Title: Ninja Gaiden
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: Virtual Console
NA Availability: Digital
EU Availability: Digital
Block Usage: 62
Ninja Gaiden is one of those franchises that I’ve loved ever since I began to game. This statement will probably make some of you start to think I’m an incredibly young gamer or haven’t been playing many games at all. Of course, you’re probably thinking of that because there’s a game known as Ninja Gaiden in 2004. What you may not know, however, is the fact that the series is actually on its way to its 30th anniversary in a few years.
Although the 2004 game wasn’t a reboot of any sort in terms of ditching old storylines, the series began back in 1989 on the NES, one year after I was born. When you hear Ninja Gaiden, you may think of the black-armored Ryu from Dead or Alive 5 or Ninja Gaiden Sigma, but I think of the blue-robed Ryu from the original Ninja Gaiden trilogy from the late 1980s.
Thanks to Virtual Console, all three NES Ninja Gaiden games have become compatible with the Nintendo 3DS. Because of this, I have a chance to go back and do a retro review of one of my favorite games from that era. So, here’s my review of Ninja Gaiden!
Sometime after the events of Ninja Gaiden: Razor’s Edge, Ryu Hayabusa receives a letter from his father about a life and death duel and instructs him to go to America should he not return. Not long after Ryu makes the journey, he is followed and captured by an unknown military organization. Within this organization, he is given an ancient artifact and sent to an old acquaintance of his father’s, being thrown into a plot that threatens the entire world.
The story of the first Ninja Gaiden wasn’t something really shown in deep detail like the newer games. You play a stage, get a couple minutes of story, and onto the next stage. There is an overall plot you discover, but what I said in the above paragraph is far more than you’ll actually get from the game’s intro scenes.
As should be obvious, you don’t need to play the previous chronological games to play Ninja Gaiden. Although the NES trilogy takes place after the majority of the newer games in the timeline, there’s no need for prior information.
Ninja Gaiden is a 2D platformer with combat elements thrown into the mix. As you go through each stage, you will be performing some intricate platforming while fighting off enemies and bosses to progress forward. This was the case for all of the NES games, but it’s worth noting for those more used to the newer 3D games in the series.
Each stage is comprised of various areas that you side-scroll through. You’ll have to go through a couple areas before you reach the stage’s boss fight to proceed with more story content. As you go through each area, you will have to platform and fight enemies that spawn and attack you.
Platforming goes from jumping from platform to platform to Ninja Gaiden’s unique wall-hugging mechanic. If you jump on certain walls, Ryu will stick to the wall. This helps avoid attacks from ground-based enemies and give you higher jumps on nearby walls to get through the area. The wall hug is best to master early as you’ll be using it a lot, especially in boss fights.
Combat comes in two ways. You have a sword attack and sub-weapons you can pick up by destroying hanging lights or symbols. This very much mirrors the system that the old Castlevania games use. You can collect sub-weapons like shurikens, enhanced aerial physical attacks, pillars of fire, etc. You also collect energy needed to use them. Once your energy runs out, you can no longer use sub-weapons. These are especially useful for long-range enemies.
This brings up the difficulty. The NES era was known for games that were hard-as-nails to play and get through. Ninja Gaiden is one of those games. Every stage has very precise movements, jumps, and attacks that are required for navigation. One false move in certain areas and a flying bird enemy will hit you and knock you right into a pit. This makes Ninja Gaiden one of those “memorize the levels and try again after you get a Game Over” games. Some of the bosses are even trickier than that.
However being a Virtual Console game kind of removes the bulk of the difficulty. All Virtual Console games have a Recovery Point system. You can tap the touch screen on the 3DS any time you wish and you can create a Recovery Point. If you’re familiar with Save States with emulators, it’s the same thing. You can make a recovery point just before a boss and even if you die, you can reload the Recovery Point without re-doing the entire level. It makes things easier, but removes a huge amount of the game’s difficulty.
With length, a master of the game could probably beat it in about 1-2 hours, depending on how much they wanted to do. A newcomer is going to take a substantially higher amount of time. Given the fact that the Recovery Point system is there, I’d wager you’ll be spending no more than 3 or 4 hours, give or take.
Being an NES game, the controls are incredibly simple on the 3DS. You only really need to use a few buttons, but there are a couple options available. Just so you know, the new buttons on the New 3DS are not among those options.
Movement can be done with the D-Pad or Circle Pad. Since the D-Pad can be somewhat awkward with its placement, those used to the Circle Pad will find it to be much more comfortable. Jumping is done with the A Button. Attacking is done with the B or X buttons.
Finally, the touch screen is used for recovery points.
This is where I have a couple issues with the game. The original 2D style of the game is shown pretty well on the 3DS. While this isn’t anything I can really down points for, it isn’t full screen on the 3DS. Virtual Console games automatically display in their original resolution, so you’ll have to deal with the black borders on the side.
There are two problems I have. The first are colors. There are some glitching in some of the stages where the color scheme of the stages will become distorted whenever you’re moving. When you stop moving, they’ll go back to the way they’re supposed to be.
The other problem is the game glitching and making instant deaths where there shouldn’t be any. Several times in the game, I got hit by an enemy and fell down to a solid floor. After I hit the floor, Ryu disappeared and I got a Game Over, as if I had fallen down a pit. I’ve jumped on the same bit of floor and it didn’t kill me. The glitch happened a few times across a single play through the game.
Ninja Gaiden certainly isn’t what fans of the newer games will expect. Although it does have a couple minor glitches with false deaths and colors, this is a challenging platformer that is sure to give side-scrolling fans a run for their money.