3: Ninja Gaiden

Genre: Platformer

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Year: 1988

Basic Idea: Get shot and watch everyone you care about get kidnapped or murdered.  Including yourself.

Review:  The only game in the top 10 that can be really considered difficult, Ninja Gaiden remains to this day my favorite platformer.  Granted, I stopped playing platformers in about 1992, but bear with me.  People seem to be equally divided as to whether they prefer this game or its sequel.  I’m in the former camp, obviously.  I think the primary reason is that it just came easier to me.  The learning curve is more gradual, though by the end of the game it is significantly more difficult and to be honest, unfair.  But since the first three-fourths of the game was less frustrating, I fell in love.

The opening cinema is amazing.  I still get chills watching it today, thanks in part to the game’s perfect soundtrack.  The plot itself is a pretty standard vengeance story, but it’s done incredibly well considering how mediocre the dialogue is during each cut scene.  My favorite scene during the game is the one where Ryu is taken by the CIA and explained what he’s being asked to do.

And if I say no?

You know the answer to that…

Even the ending is pretty solid, bittersweet.  Nearly every game that had been released to this point had a story no more important than that of a pornographic film.   Tecmo decided to up the ante by providing the gamer with a full experience and they hit a home run.

The action is intense.  Ryu moves with grace that is still noticeable today.  The main annoyance is the kickback and subsequent falling deaths, much like in Castlevania.  Memorization of enemy patterns, especially that of the eagles and the bats is necessary.  The only thing that makes it palatable is Ryu’s responsiveness.  And, of course, the music.

I’ve never won Ninja Gaiden without a game genie.  The last level is just too damn hard for me.  I think one time I made it to Jacquio, but I couldn’t beat him once, let alone the three times you have to do it. And, irritatingly, if he defeats you, you go all the way back to the beginning of the level.  I was able to win the game one time with a game genie, but even that took tons of effort as there was no “infinite energy” code.  I just hang my hat on the fact that at one point I could get to the final level without losing a life.

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4 thoughts on “3: Ninja Gaiden

  1. I’m trying to think of what games are left that would make your top two. Everytime I think of one, I see it’s already been listed or mentioned as being inferior to one of the ones you listed. I think of have one of the two.

  2. I’ve been casually thinking of what’s left, and this never occurred to me because we talked about the whole series at length when you posted II.

    I am totally in love with this series. Since I’m sure I mentioned that before, an anecdote instead:

    A couple of years ago, all the Ninja Gaidens went up on the Wii Virtual Console. It was a VERY bad time for me, money-wise, but I bit the bullet and bought the first one.

    Turns out, the one I bought is the much less fun, much less fair arcade version. There was really no indication that this was the game I was buying, which I’m sure was by design. I’m still pissed, and I still haven’t bought the real thing since.

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