Ninja Gaiden

From Academic Kids

Ninja Gaiden (NINJA外伝) is a series of video games by Tecmo, featuring the dragon ninja Ryu Hayabusa.

The series was originally known as Ninja Ryűkenden (忍者龍剣伝, Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword) in Japan. While the word gaiden (pronounced "guy-den") means side-story in Japanese, although nobody knows the exact context behind its use in the American title, it is speculated that Tecmo simply used it since it was an easier Japanese word to pronounce than ryűkenden. Reportedly, Tecmo was originally going to used the title Ninja Dragon in America, but it was dropped (most likely due to Data East's beat 'em up Bad Dudes, which was originally titled Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja in the arcade).

The series was also known as Shadow Warriors in Europe and Australia.

The series gained popularity on the 8-bit Nintendo Family Computer/Nintendo Entertainment System for its tight action-platform gameplay, catchy music and use of cinematic cutscenes that unveiled the plot. The 8-bit trilogy was enhanced for the 16-bit Super Famicom/Super Nintendo Entertainment System in 1995, with password feature added. It has recently been released as a 3D action game on the Xbox, developed by Team Ninja (the makers of Dead or Alive).


Arcade Game

The arcade version of Ninja Gaiden (released in 1988 in North America and 1989 in Japan) was a Double Dragon-style beat 'em up in which the player controls a nameless ninja, as he travels to various regions of America (such as San Francisco, New York and Las Vegas) to defeat an evil cult. The player has a variety of techniques such as a flying neck throw and a back-flip. The player can obtain power-ups by throwing enemies into background objects such as street lights and dumpsters. The player fights primarily with his bare hands, although a sword can also be used for a limited time as a power-up. The game is mostly remembered for its infamous continue screen (where the player character is tied to the ground while a chainsaw is moving towards him from above).

While the game itself bears little or no connection to the later NES trilogy or Xbox revival, certain aspects of it were carried over to the first NES title. The first stage in the NES game is a loose adaptation of the first stage in the arcade game and the opening cutscene in the NES game vaguely resembles the intro in the arcade version. Both games also feature Jason Voorhees look-alikes and the final boss in the arcade game vaguely resembles Bloody Malth from the NES game. The second player's character wears a red ninja outfit similar to the one Ken Hayabusa wears in the NES game.

The first and best conversion was for the Commodore Amiga computer, which retained almost everything of the graphical beauty and functionality of the original game, including the two-player option and the intro.

The arcade game was later ported to the Atari Lynx, IBM PC, and Sega Genesis. The Genesis port is inaccurate and is said to have not been released commercially.

NES Trilogy

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Ninja Gaiden I (NES version)
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Ninja Gaiden I (SNES version).

The original Ninja Gaiden, a platformer, was released in 1988-89. A ninja named Ryu Hayabusa is instructed by his recently-murdered father Ken to go to America and recover the Demon Statues, artifacts with the power to end the world. He eventually ends up in South America battling the Jaquio, the evil mastermind responsible for the attack on Ken Hayabusa.

The game introduced many of the series' staples, including the cinematic cutscenes, the Windmill Shuriken, the magical techniques called Ninja Arts, and the ability to scale walls. Like all games in the series, it is noted for its difficulty.

In the sequel, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, Ryu learns that the Jaquio was working for a villain named Ashtar. Ryu must rescue Irene Lew, a former CIA agent, from Ashtar and retrieve the Dark Sword, a weapon of great power.

This game was the first to feature Spirit Clones, invincible copies of Ryu which would mimic his movements and fight by his side. It is also often seen as the best game of the trilogy.

The third game, titled Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom, has what some considered to be a rather convoluted and at times contradictory story featuring rogue secret agents, genetic engineering, and the eponymous warship. The gameplay is largely unchanged and more is unraveled about Foster, the CIA agent who sent Ryu after Jaquio in the first game, and his true intentions towards the ninja. This game is often considered to be the more difficult of the original trilogy as continues are limited this time. It is also seen as weaker than the other two by most people. It appeared on the Atari Lynx as well.

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy is a 1995 Snes collection featuring all three games. Few improvements were made but passwords were included and the cinematic sequences were improved. The third game was also made more playable with infinite continues and more reasonable damage from enemy attacks. Unfortunately, the ports suffer from slowdown and unresponsive controls.

Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox

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Released in February 2004, the Xbox Ninja Gaiden could be considered as a prequel to the NES trilogy, containing no story elements from those games. Taking advantage of the advances in video gaming technology, Ninja Gaiden had evolved from a side-scrolling action game to a 3D game with a third-person view on the protagonist. This decision has sparked criticism from many, who say that the camera angles make gameplay irritating and difficult. The game sometimes chooses new camera angles based on the player's movements, but tapping one of the shoulder buttons automatically orients the camera behind the character. The series retained its challenging gameplay and the use of cutscenes to reveal the plot.

The story revolves around the Dark Dragon Blade, a sword made from the bones of a Black Dragon. It could absorb any evil from its vicinity and transform its wielder into the devil incarnate. For this reason, it was sealed away and protected by warriors of the Dragon Lineage. Their descendants formed the Hayabusa ninja clan, and Ryu Hayabusa was one of them. Ryu had inherited the Dragon Sword from his father Ken (or in this game, Joe) while the latter was training in the "Sacred Wilderness."

However, while Ryu was away from the Hayabusa Village to see his uncle Murai (who had left to form his own ninja clan), the village was attacked by an army of samurai led by a Greater Fiend named Doku. Doku stole the Dark Dragon Blade and nearly killed Ryu when the young ninja confronted him. Later, Ryu recovered from his injuries and was informed by Murai that Doku came from the Vigoor Empire. Ryu then set out to retrieve the Dark Dragon Blade before it could gather enough power from the hatred and evil surrounding it. Ayane from the Dead or Alive series makes appeareances in the game by helping Ryu. This further ties the two game series together since Ryu also appears in Dead or Alive, and because he knows Ayane's half brother Hayate.

Two "Hurricane Packs" were released as Downloadable Content over the Xbox Live service. The first made the game even harder and featured various changes to the location of items and enemies, with unlockable costumes available. The second was part of a Master Ninja Tournament, where players competed in a special set of levels to gain the highest "Karma" scores.

A second edition of the game titled Ninja Gaiden Black is currently in development. According to interviews with game's director, it will feature two new difficulty settings and several more FMV movies.

Other consoles

There are also appearances of Ninja Gaiden on other consoles. Sega, with permission from Tecmo, released two games, both with the name Ninja Gaiden: one for the Master System and another for the Game Gear. The Master System version is fairly close to the NES games in mechanics, but features new characters and scenarios. The Game Gear version, however, was not very close to any of the other versions. It featured a smaller screen size, and the mechanics were changed quite a bit.

Also, there is a Game Boy version called Ninja Gaiden: Shadow. It was actually a licensed edit of a proposed Shadow of the Ninja (Natsume) port. Because of this, it differs slightly from the console versions, but is still fairly faithful.

External link

ClassicGaming site on the series (


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