably the only spoiler cloak I’ve ever had to use with an NES game. The final boss is a fight against the demon that comes in three phases, each one harder than the last. Up until this point, the bosses were big, but simple. They kind of reminded me of the bosses in Zelda II with their simple attack patterns (except for the level five boss which takes leveraging damage with aggression and a touch of pure luck). Up until this point, you also had unlimited continues, but the developers decided it would be funny to sweep the rug under every player and have you start from 6-1 when you die. Real funny, guys. The game lets you continue from the phase you were last on like a proto Bed of Chaos, but you’ll have to endure three stages filled with the hardest sections in the game. This was when I decided to exploit the Switch’s save/load feature to get to the end. Judge me all you want, the NES Game Genie was made for a game like this.

Ninja Gaiden is a game where it’s reputation precedes itself. It’s not an example of NES hard: it’s the game that made people coin the term in the first place. It’s not without its merits however as it’s presentation and tight gameplay were phenomenal for it’s time.
Don’t give me that bullshit statement that an exceptionally difficult game is “tough, but fair” because there is nothing fair about Ninja Gaiden. You must hone your skills and acquire a great sense of discipline to play Ninja Gaiden like a real ninja.
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Erockthestrange 2020-11-22T08:42:00Z
2020-11-22T08:42:00Z
7.0
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Ninja Gaiden probably has one of the most notorious reputations in gaming, its a game that is universally known as one of the hardest games and some will even go as far as saying its the hardest game of all time surpassing Ghosts N Goblins even. People go on how games like Crash Bandicoot or Dark Souls are hard, but the thing is, NES games put all the modern 3D era games to shame, Dark Souls and Crash are hard because you need to be careful and plan in advance how you're going to tackle an area, even boss fights in souls are mostly strategic and require you to plan and if you know their pattern you'll be good. Ninja Gaiden is difficult but for the same reason most old NES games are, you have to react to things that come at you from off screen.

Ninja Gaiden is bullshit, you have enemies who rush you off screen, enemies who knock you back, and when you're jumping between a pit that can instant kill you just knock you down in mid air. That's really why Ninja Gaiden is hard, you have off screen bullshit that can knock you around and when you die you have to go back the beginning of an area. If Ninja Gaiden had no knockback and when you got hit you just passed through the enemy, this game would hardly be much more difficult than others. Now Ninja Gaiden still is nowhere near as difficult as Ghouls N Ghosts or Ghosts N Goblins, both those games you die in 2 hits and both those games have more random bullshit and tougher enemies, but this game still is tough and once you reach the 4th World, you'll get pretty frustrated with how much off screen enemies there are and how cheap the levels are designed. The bosses are actually among the least frustrating part of the game, except the final boss guantlet which is probably the worst thing about the game. Once you reach the end, you have to face 3 bosses all who are tough and you die to any of them you have to redo the entire last World again, that's right the game doesn't put you at the start of the boss guantlet or even the start of the last segment of the chapter, it puts you at the start of the entire final chapter only to face a boss who is tough as balls and can kill you in a few seconds. Lucky today we have save states but I just don't know how people dealth with this, its pure trial and error figuring out how to get past everything and you need split second reactions.

The game does have a story but its really cheesy and feels like a B rate movie. Its almost laughable how lame the story and characters are. Overall, Ninja Gaiden isn't terrible, it has decent mechanics and once you learn where all the enemies are it can be fun and its nowhere near as cheap as the Ghost and Goblin games. But its still excessively frustrating and I really can't forgive the cheapness of the final areas and how without save states the game makes you replay all that.
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jweber14 2018-08-07T02:28:25Z
2018-08-07T02:28:25Z
3.5
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Young grasshopper
This game is probably one of the best out there in giving brain aneurysms to its players. Its insanely hard. That said, it is also one of the best games i have played out of the NES catalogue. Its got an actually engaging story, amazing visuals and intense action gameplay. I love how tight it controls, and how satisfying it is to slash enemies in the middle of the air. But like i mentioned, the game is stupidly hard, to the point of being so frustrating rage quits can happen. This is mainly due to two types of situations that the game loves to throw at you. The first is respawning enemies at the edge of a screen. This can effectively block you from clearing out enemies from a distance and keeps you always on your toes. The second thing is insta death pits, lot of them. You are constantly jumping between them, and one hit by an enemie stunlocks you into an animation and 9/10 times you will fall into a pit. Such is the life of the ninja. And the game devs went to the point of designing an enemy whose sole purpose it to chase you to make you fall into the pits, these are the eagles. They will chase and adjust their movement to your jumps, making it really hard to dodge them. And because of the spawning system you can have 2 to 3 eagles on you which you will make you scream in agony long before you are mercy killed. I understand anyone that cames out of this game scared for life of birds but with a massive amount of respect for ninjas.

So overal, its a great action game for the NES, but it clearly isnt for anyone. Its very frustrating, at times very unfair in its difficulty. but it also offers some of the best action moments in its era.
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Threntall 2016-06-21T14:15:21Z
2016-06-21T14:15:21Z
3.5
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Catalog

fryuts11 忍者龍剣伝 [NES] 2024-02-22T22:43:28Z
2024-02-22T22:43:28Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
tackyproduct 忍者龍剣伝 [NES] 2024-02-13T07:15:26Z
2024-02-13T07:15:26Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ferrecene 忍者龍剣伝 2024-02-09T23:07:42Z
NES • JP
2024-02-09T23:07:42Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Luminostre 忍者龍剣伝 [NES] 2024-02-07T14:09:16Z
2024-02-07T14:09:16Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Boon_ 忍者龍剣伝 [NES] 2024-02-06T16:39:29Z
2024-02-06T16:39:29Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
savescum
Manygodsnomasters 忍者龍剣伝 [NES] 2024-02-05T04:56:53Z
2024-02-05T04:56:53Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
SKTUD 忍者龍剣伝 [NES] 2024-02-05T01:37:48Z
2024-02-05T01:37:48Z
2.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
DJVCardMaster 忍者龍剣伝 [NES] 2024-01-30T15:38:26Z
2024-01-30T15:38:26Z
4.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
xtremedante Ninja Gaiden 2024-01-27T06:48:15Z
NES • XNA
2024-01-27T06:48:15Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
tackyy 忍者龍剣伝 [NES] 2024-01-24T13:06:54Z
2024-01-24T13:06:54Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
mattyice27 Ninja Gaiden 2024-01-22T16:11:41Z
NES • XNA
2024-01-22T16:11:41Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Giann96 Ninja Gaiden 2024-01-21T00:08:59Z
NES • XNA
2024-01-21T00:08:59Z
6.0 /10
1
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Single-player
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Also known as
  • んじゃりゅうけんでん
  • NINJA外伝
  • Ninja Ryukenden
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Shadow Warriors
  • View all [5] Hide

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  • SemtexRevolution 2020-08-05 19:44:16.544547+00
    How did they port this to Super Nintendo and make it look and sound worse? The Turbografx port looks better but has some really shitty background scrolling, and inferior music.
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  • FleegalFlargel 2022-08-19 19:05:23.220379+00
    The grey/white birds maybes the biggest arseholes in a game ever?
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  • ACertainDegreeOfPanache 2022-12-29 06:44:02.299498+00
    My favorite little quirk about this game (the NES version at least) is that attacks sometimes cut into the music (which I guess are both tied to the DPCM channel), which means the drums won't kick back in until you kill someone, like this is some sort of cheesy 80's action b-movie.
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  • mrelectric 2023-12-26 22:52:45.341469+00
    pleb filter
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  • Luminostre 2024-02-07 14:10:30.657802+00
    Interesting, i've never had problems with the birds
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