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Video Game / Ninja Gaiden

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The ninja way knows neither good nor evil.
Ninja Gaiden, titled Ninja Ryūkenden ("Ninja Dragon Sword Story") in Japanese is an action game series produced by Tecmo (now Koei Tecmo) centering around Ryu Hayabusa, a Ninja from the Dragon Clan, who gets involved with government conspiracies, kicks loads of ass and slaughters legions of supernatural beings along the way.

The series dates back to 1988 with two simultaneously developed games under the same title: an arcade version that was a side-scrolling Beat 'em Up in the vein of Double Dragon, and a more popular console version for the Nintendo Entertainment System, a 2D action platformer notable for being one of the earliest action games to feature cinematic sequences between stages. The NES version would spawn two sequels, a Game Boy prequel, a couple of stand-alone versions for other platforms and an OVA set after the events of the NES trilogy before Tecmo discontinued the series after the release of the Ninja Gaiden Trilogy compilation for the Super NES in 1995.

However, Ryu's presence in Tecmo's Dead or Alive fighting game series helped keep the series alive within the public's consciousness, leading to a revival in 2004 for the Xbox by DOA developer Team Ninja simply titled Ninja Gaiden. Since then, Ninja Gaiden has become Team Ninja's other major franchise, leading to even further sequels and spinoffs.

There was also a set of licensed versions produced by Sega for their consoles in 1992. Rather than being ports of the previous Tecmo versions, Sega produced three different games that were unique to each platform. The Game Gear version had the widest release of these versions, being available in North America, Europe and Japan (where it was released under the Ninja Gaiden banner instead of the usual Ninja Ryūkenden), while the Sega Master System version was available exclusively in Europe. The Mega Drive version, which was a beat-'em-up similar to the arcade game, was never released, but was leaked in the form of a pirated version that was still in an unfinished state.

List of games:

Other media

The NES Trilogy (1988-1991)
In the first game, Ryu receives a letter from his father Joe Hayabusa (renamed Ken Hayabusa in the original localization), saying that should he not return, Ryu is to journey to America and contact a man named Walter Smith. Believing his father dead, Ryu goes to America to carry out this request. After battling a large man with an axe in a bar, he is subdued by a woman with a tranquilizer gun. He awakens in a prison cell, where the woman (Irene Lew) frees him and gives him a mysterious, grotesque statue. Ryu is puzzled by this, but presses onward. He meets with Smith, who identifies the statue as one of the Demon Statues, a pair of Artifacts of Doom he and Joe discovered and vowed to protect. As Ryu and Smith talk, the statue is stolen by another ninja. Ryu gives chase, and recaptures the statue, but returns to find Smith dying. Ryu vows to carry on his work, protecting the Demon Statues.

However, Ryu is captured by the CIA and brought before A. Foster, the head of the agency. Foster reveals that Irene is one of their agents, and that she is tracking down a man known as Jaquio, who seeks to release the powerful demon sealed in the statues. Foster orders Ryu to take out Jaquio; Ryu, remembering his oath to Smith, complies. Air-dropped into the jungles of Brazil, he makes his way to Jaquio's fortress, where he finds Jaquio has Irene at gunpoint. Jaquio reveals he has the second Demon Statue already, and demands Ryu's statue in exchange for Irene's life; Ryu, being new at the whole hero thing, complies. Jaquio's an old hand at villainy, however, and simply absconds with the statues and the girl — but not before sending Ryu hurtling down a trapdoor to the catacombs below.

Undaunted, Ryu fights his way to the top of the fortress, where he again encounters Jaquio and Irene... as well as Ryu's father, who, while not dead, is under Jaquio's mind control. Ryu gets the better of Jaquio in battle, and in desperation, Jaquio launches a magic bolt at Ryu, but his father comes to his senses, intercepts the bolt, and dies. The enraged Ryu proceeds to kill Jaquio... but he's too late, for Jaquio has released the demon from the statues!

Ryu bravely fights the demon, sealing it once more. After the battle, Foster radios Irene and orders her to assassinate Ryu and take the statues. Irene hesitates, and Ryu takes her radio and tells Foster the next time they meet, it will be as enemies.

Quite a bit more elaborate than the Save the Princess plots of the day, isn't it?

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos and Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom both had similarly complex plots, centered around their titular MacGuffins. Due to space considerations, we won't get much more into detail here; however, they offer just as many, if not more, twists and turns as the first game.

As for the actual game that takes place between the cutscenes? Ninja Gaiden played a lot like Castlevania — only faster paced and with a more acrobatic protagonist. The games were the very epitome of Nintendo Hard, with enemies coming at you from every direction at once. Gamers didn't seem to mind, however — even those who found the challenge to be too much suffered through it anyway to see the next chapter in Ryu's saga.

There was also a Game Boy prequel game called Ninja Gaiden Shadow. Taking place three years prior to the original trilogy, it has Ryu travelling to New York to battle Emperor Garuda, a servant of Jaquio.

The Team Ninja series (2004-current)
Sometime in 1999, Itagaki and Team Ninja began work on their first "action" title, aside from their on-going Dead or Alive series. Although then-Tecmo wanted a tie-in for this new revival with the NES trilogy, this Xbox version of Ninja Gaiden, released in 2004, involves none of the elements. In an interview, Itagaki mentioned he "prefer not to be influenced by or base it on the original story". While Ryu's still the protagonist, none of the above elements are explicitly mentioned.

The story establishes Ryu's a member of the Dragon Ninja Clan, charged with protecting the Dark Dragon Blade, a BFS imbued with some pretty extraordinary powers. After the game's tutorial level, he's informed that the Hayabusa Village has been destroyed. When Ryu investigates, a samurai pledged to the Holy Vigoor Emperor, Doku, kills him with the Dark Dragon Blade.

Don't worry, he gets better.

Thus, the game embarks Ryu upon a ferocious quest for revenge and the retrieval of the Dark Dragon Blade. The details of the plot are convoluted and don't add up to anything particularly extraordinary, but Ryu slices and dices his way through Vigoorian soldiers, tanks, zombies, ninjas and ghost piranhas.

The Xbox version is, as the kids these days say, difficult... really, really difficult... as in "throw-your-controller-at-the-screen-and-scare-the-dog difficult". In contrast to other Hack And Slashers, enemies avert Mook Chivalry and have no compunctions about suffocating the player at every available moment. In fact, beating this game is an achievement. Hell, there was an Updated Re-release called Ninja Gaiden Black which not only fixed gameplay imbalances, placed more enemies and bosses and added in "Combat Missions", it included two new modes: a "super-duper-mega-easy" mode and an "even harder than Harder Than Hard mode"! Unfortunately, it didn't help the "super-duper-mega-easy" mode was quite hard itself, difficult to the point of inducing trauma.

The game was critically acclaimed by all, and considered the best 3D Hack and Slash game of its time. A title that it still keeps in the eyes of a lot of people, specially the Black version. Many praised its preserved difficulty from the NES trilogy, but without being unfair, alongside gorgeous visuals and attention to detail in combat and environments by pushing the Xbox beyond its hardware limitations. An Enhanced Remake of Ninja Gaiden Black called Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the Sony PlayStation 3 was released in 2007, rounding out the last gameplay additions with a new character (Rachel), new weapons and enemies, while making it look more pretty with the console's high-defintion capabilities. It also removes or simplifies some puzzles that contained too much back-and-forth.

In 2008, Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword was released for the Nintendo DS. This Gaiden Game sequel set six months after Ninja Gaiden tells of Ryu and his journey to save his apprentice, Momiji, and find the Dark Dragonstones that can resurrect an ancient Dark Dragon. In the same year, the true sequel Ninja Gaiden II was released for the Microsoft Xbox 360, where another Artifact of Doom the Dragon Lineage were guarding, the Statue of the Archfiend, is stolen. Ryu must travel the world chasing the Four Greater Fiends as they attempt to resurrect the Archfiend itself. Both games retain the difficulty of Ninja Gaiden (Ninja Gaiden II arguably even harder) and the stories are serviceable, yet the latter's almost completely nonsensical, with Everything Trying to Kill You more aptly applied. For example, at one point a giant armadillo with marginal fire Elemental Powers appears with no apparent connection to the villains.

Following the release of Ninja Gaiden II, Itagaki stepped down from Team Ninja and left the now merged Tecmo Koei. Current series director and producer Yosuke Hayashi took over and released an Updated Re-release of Ninja Gaiden II on the PS3 as Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. Notably, the game partly resolves the nonsensical nature of the plot in the 360 original, but also throws in new characters (Ayane from the Dead or Alive series and Momiji, plus the return of Rachel) and scenarios, a co-op mission mode, a "Chapter Challenge" mode and a prologue that links Dragon Sword to current continuity (Ninja Gaiden II never makes a mention of Dragon Sword). It also significantly tones down the 360 game's gore and the number of enemies, making them more resilient instead.

In February 2012, Ninja Gaiden Sigma Plus, an enhanced version of Sigma was released for the Vita, it featured new sets of accesories for both Ryu and Rachel, as well as utilizing the Vita's touch and motion controls.

Ninja Gaiden III was released in March 2012 on both PS3 and 360. Contrary to his predecessor, Hayashi wanted to make the game "more accessible", and the game, while not exactly easy, is noticeably more forgiving than the first two games. For the first time in the series, Ninja Gaiden III features Competitive Multiplayer. Set after Ninja Gaiden II, Ryu receives a request from the Japanese government, after terrorists take the British Prime Minister hostage, demanding his appearance. He travels to London and faces the mysterious foes, led by the enigmatic "Regent of the Mask", who places a curse on Ryu's right arm, making him feel the pain and hatred of the people he killed. The story also marks the return of scriptwriter Masato Kato to the series, bringing back the deep narrative seen in the NES trilogy. It effectively ties the modern games into overall continuity. III also has a much more cinematic and dramatic feel compared to its predecessors.

Alas, while Ninja Gaiden III was successful commercially, it wasn't as much critically with players criticizing the aforementioned dumbed-down difficulty, excessively streamlined gameplay and a lack of replay value. Many fans of the earlier two titles particularly panned it: its attempt at story unwelcomed, its "cinematic and dramatic feel" was panned as needlessly boring and nonsensical (watch super-ninja Ryu Hayabusa ride around the desert in a jeep!) whereas II at least was entertaining and nonsensical and those who'd enjoyed the fast-paced, unforgiving but fair combat of the previous titles particularly blasted the decision to remove all other weapons and inject poorly-done moral choices in their place.

The game had a re-release in late 2012 on the Wii U (January 2013 in Europe) entitled Razor's Edge, with Team Ninja addressing the flaws, such as re-adding back dismemberments, brutal difficulty, fleshed out gameplay, weapon acquisitions and upgrades and additional playable characters (Momiji, Ayane and the first appearance of Kasumi from Dead or Alive). Also, some of the most disliked cutscenes were eliminated. Ports for the PS3 and Xbox 360 were released in April 2013. Both versions include all the downloadable content from the Wii U version already on the disc.

Also in 2013, Sigma Plus 2 was released on the Vita, it was widely considered superior to Sigma 2, as it restored all the gore that was cut on the PS3 version.

In 2014, a collaboration with Spark Unlimited and Comcept gave birth to a Spin-Off called Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. The protagonist is Yaiba, one of the many victims of Ryu Hayabusa, who is Back from the Dead to chase the man who killed him. The tone, graphical style and gameplay differ vastly from the main series, though. Also, there are zombies. The game unfortunately received below average scores, with critics deriding it for being vastly inferior to the main series.

Due to the poor reception of Yaiba, Team Ninja officially announced in early 2017 that the series was on an indefinite hiatus, and would be brought back "when the time was right". Practically nothing was heard about the series since then, until January 2019 when Team Ninja unexpectedly filed a trademark for Yaiba again, though it is unknown what will become of it.

On February 17th, 2021, during a Nintendo Direct it was officially announced that the modern series is getting a collection release titled Ninja Gaiden Master Collection, composed of Sigma 1, Sigma 2 and Razor's Edgenote , with most of its DLC, in one pack; set for release on June 10th, 2021, for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC - this marks the much anticipated debut of the modern trilogy on the latter platform.

Now with a good Character Sheet, thus character tropes go there.

The Ninja Gaiden video game series provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    General tropes 
  • Action Girl: Although this series falls for the Faux Action Girl a little bit too often, Ayane, Momiji and Rachel in Sigma 2 definitely play the role straight.
    • Irene should count: those times when she isn't already captured or dead she can definitely hold her own. She even pulls her own Big Damn Heroes in The Ancient Ship of Doom when she rescues Ryu from death with the help of a submachinegun.
  • Anachronic Order: Some Continuity Snarl and Flip-Flop of God aside, the series goes like this, from a young 18 years old Ryu to a 23 yearsnote  old Master Ninja:
    • Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy) —> Ninja Gaiden (Xbox) —> Dragon Sword —> Ninja Gaiden II —> Ninja Gaiden 3 —> Ninja Gaiden (NES) —> The Ancient Ship of Doom —> The Dark Sword of Chaos —> Ninja Ryūkenden OVA —> Dead or Alive series
  • Appropriated Title: The original incarnation of the franchise was known as Ninja Ryūkenden (Ninja Dragon Sword Story) in Japan and Shadow Warriors in Europe. When Team Ninja rebooted the series, they chose to stick with one title worldwide instead of having a different Market-Based Title for each region. This caused a side effect which led to the Japanese versions of the game being easier to distinguish (the older series is known as Ninja Ryūkenden, while the rebooted version is Ninja Gaiden), a privilege not afforded to American fans.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Dragon Ninja clan apparently exists to look after these, keeping the lids on various cans of evil. They aren't too good at it though, considering how everybody but Ryu gets killed. Twice.
  • Artistic License – Geography: The arcade game ending involves Ryu in a small boat heading back to Japan. Both Tokyo Tower and Mt. Fuji are together in the same skyline in the shot.
  • Battle Couple: Ryu the badass One-Man Army Ninja and Irene/Sonia the Girl With Guns then later Mission Control; still together in the Dead or Alive series.
  • Continuity Cameo: Ayane from Dead or Alive shows up in the modern trilogy. Inverted with Irene, who makes a cameo in Dead or Alive: Dimensions as Ryu's CIA contact during the story mode. The cameo doubles as confirming Sonia from Ninja Gaiden II as Irene's alias.
    • Kasumi gets a faceless cameo in Sigma 2. Hayate is name-dropped in III and certain characters in Dragon Sword appear on-screen in the same game.
  • Continuity Nod: With Dead or Alive: Dimensions, Hayashi has tried fixing some of Itagaki's mess, with Irene making a cameo in particular, as an attempt at settling Ryu's appearance in Dead or Alive as being placed years after his solo adventures.
    • Within the franchise, Sigma 2 gives many throwbacks to previous games, such as the inclusions of Rachel from Ninja Gaiden and Momiji from Dragon Sword, something the original release Ninja Gaiden II for the 360 didn't trouble itself with. Similarly, a number of enemies in II were taken directly from Dragon Sword (the Rasetsu ninjas and the red dragons, among others).
    • In the New York level of Ninja Gaiden II, you can see some scrolling signs reading "Doatec".
  • Continuity Snarl: Ryu's appearance in Dead or Alive, since the first installment made clear in his character bio that the current Ryu is, canonically, the one who already has ventured through all his solo games, reinforced by stating he's a Curio Shop owner, something that would only happen after the end of the NES trilogy with Ryu married to Irene and everything else, namely from the OVA. Itagaki then envisioned the new Ninja Gaiden series for the Xbox and kind of made continuity unstable, such as having Ryu wear his "Black Falcon" outfit as the default outfit from Dead or Alive 4 and onward, while making no mention of Irene or his shop in-game.
    • As of Dead or Alive: Dimensions, things seemed to have been fixed, thanks to a couple of cameos here and there.
  • Convection, Schmonvection: In Ninja Gaiden II, Ryu can run on lava and swim in it, although it starts to hurt later. Possibly justified since he can set himself on fire every time he uses fire-based Ninpo (and other elemental Ninpo).
    • Back in The Dark Sword of Chaos and The Ancient Ship of Doom, Ryu can easily cross a firepit or the caldera of an active volcano and won't suffer injuries unless he falls into the flames or lava.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Both incarnations of the franchise involve Ryu eventually fighting giant demons.
  • Dressed Like a Dominatrix:
    • One of the Ancient Greater Fiends, Ishtaros, is a powerful evil goddess. She wears black thigh-high high-heeled boots, some weird leather straps on her arms, and that's pretty much it. One of her arms sports Femme Fatalons, the other one is a tentacle she uses like a whip.
    • Rachel too uses this aesthetic. Her combat suit is made of black leather, and consists of thigh-high boots, gloves of varying length, and a leotard which exposes her cleavage and lower midriff.
  • Dual Boss: The NES series has some of this but the modern series is fond of pitting you against two to three bosses at once, sometimes with mooks involve! Razor's Edge takes it up to eleven.
    • Curse you, Giants of the Underworld!
    • Also, the "Dragons" pro wrestling duo in the arcade version.
    • The Tengu brothers in Sigma 2, although it's an odd example since you alternatively fight them alone and together several times throughout the game (see Recurring Boss below).
    • The Quetzalcoatl in Ninja Gaiden II
    • In the original trilogy, it's the Kelbeross in the first two games, followed by Great Koganei in the third.
  • Eldritch Location: The Realm of Chaos, the Labyrinth of Shadows, and the eponymous Ancient Ship of Doom
  • Empathic Weapon: The Dragon Sword
  • Fanservice Pack: Dead or Alive: Dimensions' inclusion of Irene's cameo and revealing that Sonia was her alias in Ninja Gaiden II for the Xbox 360, pretty much "upgraded" all of Irene's previously known portrayal in the classic trilogy.
  • Game-Over Man: The arcade game is infamous for it's continue screen of Ryu strapped to a table with a buzzsaw lowering down onto him.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: The original Japanese version was titled Ninja Ryūkenden ("Ninja Dragon Sword Story"), so the localization's title almost makes it seem like a Gaiden Game when it isn't at all.
  • Gravity Is Purple: The Art of The Piercing Void, one of Ryu's most powerful ninja techniques, allows him to control gravity in order to create a black hole surrounded by purple energy.
  • Happily Married: Ryu and Irene after the NES trilogy, during the OVA and carried over to Dead or Alive, until this fact was stopped being mentioned in the latter after Itagaki envisioned the modern trilogy, possibly in an attempt to discard the idea of his creation being a long prequel for the original NES trilogy, turning into a new continuity altogether, and leaving Ryu free for new interests. It took Dead or Alive: Dimensions to fix the timeline again, namely bringing Irene back to make things stable... although the game is still very vague on the romance/marriage matter.
  • Highly-Visible Ninja:
    • Who said ninja games need a stealth mechanic? Considering Ryu has the access of the Dragon Sword and he's constantly facing demons and fiends that might not be fooled by stealth easily, perhaps stealth wasn't that necessary. It's also implied in III that it's sometimes defied, as Ayane manages to get some top secret information from the government without being detected. If it's against mundane humans (and cutscenes), stealth is an option for Ninjas here; meaning that Ryu can afford to be visible because he allows it to and anyone who sees him without his permission is gonna die.
    • Ninja Gaiden II seemed like you could be stealthy for once, until it gets retracted in a few seconds. How fast can you replace a searchlight that seemingly exploded for no reason?
    • Ninja Gaiden III introduces stealth kills, although they are totally optional.
  • Keep It Foreign: The series' international title of Ninja Gaiden was chosen because Tecmo thought Ninja Ryūkenden was hard to pronounce for Westerners. Interestingly, evidence seems to suggest that Ninja Gaiden was actually the original title (since the original arcade game was developed as a parody of American ninja films and their misunderstanding of Japanese culture), with Ninja Ryūkenden being something Tecmo came up later due to the original title being too nonsensical for Japanese players.
  • Large and in Charge: In the Arcade, NES trilogy and modern games, the bosses literally loom over Ryu Hayabusa. But just like Kenshiro, the Doomguy, Samus Aran and the Belmont Clan, size means jack shit to our resident superninja, as he can and will carve a path through his enemies.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: It all comes down to Tecmo Koei simply establishing an official timeline without producers stating their own versions. Until then, it's not entirely clear which game represents Ryu's first true adventure: the arcade game, the NES trilogy or the modern series.
  • Nintendo Hard: If there's anything that can be said to be consistent about the series, it's that all of the entries are thumb-breakingly difficult. For the newer series, the guys at Team Ninja know it. You get an achievement for continuing enough times!
  • Rated M for Manly: Especially the modern series.
  • Retcon: Some worth of mention, as Tecmo passed the series around to just about any willing developer and producer: Natsume, Team Ninja, Itagaki, Hayashi, etc. Of course, each had their own visions for the series:
    • Ninja Gaiden Shadow is said to be set three years before the NES trilogy. Add to the fact Ryu is in his early 20s in the NES games don't match up with the modern trilogy, either.Explanation 
    • Irene became a walking Retcon herself when "Sonia" was confirmed to be another one of her codenames she uses on the field Dead or Alive. Now it seems Ryu actually knew Irene before the NES series in the 360 version of Ninja Gaiden II, while in the first NES game he certainly doesn't find "Sea Swallow" familiar to a certain Sonia he met earlier. Irene's appearance of course was always that of a blond buxomed babe with pale skin instead of a brunette with modest body proportions; maybe she was wearing a disguise in the NES series?
    • Ryu and Irene's marital status. The first Dead or Alive states they're Happily Married and Irene dutifully runs their Antique Shop while Ryu is away fighting in the tournament. In the next Dead or Alive tournament, their marriage became a mysterious subject: Ryu still is an Antique Shop owner, but Irene isn't mentioned in his bio anymore; in fact, it was doubtful that Irene ever existed from the second tournament onwards. When Dead or Alive: Dimensions was released, it recaps the first four tournaments and brought her back into the fray, but the marriage remains a mystery and suddenly Irene's a CIA agent again. The recap of Dimensions just goes as far as to imply they're romantically involved.
  • Sequential Boss: The NES trilogy, plus the Vigoorian Emperor in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden. Most bosses in III are also like this (which may explain why they have no life-bar).
  • Single-Stroke Battle: The attract cinematic of the arcade version features a battle between the player character and a hockey mask-wearing mook. Never bring brass knuckles to a sword fight...
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Ryu's arms are the only skin he bares in both incarnations.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: While some elements of the OVA became canon for the Dead or Alive series (and by proxy the modern trilogy), the fact Irene retired from being a CIA agent to run an Antique Shop with Ryu didn't stick, at least in the Retool Dead or Alive: Dimensions, where Irene acts as Mission Control for Ryu during his mission. It's unclear if she still is involved with their Antique Shop.
  • Updated Re-release: Every modern game had at least one.
    • For the Xbox Ninja Gaiden, there's Black, Sigma (PS3) and Sigma Plus (Play Station Vita).
    • For Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360) there is Sigma 2 (PS3) and Sigma 2 Plus (Vita)
      • Sigma 2's case is a bit special though. Due to an exclusivity contract with Microsoft, II could not be ported onto the PS3. The only way to do it after Itagaki left was to add, remove and change so many things that Sigma 2 would be considered an independent game rather than a mere port. It worked: although the levels, combat system and enemies are pretty much the same, the playing experience is quite different.
    • For Ninja Gaiden 3 (PS3/360) there is Razor's Edge (Wii U, and then to PS3/360).
    • Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the SNES can technically be counted as one for the NES series, though it winds up as a subversion. It uses the same 8-bit graphics, but in a couple levels in The Ancient Ship of Doom that had amazing 8-bit multiple parallax scrolling backgrounds, became single static scrolling backwards. It was actually a downgrade.
  • The 'Verse: Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive are one in the same universe, with the modern trilogy marking the earliest events, followed by the NES trilogy, and capping off with the Dead or Alive tournaments as the lastest.
  • Wall Jump: The original NES trilogy lacked a wall-jump mechanic, but instead had a wall-clinging mechanic. The first game in the series with a proper wall-jump mechanic was Ninja Gaiden (1992) on the Sega Master System. The wall-jump mechanic was then adopted by the later 3D Ninja Gaiden games.

    Tropes in the NES trilogy 
  • Air Jousting: Both Ryu and his old man suck at it in the Original Trilogy. And after twenty-plus years.
  • Ascended Glitch: While Ryu could always stick to walls, he could only Wall Crawl on select surfaces with ladder-like patterns on them in the original. However, with a little practice, it was easy to jump away from the wall and curl back onto it at a higher spot (which made several areas with difficult platforms, particularly Stage 5-3, much easier). Starting with The Dark Sword Of Chaos, he was able to crawl up any wall.
  • Big Bad
    • Jaquio in the first NES game.
    • Ashtar in The Dark Sword of Chaos and the orchestrator of the events of the first. His position gets hijacked when the Demon is revived (twice!) inside Jaquio's body by the Dark Sword of Chaos.
    • Clancy in The Ancient Ship of Doom, after doublecrossing his boss.
  • Boss Bonanza: One major source of the trilogy's notoriously brutal difficulty. At the end of the first game, you had to fight three bosses in a row, and you would lose all your subweapon energy after each boss, forcing you to go on with just your base sword! Death at the end hands of any of the three would result in being sent back to the start of the entire ACT (the bosses were stage 6-4, and a death during one of them sent you clear back to 6-1!). This made learning boss mechanics through trial and error extremely difficult due to the long amount of time it took to get back to them after a defeat. At least the defeated bosses stayed dead when you got back to them, or many people would have given up entirely. This glitch was discovered in playtesting, but left in on purpose.
  • Captain Ersatz: The mook with a hockey mask and a machete (named Jackson) is based on Jason Voorhees.
  • Compilation Rerelease: The aptly named Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the Super NES collects all three games together, though unlike similar 16-bit compilations, it does very little to update the games for the stronger platform aside from using a few more colors and slightly redrawing the cutscenes.
  • Cutscene: One of the first games, if not, the first game to incorporate these in between levels to tell a cohesive story.note 
  • Doppelgänger Attack: The Kelbeross beasts from the first two NES games, where only one of them was vulnerable but both were very, very deadly. Similarly, Ryu acquired this skill in The Dark Sword of Chaos, where he could generate up to two Shadow Clones that are invulernable, would follow in his footsteps precisely (even stopping in midair if Ryu himself jumped and then stopped moving), and would slash or use Ninja Arts in perfect sync with him. A great deal of boss strategies (and speed runs) centered around proper positioning of these clones while Ryu himself ducked into a safe spot..
  • Fake Difficulty: Aside from the famed birds and pits, there's also the fact that screwing up against the bosses in Level 6 of the first game will dump you at the start of the stage for no reason. Even if it's not a Game Over, and even though this hasn't been the way things work for the entire rest of the game. The fact that once you kill a boss it stays dead even after you hike it back there doesn't fully cover for how much of a dick move this is. The hit detection in all three of the games is also pretty awful. Ryu or pretty much any enemy can be hit, damaged or killed if their only pixels away from a damaging enemy or weapon, not when they, ya know, actually get attacked by said enemy or weapon. However, there are also points when you can clearly see Ryu's knife go through an enemy, but nothing happens to the enemy. This can make trying to make quick decisions or getting into tight spots much more of a pain, therefore leading to a fair amount of cheap deaths or injuries. A good example would be trying to avoid the stars flying ninjas throw at you in stages 5-3 and 6-2 in the first game. In the third game, this hit detection problem reaches bootleg game levels of bad. For example, if your on a platform, and a spike in a platform below comes near but is still many pixels away from your feet, it counts as a hit.
  • Faux Action Girl: Irene, despite being a badass CIA agent, finds herself captured in both the first and second games. Played with both ways in The Ancient Ship of Doom, which begins with Irene apparently murdered by a Ryu clone during the opening credits while spying on a secret lab. However, she later has a Big Damn Heroes moment when she rescues Ryu from the same clone with a machine gun.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Jacquio —> Ashtar —> Jacquio. Trust us, It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The NES games were fond of this. In the first, Ryu leaves the statues together too long, releasing the Demon; a year later in The Dark Sword of Chaos, he doesn't pay attention as the pool of blood from Jaquio's corpse reaches the Sword of Chaos, releasing the Demon again.
  • Platform Hell: The NES games. If it wasn't bad enough that Tecmo forced you to use the wall cling ability and jump across tiny platforms over pits, they decided to throw in Goddamned Bats, eagles and even the grunts on full force. Worse, the first two games allow infinite mook respawns.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Played straight in the NES trilogy, thank goodness. The Platform Hell aspect of the game is hard enough as is; it's almost Nightmare Fuel to think of what it would be like had the several enemies who shot at you or threw shuriken at you did so quickly.
  • Playing with Fire: Most of Ryu's Ninja Arts in the NES trilogy revolve around flinging fireballs or encasing himself in them with the Invincible Fire Wheel.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: The Windmill Throwing Star in the NES trilogy and the Windmill Shuriken in the two Xbox games.
  • Respawning Enemies: The NES trilogy has perhaps the most frustrating examples of such. After killing any mook, if their spawn point even goes one pixel offscreen and back, they're immediately back. In fact, the spawn points are so sensitive, you may find yourself at times standing in just the right spot for a spawn point to be grazing the boundary, causing them to infinitely respawn should you keep killing them without moving.
  • Rule of Three: In the NES trilogy, each game requires Ryu to fight three bosses in succession in the final stage.
  • Scenery Porn: The NES series had a fair amount of this as well: each game had at least one cutscene that was just a grand panoramic sweep that generally showed Ryu in the foreground gazing upon his uniformly majestic destination, and many of the backgrounds and stages were more visually detailed and attractive than the player was likely to notice.
  • Team Pet: The Kelbeross are a villainous example, being Jaquio's pet dogs (well, they were before he mutated them into gargantuan monstrosities). This only gets described in the manual, though, leading people who didn't read it to consider them a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere.
  • Trap Door: The NES trilogy is loaded with these.
  • What the...?!: In the NES trilogy, this is Ryu's version of an Oh, Crap! Moment. He tends to draw these like a moth to a flame.

    Tropes in the Team Ninja series 
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer:
  • Actionized Sequel: The original sequel for the modern Ninja Gaiden series on Xbox, Ninja Gaiden II on the 360, heavily toned down the exploration and puzzle elements found in the previous game, the stages became very streamlined, finding a key or two to open a door became almost trivial - if that wasn't streamlining enough, Sigma 2 on PS3 removed any traces of exploration found in the 360 version altogether; by then modern Ninja Gaiden became just like its classic series: full blown action only, all Ryu needs to do to progress through the game is to beat enemies and push foward. Ninja Gaiden III followed on Sigma 2, being exclusively action oriented.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: Beating any of the difficulty levels in the modern games rewards the player with a new costume.
  • Ascended Extra: Some of the characters, bosses, and even mooks get this in the sequels and Updated Rereleases.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Falcon's Talons from Ninja Gaiden II and onwards is generally regarded as having one of the worst Ulimate Techniques to use (the talons themselves are very restrictive to close combat), but it's awesome to see Ryu go berserk on an enemy with claws attached to his hands and feet.
  • Bag of Spilling: In the modern trilogy, this is averted for Ryu's movelist. The Flying Swallow, Izuna Drop, counter and Guillotine Throw are all unlocked at the start of II, all of which were acquired during the first game. Played straight for the weapons in a strange way: three of them that are found in random places (the Lunar, Dragon's Claw & Tiger's Fang and the Vigoorian Flail) were already acquired in the first game, of which two of them are supposed to be unique…
  • BFS: Aside from playable examples, cleavers are used by Fiend Nightmares and Spirit Doku has one long nodachi in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden. Dagra Dai Dual Wields these as well.
  • Blocking Stops All Damage: One boss explodes. The way to avoid damage is to block it. This leads to a massive arena-wide explosion stopped by a katana.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: Ninja Gaiden II for the 360 (as if the first wasn't gory enough...). III more or less goes back to the level of the first game by removing dismemberments and decapitations entirely, although thanks to a new graphical engine, High-Pressure Blood will not only stain Ryu's weapon during fights, but also his body and the camera. However, Razor's Edge brings back all the gore that made Ninja Gaiden II (in)famous.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • For the array of awesome weapons that you have stashed in Hammerspace, you'll probably end up being forced to use the Dragon Blade to beat bosses and higher-tier enemies.
    • To a lesser extent, shurikens do virtually no damage but are very useful to stun small enemies and prevent them from grabbing you or interrupting your charge for an Ultimate Techqniue.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Good Lord, the Vigoorian Berserkers. They are armed with a Dabilahro, are fairly fast for their build, have a solid guard but are also very resilient, and on top of that have nothing but powerful close range and distance attacks. Of course if you try to use a Flying Swallow, you will be promptly dissuaded to try again. Manage to deal them enough damage? To reward you, they turn red and become even more dangerous. Granted, there is a simple tactics to take them down (let them attack at close range and use a counter) but it doesn't work so well when there are two or three of them (which is, 90% of the time).
  • Camera Screw: In the modern trilogy, specifically the ones released on Microsoft platforms, the camera will often be your toughest opponent, chosing the most impractical angle possible, zooming in without reason and putting mooks or even Ryu himself off-screen. Surely Sigma and Sigma 2 have fixed this problem, haven't they? Er...well, no. Fortunately, the camera in Ninja Gaiden III does its job decently, although still not perfectly. The most frequent problem is that enemies in the foreground obstruct your view because of the low camera angle.
  • Chainsaw Good: Spriggans (zombies in Ninja Gaiden II/Sigma 2) with chainsaws and cannons for arms
  • Charged Attack: Hold-type, though a variation. To pull off the devasting Ultimate Techniques in the modern games, you must collect essences by holding down the heavy attack button in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden. The sequels and remakes allowed the techniques to be performed even if essence isn't collected, but it will kick in much faster if essence is absorbed. Ninja Gaiden III, however, opts out into the collect-type: you can only unleash an Ultimate Technique when Ryu's arm starts to glow red after killing mooks. In the same vein, Ninpo can only be activated if a gauge is filled up. Then Razor's Edge goes back to a mixed-system, even adding a third level of charge.
  • Charge Meter: Ryu glows brighter and more fiercely as the charge of an Ultimate Technique increases (accompanied by an explosion).
  • Competitive Balance:
    • Weapons in the modern trilogy use some combination of range, damage, combo potential and the power of the Ultimate Technique. The Dragon Sword is the most balanced but in the first game there are several weapons that mostly play the same way (War Hammer, Dihilabhro and the Unlabored Flawlessness are all heavy blunt weapons, as well as the Dark Dragon Blade in bonus-quests). The sequel has a bit more variety in that regard, since no two weapons play quite the same.
    • Also used for the girls in Sigma 2: Rachel is the Mighty Glacier, Ayane the Fragile Speedster, while Momiji's a Jack of All Stats.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Ryu, a lone Ninja, will slice his way through veritable armies of mooks.
  • Counter-Attack: A basic technique in the modern games, although it has been progressively nerfed. In the first game, it was overpowered (especially if used with the Dabilahro), but in the sequel they mainly served to dismember weaker enemies. By Ninja Gaiden III, it's just a little more damaging than a heavy attack. Razor's Edge un-nerfs it by giving it back its dismembering properties.
  • Deadly Lunge:
    • The Flying Swallow and Guillotine Throw techniques can make short work of the standard Mooks.
    • A lot of enemies like to pull these stunts too.
  • Doppelgänger: The aggressive Doppelganger Fiends in the modern series. They are capable of doing nearly every single one of Ryu's moves and every single advanced techniques a player must know.
  • Dual Wielding: A wide assortment available for Ryu, ranging from the Dragon's Fang and Tiger's Claw, Tonfas and the True Dragon Sword and Blade of the Archfiend.
  • Eaten Alive: At the start of one of the boss battles, Rachel gets devoured whole and alive by a fiend right in front of Ryu.
  • Elaborate Equals Effective: Used for every weapon in the modern trilogy, except for katanas. In a variation, the True Dragon Sword and Blade of the Archfiend replaces a maxed-upgraded Dragon's Claw and Tiger's Fang in II/Sigma 2, since it's the strongest weapon in the game.
  • Elite Mooks: The Underworld versions of the Incendiary Shuriken ninja deal much more damage than their normal counterparts who were already cheap enemies, but they also feature a quasi-suicidal attack where they stab you in the chest with one of their claws and then detonate an Incendiary Shuriken attached to their impaled-arm to deal massive damage.
  • Epic Flail: Nunchaku, Vigorian Flail and Kusari-Gama. The latter two crosses with Sinister Scythe.
  • Essence Drop: In the modern games, yellow essence is the currency, blue refills health and red restores Ninpo. In fact, this trope is a requirement to perform Ultimate Techniques in the first game. Ninja Gaiden III removed it completely for a better Gameplay and Story Integration.
  • Excuse Plot: Primarily a trait of Itagaki's games, which can both be summed up as "Big Bad attacks the village, Ryu chases Big Bad to his lair and kicks ass". Both Sigmas and Dragon Sword are a tiny bit more fleshed out. Ninja Gaiden 3, however, is much more plot-driven, going back the tradition of the NES games.
  • Expy: The Vigoor soldiers looks tad bit too much like the Protect Gears from the Kerberos Saga.
  • Fake Difficulty: The Camera Screws were bad enough in the first Xbox game, but the second added some extremely cheap mooks, always in hordes, who have grabs that are way too fast to anticipate, or ones who constantly spam explosive projectiles, mostly from off-screen. Mentor and Master Ninja Modes often takes this straight into Bullet Hell.
  • Finishing Move: Obliteration Techniques, Fiend Sealer and variants
  • Flash Step: Several Ultimate Techniques emulate this; in the sequel, most Ultimates rely on this to continue the attack. The True Dragon Sword's Ultimate Technique upgrades this into Teleport Spam.
  • Flunky Boss: Masakado and Marbus in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden and Zedonius and Dagra Dai, as well as the second fights against Rasetsu, Genshin and Volf in II. In Black, Sigma and II, every single boss turns into this in higher difficulties.
  • Fossil Revival: LOA's various activities include cloning dinosaurs to sell them as pets, or so says the Regent of the Mask; not sure many people will want a Tyrannosaurus Rex at home.
  • Getting Eaten Is Harmless: Despite being messily devoured by a fiend and remaining trapped in its stomach for the entire boss fight, Rachel doesn't seem to be much worse for wear once Ryu cuts her out.
  • Immune to Bullets: Many higher-level mooks in the modern trilogy are immune to standard shuriken or can block them if you throw them off-the-cuff instead of as part of a combo. In the weapon description of Rachel's sidearm in Sigma 2, it states high-level fiends are immune to her magic-laden ammunition, crafted specifically to give her an edge in fighting them.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Averted in the modern games. Gun-toting enemies are very competent at aiming and can be a real hindrance. The only exceptions are the basic hooded mooks of Ninja Gaiden III, who consistently shoot over your head, even when you're kunai-climbing a wall and you are not meters from them.
  • Impossibly Cool Weapon: Plenty, such as the Vigoorian Flail, but in Real Life it would be more dangerous for the user than the target. It probably wouldn't swing as easily as a nunchaku, either. Then there's the Plasma Saber MK II. Most projectiles are also this, such as the Incendiary Kunai, the Fuuma Shuriken, the Gatling Spear Gun and Howling Cannon.
  • Infinite Supplies: Ryu has an endless supply of standard shuriken. Enemies with small arms have to periodically reload (most evident with the MSAT), but they never run out of magazines. In Sigma 2, he also has an infinite amount of arrows. In the first game and II, there's a limit, but there will always be a body bristling with arrows nearby when you need it.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: The modern trilogy have the Gleaming Blade move and its Ultimate Technique versions, which eat mooks for breakfast.
  • Jiggle Physics: Itagaki is very fond of this in his games. Sigma 2 gives us the ability to control this with the Sixaxis controller.
  • Jump Physics: Remember, kids — you can change directions and accelerate multiple times while mid-air, and maintain yourself in the air by maiming an enemy!
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Fiend-Sealer from the Dragon Sword in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden. Notched up in sequels with Oblieration Techniques.
  • Lag Cancel: You can throw a shuriken to cancel the recovery of normal attacks (but not heavy ones). Razor's Edge also introduces the Cicada Surge, which can be activated any time, including in the middle of a combo, as long as you are on the ground. Both techniques require quick thinking and good reflexes to use effectively.
  • Life Drain: A special ability of Kitetsu, Doku's demonic sword in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden. You can do it to minor mooks the same way Doku does it to you and regain quite a bit of health. You can even do it to Doku himself. However, the rest of the time you use it, the blade drains your own health. In Sigma, holding the sword doesn't deplete your lifebar, but the effect of this trope is considerably nerfed. The Alchemist mooks in III also have a grapple maneveur like this.
  • Losing Your Head: Inverted with the zombies and Spriggans in the first two modern games. They continue their attacks even after being decapitated, although doing so renders them blind and they just swing randomly. The flare fiends in Sigma 2 can also fight headless, and they are not blinded.
  • Magikarp Power: The Wooden Sword is pathetic until its final upgrade, where it becomes the Unlabored Flawlessness, a potential gamebreaking weapon for those skilled enough to use it.
  • Marathon Level: Many in the first Xbox game, notably those with long puzzles. In Ninja Gaiden II, nearly every single chapter is this, but Chapters 6, 8 and 11 are the most notable, especially the latter.
  • Mercy Mode: Ninja Dog in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden, Hero Mode in III
  • Money Is Experience Points: In many of the 3D games, yellow essence can be used to upgrade weapons as well as buying items.
  • Mook Debut Cutscene: Generally averted in the modern trilogy, with a few exceptions like the MSATs, the zombies and the flare fiends in Ninja Gaiden/Sigma, or the Van Gelfs in II/Sigma 2. In both cases, the "rank" of the enemy introduced will actually change depending on the difficulty: a purple (immature) Van Gelf will come out of the hole in Accolyte, a green one (winged) in Warrior and a golden one (the strongest type) in Mentor.
  • Multi-Mook Melee: The so-called Fiend Challenges in Ninja Gaiden/Sigma and the Tests of Valor in II (but removed in Sigma 2) and Razor's Edge. II/Sigma 2 has infamous stairway fight in Chapter 10/13, where you face a ridiculous number of enemies at the same time and take down a good hundred of them. Hell, in Master Ninja Mode for II, the game is pretty much a 12-hour long Multi-Mook Melee!
  • New Game Plus: Used in Ninja Gaiden II. Sigma 2 and Razor's Edge subvert this a bit with Chapter Challenge Mode: once you beat any difficulty, you can redo the chapters individually with all your weapons and Ninpo upgraded (not unlike Devil May Cry), and can choose your character. So while it's not technically this trope, it functions as one, except your life bar's length depends on the chapter you play. The game is also slightly more difficult in this mode.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Spriggans are a more literal example: giant, armored zombies with a chainsaw in one arm and a cannon in the other.
  • No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom: Averted in the first Xbox Ninja Gaiden, as you can still explore a bit of Tairon or find a few secret paths, as well as stroll in previously visited areas; this is helped by the fact that 90% of the game takes place inside or near the city. Played straight with the sequels, being much more linear, especially III, where there are no items to pick up, so any semblance of exploration has totally vanished. Razor's Edge re-adds scarabs and secret areas, though.
  • Numerical Hard: The difference between Normal and Hard was barely noticeable in the Xbox Ninja Gaiden. There were more, slightly tougher enemies, but that was pretty much it. Like so many other things, Black and Sigma corrected this by replacing basic mooks with new, tougher ones, and turning every boss into a Flunky Boss.
  • Once per Episode: In the modern series, the first three games has the Hayabusa Village attacked at the beginning − by Doku in the first and the Black Spider Clan in Dragon Sword and II.
  • Playing with Fire: Art of the Inferno, Fire Wheel and Phoenix.
  • Power Copying: Weapons picked from certain bosses will allow Ryu to perform their special attacks.
  • Power Glows: After you acquire the True Dragon Sword in the modern trilogy, it gains a purple aura. In Ninja Gaiden III, Ryu's cursed arm glows red, indicating when you can unleash an Ultimate Technique.
  • Precision-Guided Boomerang: The Windmill Shuriken in the two Xbox games.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Arguably the Special Forces and Vigoorian Military, though the journals found in Ninja Gaiden II show the Black Spider Ninjas to be something of this, too.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: Karma runs; other popular ones include finishing the game with no upgrades or without using Ninpo and Ultimate Techniques.
  • Shout-Out: Fully upgrading the Wooden Sword turns it into a new weapon called Unlabored Flawlessness, which takes the form of a wooden boat oar in reference to the famous story of Miyamoto Musashi using a boat oar in a sword duel.
  • Slice-and-Dice Swordsmanship: Both used and averted depending on which technique Ryu pulls off in the modern games.
  • Smoke Out: Smoke bombs are used by both Ryu and enemy ninjas in the modern trilogy.
  • Spectacular Spinning: Nearly the entire weapon roster in the latter-day Gaiden games abuse the hell out of this. Of particular note is the Lunar, which Ryu mainly uses by spinning it so fast it literally grinds his enemies' limbs off.
  • Spin Attack: Ryu's movelist with the Dragon's Claw/Tiger's Fang consists of some hard cuts and a lot of spinning. Certain weapons also have access to a 360 degree input that usually turns out to be a spin attack.
  • Squishy Wizard: In the modern games, mages are annoying and potentially very damaging long-distance attacks, but are the weakest human enemies in terms of health. Of course, they're only squishy compared to other ninja mooks, but still. Completely averted in Ninja Gaiden III: Alchemists are among the toughest enemies in the game, especially the white-clad variant.
  • Story Difficulty Setting: "Hero Mode" in 3 and in both Sigma Plus games, where blocking and evading becomes automatic if your health is low, which means the player basically cannot die. Word of God was that this mode was made for those who just wanted to enjoy the story. The Updated Re-release of 3 Razor's Edge keeps Hero Mode but also has a New Game Plus-ish mode that, conversely, removes the cutscenes and Quick Time Events to keep only the gameplay.
  • Stripperiffic: Momiji's "Ninja" outfits (her black and red-and-white ones in particular) in Ninja Gaiden II and Razor's Edge, which show a bit of skin on rather interesting parts of her body (namely around her chest, back, and thighs).
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: Getting the Eye of the Dragon to upgrade the Dragon Sword to the True Dragon Sword in every game of the modern trilogy.
  • Teleport Spam: Some of Ryu's Ultimate Techniques gain this.
  • There Is No Kill like Overkill: The combo system allows characters to keep mangling decapitated enemies.
  • Wall Crawl: The Kunai Climb allows Ryu to climb walls made of wood, brick, stone, ice or even metal. Those kunais mst be pretty damn sharp.
  • World of Buxom: Only female children are exempt from it.
  • Wrestler in All of Us: Guillotine Throw and Izuna Drop. Ayane in Sigma 2 has a scissors lock in place of the Guillotine Throw.



Video Example(s):


Ryu Hayabusa's Izuna Drop

A demonstration of Ryu's trademark technique in Ninja Gaiden Sigma

How well does it match the trope?

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Example of:

Main / SpinningPiledriver

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