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Video Game / Ninja: Shadow of Darkness

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Kurosawa in action!

Ninja: Shadow of Darkness is a 1998 action video game for the PlayStation, developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive.

In the Sengoku era of feudal Japan, a power-hungry warlord, disagreeing to a peace treaty, has awakened the great Shadow Demon in an attempt to take over the land and rule the world. Chaos consumes the land, as the warlord, now in control of demonic forces, ravaged through entire villages and cities, and all hope lies in Kurosawa, the young but skilled ninja-in-training, which you will take control of in a 3-D Beat 'em Up video game spanning one action-packed level after another.

Entertaining as the game is though, it's also known for being notoriously difficult to the point of hair-pullingly frustrating. Even with a cheat code, the game remains tough as hell due to numerous platformer elements and instant death traps. But is it fun?


Yes, it's super fun.

Ninja: Shadow Of Tropes:

  • 1-Up: Kurosawa starts off at three lives, but can gain many more from defeating enemies.
  • Acrofatic: The Sumo mercenary is surprisingly fast and agile for his size, capable of scaling the corners of the boss arena within seconds.
  • Advancing Boss of Doom: The Spider Queen (a Queen Mook Boss) at the end of the underground tunnel level, who attacks Kurosawa in a long, narrow corridor. She will chase him down, and the only way for him to damage the queen is to lob throwing knives or energy blasts at her while fleeing. But if she catches Kurosawa, instead of killing him she will ensnare him with her webs, then lay eggs which hatches into multiple baby spiders to attack him. Some button-mashing is required for Kurosawa to break free and defeat the baby spiders (via Goomba Stomp), before the Spider Queen resumes her chase. Rinse and repeat until the Spider Queen's health reach zero.
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  • Advertising by Association: The game was heavily promoted as "from the creators of Tomb Raider" despite sharing little similarities. While both were made by the same development studio, none of the developers beside the producer and animator had even worked on the Tomb Raider series until after the release of Ninja.
  • After Boss Recovery: A variation; at the end of each Boss Battle, most of the time the defeated boss will explode into piles and piles of coins and gems, which can be collected to be used in the next immediate area - the provision shop. Those collected loot will come in handy to purchase lives and food if Kurosawa's health is dangerously low after the battle.
  • Airborne Mooks: Gargoyles are the basic airborne soldiers serving the Shadow Lord, who started showing up in the mountain levels after Kurosawa had defeated their leader. The giant eagles might also count.
  • An Ax To Grind:
    • One of the obtainable weapons is a battleax, from the second level. It's shorter in range than the katana, but deals far heavier damage.
    • Besides that, there are lumberjack opponents armed with axes at the end of the first level, right before the gates leading to the boss.
  • An Ice Person: The Yuki-onna demon boss in the Tundra Level, fittingly enough, can breath icy blasts as her primary attack.
  • Attack of the Monster Appendage: During the graveyard/ghost city level, Kurosawa would have to cross a bridge spanning over a river where underneath, the scythe-like claws of some unseen horror lunges out periodically from its bottom. Even after completing the level, the owner of those claws remains completely unseen.
  • Battle in the Rain: Halfway through the forest and mountain levels, suddenly it will start raining just as Kurosawa is in the middle of battling hordes of enemy ninjas in the wilderness. More often than not, there will be random thunderbolts that will fry him in the thick of battle. The first level's loading screen in fact shows Kurosawa in the middle of getting fried by a stray bolt...
  • Bear Trap: A constant hazard in the Tundra Level, made even more difficult due to being really hard to spot. Worse of all though? Trying to survive an avalanche while standing in a field of bear traps (what?)...
  • Big Head Mode: One of the possible modes unlockable by inserting a cheat code on the title screen. Kurosawa's head will swell until it takes up half of his body, and it will remain in this state even in cutscenes!
  • Blade on a Stick: The nagayari, a spear with an absolutely massive tip obtainable late in the end, is the powerful Infinity +1 Sword of the game. Before that, some enemies like samurais will attack Kurosawa with spears.
  • Blob Monster: Green, sentient puddles of acidic slime infests the underground caves, which are acidic to touch and completely invincible. Thankfully, they can only remain in the same area they show up in, so just jump over them and get moving.
  • Booby Trap: Every now and then, treasure chests will be installed with traps, from shooting spikes to exploding to releasing homing projectiles.
  • Boss Room: The boss battles all takes place in enclosed areas, fenced either by walls of fires, spikes or electricity.
  • Boss Tease: At least a couple.
    • The Cerberus shows up in the loading screen right at the start of the second level, and doesn't show up until at least twelve minutes of gameplay later (after fighting past an entire ghost city of undead mooks).
    • The third boss originally appears as a statue before a flaming pit surrounded by cultists in the area. Once every cultist is down, a cutscene later the statue comes to life and attacks.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Bottomless Pouch of Throwing Knives. Somehow Kurosawa can fling hundreds and hundreds of knives per level without the need of restocking his supply. In fact, throwing knives are the only way of hurting the Boss of the Cloud City Level.
  • Bottomless Pit: All over the place. The first level's pits are on top of a waterfall, and later levels have these above chasms and sinkholes. The falls on the Cloud City level leads all the way from the heavens to the surface of the earth.
  • Breath Weapon: Most bosses can breath fireballs or streams of fire as their attacks, as does the Luchadore mooks.
  • Convection Schmonvection: Played straight in the final level, hell. Standing on tiny floating platforms on rivers of lava, running alongside rivers or flames and jumping over streams of fire won't do any damage to Kurosawa's health, as long as he didn't touch the lava itself.
  • Dark Action Girl: The warlord's minions isn't limited to just male soldiers. Many of them are women, who shows up as regularly as male mooks in the first and third levels.
  • Defeat Equals Explosion: Played straight for most of the bosses, including the Sumo mercenary. Which is ridiculous, while the other bosses blowing up can be due to being supernatural monsters and demons, the Sumo mercenary is a Badass Normal human who fights barechested and unarmed (so nope, he's not carrying explosives on him). Never explained, but whatever.
  • Dem Bones: Skeletons are a recurring enemy in the ghost city and underground levels. And there are also skeletal ninjas!
  • The Dragon: The warlord initiating the ritual to summon the Shadow Demon, and the second-to-last boss before the demon himself.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: Oh hell yes. While the human enemies like samurai and ninjas can be explained as the warlord's mooks, and the undead can be caused by the Shadow Demon's influence, for some reason the wildlife such as eagles and crabs are hostile. It gets really Egregious in the beach level; as Kurosawa makes his way inland from the shoreline, several palm trees will drop coconuts which can hurt him!
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell: Fittingly enough, the final level is set in the fiery pits of the Shadow Demon's hellish lair, filled with lava, floating platforms, and assorted demons.
  • Flechette Storm: One of Kurosawa's special attacks will have him leaping through the air and spinning in circles, flinging a few dozen throwing knives in every direction at multiple opponents all at once.
  • Flunky Boss:
    • The dragon sub-bosses in the mansion are flanked by soldiers working for the warlord.
    • The Spider Queen boss, also a Mook Maker; she will attempt to ensnare Kurosawa with her webs and lay eggs which will hatch into baby spiders that attacks. She is the reason behind the massive number of giant spider mooks consistently encountered in the caverns level.
  • Ghost Butler: The first boss battle. Kurosawa crosses the gates leading to the ghost city, when the gates suddenly swings shut behind him while the boss blocks the opposite entrance.
  • Ghost City: The second level is set in an abandoned city swarming with zombies and skeletons. The buildings are falling apart, undead roam the streets, a graveyard takes up half of the city (filled with skeletons and the tombstones can blast intruders with lightning bolts) and the only way out is guarded by a powerful two-headed hellhound.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: A few over-sized crustaceans can be encountered in the forest and mountain levels, blocking entire sections of underwater bridges. Battles against these monsters are usually inevitable, although they can be taken down easily thanks to Kurosawa's limitless supply of throwing knives.
  • Giant Spider: These enemies infests the underground caves, showing up regularly only in that level. And at the exit, awaits the Spider Queen, a Queen Mook boss which is an enlarged version of the giant spider mooks that occupies an entire section of the cavern she is in, all the way to its roof.
  • Grim Up North: The snowy, tundra-like level after the mountains battle. With a powerful Yuki-onna demon boss at the end.
  • Half the Man He Used to Be:
    • Skeleton mooks, upon receiving enough hits, will break apart from the waist... only for both halves to continue attacking as separate entities! The upper half can only be taken out by a Goomba Stomp while the lower half (a walking pair of skeletal legs that flails around, it's as hilarious as it sounds) can be defeated with some well-placed hits.
    • The wraiths are floating skeleton ghosts who only have half a body from above the waist.
  • Hellhound: The second boss of the game is a massive two-headed bipedal Cerberus.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Ninja: Imagine if the game is called Regular Badass: Shadow Of Darkness. Who would want to play it?
  • Intrepid Merchant: At the end of each level, Kurosawa can visit a convenience store whose owner will sell him power-ups, food, extra lives and even weapons. Never mind the reasons why would anyone set up shops near a ghost city, a monster-infested forest, a cave filled with giant spiders, the entrance of hell, and the like.
  • King Mook:
    • The Spider Queen is a Queen Mook compared to her giant spider offspring.
    • The second arena battle pits Kurosawa against the Gargoyle King. In an odd example, the King is the first to be fought in the entire game, and after his demise, lesser gargoyles will show up in the next level.
    • The warlord himself is pretty much an upgraded version of the samurai mooks.
  • Laser Blade: When Kurosawa's Power Level reaches maximum and he happens to be holding bladed weapons, his weapon will glow with powerful blue energy that deals extra damage.
  • Living Statue: In the opening cinematic prologue, the Shadow Demon's awakening results in several statues in the demon's sacrificial chamber to come to life. The third boss in fact appears as a sentient, motionless fifteen-feet tall statue at first when Kurosawa enters its lair, before coming to life to battle Kurosawa after a cutscene.
  • Looks Like Orlok: The Shadow Demon Final Boss. Well, a green-skinned equivalent at least. Albeit with More Teeth than the Osmond Family.
  • Made of Explodium:
    • The exploding plants on the beach. (Yes, exploding plants!)
    • The Exploding Barrels that shows up regularly in the game blows up after being hit by... throwing knives. Somehow. Although its a good idea to have Kurosawa lure enemy mooks close to these barrels, and then set the barrels off with his throwing knives.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Some of the human mooks wears masks, including the samurais and luchadores (see below).
  • Masked Luchador: Some burly enemies wearing Mexican wrestler-type masks will attack Kurosawa in the Mansion level. They can breath fire, for some reason, and puts up one hell of a fight before going down, enough to qualify as Elite Mooks.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters:
    • The first boss appears to be a mixture between a Minotaur and a crocodile, having bull-like horns and features, stocky arms and a mammalian body structure, but with reptilian claws, crocodile-like ridges on its back and a massive crocodile tail which is its primary weapon.
    • The boss of the Cloud City is a T-Rex like monster... with dragon-like wings. It looks as ridiculous as it sounds.
  • Money Spider: Plenty of enemies will drop gems or coins upon being defeated, despite having absolutely no reason, such as animal-based enemies e.g. bats, eagles, literal spiders.
  • Multi-Melee Master: Kurosawa, full stop. His skills in weaponry includes being deadly with a katana, a sai, a battleaxe, a nagayari, a tetsubo, a jagged broadsword, an infinite supply of throwing knives, smoke bombs, some good old punches and let's not get into the arrays and arrays of power-ups Kurosawa can use against his enemies.
  • Multiple Head Case: The second boss, a two-headed Cerberus. When it first shows up in the cutscene, both heads are actually fighting each other before they encounter Kurosawa. Cue boss battle.
  • Night of the Living Mooks: The second level, a ghost city. The level is set entirely at night, and undead mooks shows up in every corner. In the graveyard, skeletons will in fact emerge from their tombs to attack.
  • Ninja: But of course. Besides Kurosawa, several enemy mooks are ninjas as well.
  • Nintendo Hard: Anyone who claims they can finish this game without using the Infinite Health Cheat is either 1. a play-tester who play games for a living or 2. a liar. Starting from the Cloud City, the game starts becoming frustratingly difficult, and the final level probably caused hundreds of innocent Useful Notes/Playstation consoles to be flung out of windows.
  • No Name Given:
    • The warlord who summoned the Shadow Demon isn't named, despite being an important villain and The Heavy (the very reason this game exists is because of the pact he made with the demon).
    • Heck, the titular hero isn't named in the game either. His name is revealed to be Kurosawa in the game's manual and supplementary materials.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: Kurosawa is the only warrior and hero opposing the warlord, standing between the warlord and the Shadow Demon and their goals for taking over the ancient world.
  • One-Man Army: Well, of course.
  • Only the Chosen May Ride: At the conclusion of the Cloud City boss battle, if the boss is weakened enough, the game will skip to a cutscene showing Kurosawa leaping on its back and riding the boss to escape, leading to the following Beach level. Naturally the Cloud City boss is the only boss that doesn't die in the entire game.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Dragons shows up in the game as sub-bosses and a major boss. Oddly enough, for a game with a Japanese setting in a Sengoku-era period, the dragons Kurosawa battles are Western-inspired ones. Three of them shows up in the warlord's mansion as Mini-Boss enemies, and at the end of the mountain level concludes with a boos fight against an absolutely massive fire-breathing western dragon that looks like a brown Maleficient.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The skeletal wraiths in the ghost city and mansion. They attack in massive numbers, but can be defeated by simple punches and kicks or throwing knives.
  • Our Monsters Are Weird: From a winged T-Rex, to a Yuki-onna that swims through snow, to sentient tombstones that can fire electrical bolts...
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The zombies in the second level attacks with punches and kicks, and can shoot lightning bolts out of their hands if they're not taken out quickly. Although that last attack is rarely seen since they're usually defeated before they can execute it.
  • Platform Hell: As the game progresses, platforms will become increasingly common, with missed jumps leading to instant deaths. It gets really frustrating in the Cloud City and Hell Levels.
  • Playing with Fire:
    • Several enemies, like the Luchadores in the mansion level and the gargoyles, can breath fire.
    • The dragon bosses, obviously. Either fireballs or streams and streams of flames.
    • The first and third bosses have fire-based attacks as well. The first boss breathes rather slow fireballs, while the third will summon gigantic flaming meteorites which rains down on his enemies.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: Averted for the skeleton mooks. They fall apart from the waist after receiving enough hits, but will continue attacking as two separate entities, and anytime two half-skeletons managed to get in contact with each other, they won't reconnect in any way.
  • Purple Is Powerful: Check out the colour of Kurosawa's uniform.
  • Samurai: Several mooks serving the warlord are samurais, armed with a variety of weapons including katanas and spears. In the mountain regions there are samurai archers as well.
  • Sand Is Water: A variant; Snow is Water. The Yuki-onna boss notably travels under the snow like a menacing shark before sticking her head out to attack.
  • Shock and Awe:
    • Enemies like the sentient tombstones and altars can discharge lightning bolts on intruders.
    • The two-headed Hellhound can fire lightning bolts from its eyes.
    • One of Kurosawa's most powerful Smart Bomb attacks, which creates a barrier of electrical energy around him while summoning thunderbolts that rains down on his surrounding enemies.
  • Shockwave Stomp:
    • Most of the bosses can do this (by punching the ground), including the first three and the Sumo mercenary (via Belly flop). As well as the Luchadore enemies.
    • On the other hand, one of Kurosawa's default special attacks has him punching the ground, resulting in a huge explosion where he stood which can deal plenty of damage to surrounding enemies.
    • In the final battle, it turns out the Shadow Demon have this attack as well, the only difference being his floor punch's explosion is HUGE.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: As you can see in the cover above and in the game itself, Kurosawa the ninja wears a sleeveless outfit that shows his pecs.
  • Stationary Boss: The last dragon boss encountered in the mountains doesn't move, only resting itself in the mouth of a massive cave while using its Long Neck to bite, and breath fireballs. The problem here though is that it's stationary body is immune to damage, and it's only major weak spot, it's head, tends to keep moving around.
  • Sumo Wrestling: The boss of the Beach / Waterfront level is a Sumo mercenary. Despite his size, he's surprisngly Acrofatic and can take a huge chunk away from Kurosawa's health bar with a Deadly Hug.
  • Tail Slap: The first boss' primary attack. Being a Warmup Boss, its fireballs are relatively easy to dodge, and there are plenty of area in the boss battle arena for Kurosawa to strafe around and chuck throwing knives on the boss. The only challenge is its massive, crocodilian tail which it will use to whack Kurosawa off his feet for getting too close.
  • Sword Lines: Edged weapons like katana and nagayari will leave behind lines after being swung, if Kurosawa's Power Level is at maximum.
  • Technicolor Ninjas: All over the place. Kurosawa the ninja wears purple, and throughout the game he fights enemy ninjas dressed in red, blue, green, yellow, gray... the classic black ninjas finally appear in the last level at the entrance of the Shadow Demon's lair.
  • Take It to the Bridge: Bridges are a reoccurring obstacle, more often than not leads to pitfalls. The bridge in the ghost city has a subterranean monster living underneath who tries to slice up anyone who crosses it, the mansion level has bridges which are guarded by battering rams, and the cavern levels has rope bridges over bottomless pits with spiked pendulums swinging above.
  • Throw Down the Bomblet: In a section of the underground cave, there is a lone ninja dressed in red standing on a taller platform, who continuously flings dynamites at anyone right underneath it.
  • Underground Level: The underground cave levels, filled with giant spiders and slime monsters.
  • Unique Enemy:
    • Giant eagles only shows up in one segment of the mountain level, and even then there's only six of them in the entire game.
    • Bats are already a weak enemy on their own, and they only appear occasionally in the underground caves.
  • Unusable Enemy Equipment: No, you cannot take the katanas or spears dropped by the enemy samurais you just beat up. Those must remain on their dead bodies as it fades away. If you want your own weapon, you must find them in designated weapon chests or buy them in shops.
  • Virgin Sacrifice: The ritual to summon the Shadow Demon involves young virgin maidens being cast into flaming pits, as seen in the opening cinematic prologue.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: The third boss from the mansion level, which deals far greater damage than the previous two, can fire faster and more fireballs, summon flaming meteorites from above, and is generally a lot more challenging.
  • Wings Do Nothing: The Gargoyle King has wings, but due to his massive size, they only allow him to hover a few feet above ground for seconds before he drops back down. It's also easy to knock him out from mid-air with throwing knives.
  • Winged Humanoid: The Gargoyle mooks.
  • Zerg Rush: Most enemies employs this tactic against Kurosawa. In later levels, the human mooks who do this crosses into Suicidal Overconfidence territory, because they're fighting a badass ninja who had killed multiple demons, dragons and giant monsters at that point.


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