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Video Game / Ninja Gaiden (NES)

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In 1988, Tecmo developed and published two games called Ninja Gaiden. The first game, released for arcades, was a middling success. The second game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, however, became an even bigger success that not only put Tecmo on the map but spawned the Ninja Gaiden franchise as we know it. It was released in Japan as Ninja Ryūkenden ("Ninja Dragon Sword Story") and Shadow Warriors in Europe.
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The game begins with Ryu Hayabusa finding a letter from his father, Jo Hayabusa (originally dubbed Ken Hayabusa), who has gone missing and is presumed to be dead after falling to a rival in a duel. Jo's note tells Ryu to take up the family's Dragon Sword and seek out his protégé: the archaeologist Dr. Walter Smith. Ryu sets out to find Dr. Smith and avenge his father. Ryu gets more than what he bargained for however, when he meets a mysterious girl at a bar and acquires a stone statue, setting in motion the events that will decide the fate of the entire world.

Ninja Gaiden is an action side-scroller influenced by Konami's popular title on the same platform, Castlevania. You control Ryu Hayabusa as he dashes through the levels battling enemies, and you can either attack with his sword using the B Button, or power-ups dubbed "Spirit", that will allow Ryu to attack with special ninja techniques, like a fiery wheel, firing shurikens or spinning his sword in midair. Like Castlevania, they come in limited supplies, and you have to find these power-ups in the item boxes littered throughout the levels. Even though Ryu is a competent and decently equipped fighter, do not think this game is easy; everything is out to get you and the platforming is treacherous, so your ninja skills will be put to the test.

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Ninja Gaiden was ported to the TurboGrafx-16 in 1992, only released in Japan. It later was bundled with its two sequels in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.

The game was followed by Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos in 1990 and Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom in 1991. It's also not to be confused with the Arcade or the Master System versions, while they share the name Ninja Gaiden, they are completely different games with different stories.


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This game contains examples of:

  • Artifact of Doom: The Light and Dark demon statues, when put together, summons a hideous monster that will destroy the planet. Jo and Dr. Smith discover the statues while on a South American expedition, and now Jaquio and his minions are after it.
  • All There in the Manual:
    • Ryu doesn't learn Irene's real name until the very end of the first game. However, the manual already spoils this fact. However, the original Japanese manual made her name a complete mystery.
    • The names of the four human bosses Ryu must face and then some are described in the manual for the first game.
    • The same thing also applies for said first game to the name of each of the stages.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The spinning slash and fire shield in the first game. The first causes you to do a spinning slash every time you attack while jumping, which can deal obnoxious damage to bosses, even killing the first one in one hit if landed correctly. The problem is it causes you to do a spinning slash every time you attack while jumping, meaning you can't control how you use your special attack energy, and will probably run out of it (unless you know the trick: hold down while attacking). The fire shield makes you invincible for a little while, but the problem is that when it times out, you lose it and get nothing to replace it.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: Basaquer, Kelbeross, Malth and even Big Bad Jaquio fall prey to this in the original NES trilogy. Their actual names were supposed to be "Berserker," "Cerberus", "Mars" and "Devil King" (Jakiō.) The mistranslated names do have plenty of charm, though...
  • Checkpoint Starvation: This game was generally pretty good with checkpoints, as you would usually respawn at the same screen you died at...unless you died to a boss, in which case you're taken back to the beginning of the stage. To make matters worse, if you're unfortunate enough to die at any of the three final bosses, however, you're kicked all the way back to the start of 6-1 instead of 6-4.
  • Continuing is Painful: This is normally not an issue since you have infinite continues, but this changes majorly come the final stage. Die at any point to the bosses and you're sent all the way back to Level 6-1.
  • Cutscene Incompetence: One of the earliest examples ever of this trope. Despite being an elite ninja, Ryu is knocked out and captured by Irene Lew in a cutscene after the first level, and only gets out of prison after she lets him out. He later gets captured by CIA agents (the second time he's captured in a span of 3 levels) and forced to work for them. Eventually, he is manipulated by a Hostage for MacGuffin situation in which he hands over the demon statues Jaquio to prevent him from killing Irene. Naturally, Jaquio takes the statues, doesn't release Irene, and dumps Ryu down a pit trap, forcing him to fight through long levels just to get back to Jaquio again.
  • Dual Wielding: Basaquer in the NES games dual-wields butterfly knives.
  • Hard Levels, Easy Bosses: Barbarian, Bomberhead and Basquer were all ridiculously easy once you got the pattern down, an easily-exploitable glitch could make Kelbeross a pushover, Bloody Malth is just a matter of getting close to him and mashing buttons and the Masked Devil just requires you to hit the giant orb in the middle. Jaquio, however, is ungodly hard, and the Demon is largely luck-based. The sequels evened it out quite a bit.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Ryu versus his brainwashed father.
  • Love at First Sight: Both Ryu and Irene, after an entire adventure without any proper build up for romance. In fairness, Ryu took the fact he was able to meet her as a fitting payment for all the trouble they went through, and Irene seems to have the same mindset on this matter as she disregarded Foster's direct orders to kill him. The result is the couple kissing at the end; as of Dead or Alive, they are Happily Married and running their Antique Shop together.
  • Mutually Exclusive Powerups: Background destroyables either contain a powerup, a sub-weapon, or ammo for the subweapon. Picking up the subweapon replaces the existing one, and you can't tell what the destroyable contains.
  • Puzzle Boss: In the Boss battle against Jo, trying to strike him will get you nowhere. To win the fight, you have to destroy the statue casting orbs of energy towards him. (Which isn't hard, once you catch on. Or if you watched the cutscene right before the fight, which shows you what to attack)
  • Single-Stroke Battle: The opening cutscene, where Jo gets defeated via this. He later turns out to be alive...
  • Spell My Name with an S: Bloody Malth's name should really be "Bloody Mars", but the translators either missed the reference or ignored it.
  • Spin Attack: The Jump and Slash Technique is a powerful art which turned Ryu into a flying buzzsaw and had the potential to take out bosses with one good hit. It's no wonder why it was removed in the sequels.
  • Stupid Surrender: Ryu surrenders to a few CIA agents who point guns at him... right after finishing a level in which he had to defeat numerous enemies, including several of them who were armed with guns, though, because with Dr. Smith dead and only a warning about the demon statues from him, Ryu didn't have anyplace else to go. He correctly surmised that going along with them would get him the information he needed.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: After releasing Jo and defeating Jaquio, you still have to deal with the Demon he was trying to release. Much easier than the previous boss fight, fortunately.
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