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YMMV / Ninja Gaiden

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  • 8.8: IGN's 3.0 of Ninja Gaiden III gained quite a backlash, particularly their accusations of the game being a "technical disaster", which other critics didn't see as a major fault; rather, the less-than-stellar action and combat from its predecessors were the major problems. The Updated Re-release Razor's Edge, however, got a much more decent 7.6.
  • Accidental Innuendo: During the cut-scene of Irene Lew getting struck down by Ashtar in The Dark Sword of Chaos, she slumps onto Ryu, but the way the animation does it makes it look like she's descending onto his crotch. Even the The Angry Video Game Nerd in his review of Ninja Gaiden Discussed how unusual it looked.
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  • Adaptation Displacement: Subverted - most fans who are aware of the two-player Beat 'em Up version of the arcade installment believed it came out before the first Nintendo Entertainment System game. In reality, the arcade version was developed simultaneously with the latter; the two development teams making their own game based its core design on the same concept.
  • Angst? What Angst?: In Ninja Gaiden III, upon being freed from the mask's control of his mind, Theodore Higgins doesn't seem to be fazed at all by all of the horrible things he was forced to do as the "Regent of the Mask", or the fact his brother and grandfather were the ones who forced him to do it, OR the fact his daughter is serving as the core for a giant monster ravaging Tokyo. Subverted in his last duel against Ryu Hayabusa as Theodore implies he was aware of everything that was going on while he was the Regent. He sacrifices himself not only to allow Ryu to free his daughter, but to receive his "atonement" for his crimes as well.
  • Anti-Climax Boss:
    • Although he's built up as The Dragon of the Holy Vigoor Emperor and the Greater Fiend who destroyed the Hayabusa Village by himself, Doku in the modern Ninja Gaiden is incredibly easy due to fixed attacks patterns; unlike Alma, his maneuvers are predictable and telegraphed. Even on "Master Ninja" difficulty of Ninja Gaiden Black is the fight against Doku pathetically easy.
    • Zigzagged with the Final Boss of the Xbox Ninja Gaiden: the Dark Disciple, who claimed to have the power of the "Devil Incarnate", can be taken down through repeated use of the "Flying Swallow" technique when using the True Dragon Sword, which was a Game-Breaker in the original release. However, Ninja Gaiden Black re-balanced the boss via Nerfing the Flying Swallow.
    • Considering roughly 70% of the game is spent chasing her down, Elizabét in Ninja Gaiden II isn't much of a challenge either, except her That One Attack (see below): like Doku, her moves can be easily telegraphed and she often leaves her defenses open for exploits more than the other Greater Fiend bosses in the game. Sigma II rectified it by re-balancing her with the Greater Fiends and like the Final Boss of the modern Ninja Gaiden, spamming the same attacks from weapons won't do any good, including the Flying Swallow.
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    • The Final Boss in Ninja Gaiden III: not that the fight isn't visually impressive, but 30% of it is fighting Mooks the boss sends at players, 30% are quick-time events with the remaining 40% the actual fight. Furthermore, the latter is fundamentally the same boss fight as the Statue of Liberty boss in Sigma II, which veteran Ninja Gaiden players have no problem against, making this Final Boss arguably the easiest one in the modern trilogy. Averted in Razor's Edge when it becomes part of That One Boss for the game.
  • Ass Pull: Obaba's comeback in Sigma II and III - the games don't bother explaining how she is revived when she's supposed to be Killed Off for Real in Dragon Sword.
  • Author's Saving Throw: Fan reception of Razor's Edge is much more positive than the original version of III, thanks to its staggering amount of game-play changes, difficulty re-balancing and removing the worst aspects from the narrative of the original game.
  • Awesome Music: Has its own page.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: At the end of Day 5 in III, a colossal Obaba interrupts Ryu and Momiji who are on the way to see Joe Hayabusa via a boss fight. Not only is she and the Black Spider Ninja Clan not connected to the rest of the plot, they're never mentioned after the end of Day 5. Razor's Edge rectifies this by briefly noting the Black Spider are in cahoots with the "Lords of Alchemy" (LOA), yet the reason remains vague.
  • Breather Boss: Kelbeross in the first two NES games - even though only one of two can be damaged, they're extremely slow, have an obvious attack pattern, and there's even a safe spot in the boss room where Ryu can stand (it's directly in front of where Ryu starts the fight, with no obstacles in his way) and just repeatedly slash to win. An astounding example when the only difference between the fights from both games is that the visuals were updated for The Dark Sword of Chaos.
  • Broken Base: Sigma II - some consider it inferior to Ninja Gaiden II because of the lack of gore, easier difficulty and the removal of puzzles, but others consider it superior thanks to more balanced stage designs, less cheap AI, frame-rate fixes and the removal/revision of the most tedious passages of the original, as well as additional content of playable characters and game modes. The drastically reduced number of enemies and the introduction of a semi-automatic aim for the bow can be seen as a good or bad thing depending on who is asked.
  • Complete Monster:
    • In the Original Video Animation based on the original NES trilogy, Professor Bucky-Wise is a seemingly Nice Guy who's really the hidden Big Bad pulling the strings: he recorded a power surge when Ryu defeats a powerful demon, managing to capture some of its power. He forces his colleague Ned Friedman to help him perform bizarre experiments by kidnapping Friedman's daughter Katherine, and uses the demon's power to create an army of genetically altered creatures. Bucky-Wise is also experimenting on humans, as Ryu and his friends discover one of his labs has babies in jars. Bucky-Wise has his monsters attack Ryu and, when they fail to kill him, he kidnaps Irene; Ryu, however, goes to Friedman's corporation, believing it's the latter's doing. When confronted, Ned proclaims his innocence, but Bucky-Wise kills him, stating he is no longer useful, while telling Ryu he plans to release the same demon he defeated earlier upon the world,not caring this entity has the power to destroy humanity. Ryu kills Bucky-Wise and frees Katherine, but the Mad Scientist has the last laugh by transferring some of the demon's power into her, making her a vessel for the demon.
    • The Big Bad of the modern Ninja Gaiden stands out as a truly horrible individual: Murai was once part of the Hayabusa Ninja Clan, but went rogue to form his own clan and began plotting their demise. Despite stating a stance of neutrality from the Dragon Lineage's affairs, Murai uses his position and knowledge to sell them out to the Holy Vigoor Emperor, under the guise of the Dark Disciple, while luring away his nephew Ryu during the scheduled attack by the Emperor's minions. With the Hayabusa Clan nearly decimated, the Dark Dragon Blade stolen by the Greater Fiend Doku, and knowing of Ryu's vengeful personality, Murai suggests he goes after the Holy Vigoor Emperor to take Revenge. However, this is All According to Plan as Ryu's assault on the Emperor's forces increases the power to the Dark Dragon Blade. Alongside his servant Gamov keeping an eye on Ryu's progress, Murai patiently waits until the Holy Vigoor Emperor is destroyed by Ryu, then reveals himself as the true mastermind behind all events and takes the empowered Dark Dragon Blade for himself. With the intent of controlling the world with the evil blade, the manipulative and traitorous Murai will betray and slaughter anyone for a grasp at power, including Gamov.
    • In Ninja Gaiden III, Clifford "Cliff" Higgins seems like a helpful, yet quirky scientist working for the Japanese Self-Defense Force, but is actually working for the Lords of Alchemy, who desires humanity's destruction by replacing them with new "perfect" god-like beings. When Cliff's brother Theodore opposed the Evil Plan by their grandfather Ashtear Higgins, Cliff had him and his wife Saya killed in an "accident", then resurrects Theodore as the Brainwashed Regent of the Mask, sending him out to terrorize other nations and their respective governments, including the murder of the British Prime Minister. Cliff's machinations come to a head when he uses LOA's technology and Ryu's Dragon Sword to turn his niece Canna into the "Goddess" as it rampages through Tokyo, and will eventually destroy the human race. In a final confrontation with Ryu, Cliff admits he did such thins because he was jealous of his seemingly perfect brother and wanted to step out from under his shadow in any way that he could.
  • Contested Sequel: Yosuke Hayashi's drastically different vision for III left many fans skeptical. While some players believe it's still a fun Action Game in its own right, if not, on par with the first two games, others prefer to pretend it never existed (interestingly, Hayashi was already involved in another Contested Sequel). Razor's Edge is unanimously considered an Author's Saving Throw, yet it also remains this in its own right, since some feel that while it rectified the shortcomings of III, others feel Razor's Edge is still a bad game regardless of the improvements.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: Ninja Gaiden II is so ridiculously gory it practically skips the offensive and goes straight to hilarious. May or may not double as Narm Charm.
  • Demonic Spiders
    • Birds or any sort of avian/winged enemy in the NES trilogy: a large reason why they're so terrible, at least in the first game, is due to a glitch with how the game handles enemy spawns - anything that's in the exact position of the level will respawn as soon as it's taken out, causing them to infinitely respawn until players deliberately trek across the stage. The problem is, particularly in the first game, moving forward is not always a reasonable option.
    • The "ghost piranhas" infesting the labyrinth in Zarkhan for the modern Ninja Gaiden due to pack-like tendencies, respawning capabilities and sheer, unimaginable attack speed and tenacity. Hilariously, they were originally decorative in the environment until director Tomonobu Itagaki found out about them and told the development team to make them enemies. By contrast, their difficulty is slightly toned down in the Sequel, with the exception of that one chapter where players must deal with them alongside the Water Dragon boss. However, this becomes noticeably easier in Sigma II.
    • In the first game of the modern trilogy, especially at the highest difficulties, a good portion of the non-human Mooks turn into this, such as the black "laser eye-firing" fiends or the feline-based fiends, thanks to their agility and lightning-fast attacks, especially when fought in groups.
    • Ninja Gaiden II has a literal kind with Black Spider Ninja "Rasetsu": while he certainly doesn't count in his first appearance as a boss for the first level of the game, his derivatives turn into common enemies later on, which do apply.
    • Liked the Goddamned Bats in the first modern release? In Ninja Gaiden II, meet giant bats! Thrice as big, deal thrice as much damage, are thrice as tough and are still unblockable. More often than not, players will take damage while trying to kill them.
    • The infamous Incendiary Kunai Black Spider Ninjas from Ninja Gaiden II are usually this when fighting them in large groups; take a guess why by looking at their name. Strangely, Sigma II kept them as this despite fewer on-screen enemies at a time, but for a different reason: though they use their explosives less often, they turn more resilient to attacks (an "Izuna Drop" won't be enough to kill them at higher difficulties) and are much more competent at close combat instead. This turns especially jarring at higher difficulties where their claw attacks take off chunks of Hit Points compared to the average Black Spider Ninja Mook.
    • Alchemists in Ninja Gaiden III has a Ground Pound-like maneuver that, while blockable, breaks guard and is hard to dodge most of the time. Furthermore, they're fast, agile, hurl homing "alchemy projectiles", block and evade often and frequently erect an "alchemy armor" that requires breaking it first before actual damage can be dealt, which light attacks from Ryu's weapons won't usually do; they also have a Grapple Move that not only slowly drains Hit Points, but the ki gauge as well. Finally, in Razor's Edge, the timing to perform a "Steel-on-Bone" Counter Attack is so exceptionally narrow compared to other humanoid enemies in the game that players will often opt out for dismemberment instead, allowing an "Obliteration Technique" to finish them off; unfortunately, Alchemists are the most resilient enemies in the game to be dismembered.
    • Chimera in the later parts of Ninja Gaiden III are essentially faster, more evasive Incendiary Kunai Black Spider Ninja, with the only saving grace is they don't have projectiles. Like Alchemists, they too block occasionally and might get a bead on escaping out of players' attack combos more often than not. The problem with these Chimera comes if they're dismembered: doing so, and they initiate an unblockable Suicide Attack, homing straight for Ryu, forcing players to prioritize on dismembered Chimera for an Obliteration Technique lest they risk a chunk of Hit Points getting taken away. Fortunately, it's easy to note if a suicide-Chimera will begin its strike as they start sparking bright colors; additionally, if they don't reach Ryu in time, the suicide-Chimera will wind up exploding - their effects don't have what an Action Bomb Mook usually does in this series.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Robert T. Sturgeon in The Dark Sword of Chaos is a Mysterious Informant/Protector with an agenda of his own, wears Cool Shades and able to take down demonic horrors with a single gunshot, who turns out to be a top United States Army operative and an extremely loyal ally to Ryu that he makes a Last Stand to guard his back in the very bowels of Hell. This is especially notable considering how well Ryu gets along with covert government agencies in other installments.
    • Following their respective debuts, Rachel and Momiji: both garnered enough popularity to warrant not just subsequent reappearances in Ninja Gaiden Sequels, but an immigration as Playable Characters in the Dead or Alive franchise and the Updated Re-release versions of Warriors Orochi.
  • Evil Is Sexy: Elizabét, outside of her One-Winged Angel form, with Of Corsets Sexy in play; that she also bathes nude in a Blood Bath in her last appearance certainly helps.
  • Fanon Discontinuity: The original Ninja Gaiden III is usually ignored, and Razor's Edge is seen by most players as the "real" version of the third game; however, that's without considering those who didn't even like Razor's Edge regardless.
  • Fashion-Victim Villain: The Regent of the Mask - having an outfit consisting of a red Badass Longcoat, a Cool Mask, a mysterious hood and a gold-plated Gloved Fist of Doom can only make him one. To compliment this trope, he's armed with a Royal Rapier.
  • First Installment Wins: Although The Dark Sword of Chaos and The Ancient Ship of Doom have many game-play refinements, most people will jump back to the original NES Ninja Gaiden before the other two when it's the most recognizable of the trilogy in terms of Demonic Spiders in conjunction with Platform Hell, as well as the more easier of the digestable plots.
  • Game-Breaker
    • The Windmill Technique from the NES Ninja Gaiden, capable of killing every single Mook (and boss) in the game with one use, that is, provided players can plow through an entire level heading towards the boss with minimal jumping attacks or getting other power ups, as each jumping attack triggers the Windmill Technique and eats up ninpo power. However, it's still possible to execute a normal jump attack by holding down while attacking.
    • The "Unlaboured Flawlessness" in the modern Ninja Gaiden: players who are skilled enough to stay alive at 15% health can cut enemies down with this weapon at shocking speeds. On the other hand, given the strict health requirement and the game's difficulty, this isn't as severe as the others listed.
    • The Izuna Drop in all modern appearances is fairly easy to execute and will instantly kill any human-sized Mook at lower difficulties: in the first game, enemies often block and players can only perform the technique with "katana-like" weapons, making its use restricted. However, the sequel ensures almost all weapons have access to an Izuna Drop of one form or another, and enemies don't guard at all from it. Rectified in Sigma II by Nerfing it slightly via making some Mooks (almost all of them on Master Ninja difficulty) resilient enough to survive it.
    • The Flying Swallow was overpowered in the original version of the modern Ninja Gaiden, to the point where it would make short work of enemies and even some bosses; the Final Boss could even be cheesed by simply spamming it. Addressed in Ninja Gaiden Black where as the Flying Swallow was Nerfed extensively: enemies and bosses could now block it, and they would do so more often on harder difficulties; Black even goes so far as to include enemies that punish players for relying on the technique too much.
    • "Ultimate Techniques" in the modern trilogy are a similar case: in the first game, without absorbing essence to speed it up, it takes several seconds to charge a full-powered Ultimate Technique and their effective range is limited. In Ninja Gaiden II and Sigma II, it takes half the time to activate, with some weapons' Ultimate Techniques being glaringly over-effective on large groups of small Mooks.
    • The "Hurricane Packs" for the modern Ninja Gaiden added an "Intercept" maneuver where Ryu can parry any enemy attack and trigger a Counter Attack via Ultimate Technique if players can get the proper timing down. It's no wonder Intercept's effectiveness wound up being removed in Ninja Gaiden Black.
    • The "Eclipse Scythe" in III, despite its slow attack speed, can become this if used properly. With the Dragon Sword or the "Falcon's Talons", players can directly repeat successful Steel-on-Bone attacks on nearby enemies. The scythe, however, has the longest reach of all available weapons in the gamenote , meaning "nearby enemy" entails into "any enemy within a large, encompassing radius". As long as players don't screw up the initial Steel-on-Bone strike, taking down entire waves of Mooks can be done almost effortlessly. As of Razor's Edge, the scythe has taken this completely, being the only weapon used by players more than the Dragon Sword against groups of Mooks. However, it suffers from a few drawbacks, notably a limit to the number of successive Steel-on-Bone attacks thanks to ''Razor's Edge" rectifying game-play and the inertia after every regular strike of the weapon.
    • Speaking of the revamped Steel-on-Bone system in Razor's Edge, provided players take the time to properly use it via Counter Attacks, Mooks bum-rushing players will mean nothing if players can spot the tell from enemies that allows a Steel-On-Bone to trigger. Furthermore, having low Hit Points won't mean a thing either since successive Steel-On-Bone strikes also grant Regenerating Health.
  • Goddamned Bats
    • Actual bats for the modern games: these critters do annoying damage and come in large packs, with Action Bomb variants showing up from Ninja Gaiden Black and onwards.
    • Bats are also regular enemies in the NES trilogy, and they're in all respects similar to Castlevania bats.
    • Birds in the NES trilogy: while bats at least fly in a predictable pattern and usually aren't difficult to avoid, birds actively home in on Ryu's position and are almost always by ledges and Bottomless Pits. In the first game, they take three slots off the life bar, making them the highest damage-dealers in the game that aren't bosses.
    • The "jellyfish" in the Amazon level for Ninja Gaiden II: sure, they don't move and are easy to eliminate with ranged weapons, but they get in the way and never stop spawning. Of course, the alternative is simply to swim through them, but that's at the player's own risk.
    • Appearing first in the same level are the large killer fish: similar to the jellyfish, players wil need to use the speargun, but unlike the former, these creatures are more durable and aggressive. In the Amazon level, there is a small section where players can hang back where they can't reach out Ryu so potshots can be taken against them instead; unfortunately, when they reappear in the final level of the game, players are likely out of luck since there's no avoiding them.
    • Dogs, the blue bugs and the human-like homunculi (pre-transformation into its "gorilla" or "snake" forms) often act as this in Razor's Edge: while they aren't necessarily hard to defeat, the former two are just as agile as humanoid Mooks, while the latter have more Hit Points than they appear.
  • Goddamned Boss: Two examples from Ninja Gaiden II
    • The infamous giant worm boss at the end of the Amazon level: by no means is it difficult - it's simply horribly ill-designed, as 90% of the fight ensures players are unable to see it, even when they're hitting it, due to the boss tunneling itself and popping out from any direction without a sign for players to know where. Sigma II didn't even try to make it better when Team Ninja mercifully removed it from the level, along with the entire "green tunnel" section leading up to the boss and after defeating it. Those who haven't played Ninja Gaiden II and only Sigma II wouldn't even notice its absence.
    • The two "armadillo" bosses in the first underworld level: the words "Camera Screw" will mean something until players have gone through this fight, which stands in contrast to the first armadillo boss at the end of the aircraft level. Like the above, Sigma II removed it, replacing it with a fight against Marbus instead.
  • Good Bad Bugs: In Razor's Edge, Kasumi has a version of the "Cicada Surge" technique called "Sakura Madoi", allowing her to evade not only melee attacks like Ryu, but also bullets and missiles, meaning it's possible to use Sakura Madoi to teleport into areas normally inaccessible, and in extreme cases, out of the map. This was fixed when the re-release was ported to the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight
  • It's Easy, So It Sucks!: Ninja Gaiden III is such a far cry from its punishing predecessors that it would take Razor's Edge to ratchet the difficulty back up to normal, yet it keeps the easier "Hero" mode as a play-style that can be selected at any time.
  • Memetic Mutation
    • "Just a girl. Get out of here!"note 
    • Why? BUSINESS OF COURSE!note 
    • Lovelace Gaganote 
  • Most Annoying Sound: The NES trilogy, being very much Nintendo Hard, has the death jingle. Expect to hear it over and over and over again.
  • Narm
    • The Worlds of Power book is filled with this, starting with the acknowledgement on the first page, "Dedicated to the ninja in everyone's dad".
    • The original arcade game is rife with this at the "round clear" screens of each stage. Specific mention is its premise: a seemingly random ninja who happens to be Ryu goes to America ("NINJA IN U.S.A.") to beat the crap out of an evil cult full of hockey-mask wearing thugs, sumo and normal wrestlers alike, and various others, all led by "Bladedamus", a descendant of Nostradamus clad in BDSM gear and with a mural of death and a similarly-clad man's ass in his throne room. One of the clear cards even depicts Ryu cheerfully messing up a window cleaner's work (and spooking them), and another has him shooting craps at a casino table, clad in a pink suit and surrounded by Playboy Bunny girls!
    • The "don't kill me mate" scene at the beginning of the Day 1 level in Ninja Gaiden III is so overdone and theatrical it winds up being hilarious instead of an intended Player Punch. Team Ninja must have taken notes as the scene is removed in Razor's Edge.
  • Nightmare Fuel
  • Only the Creator Does It Right: What certain fans think about the modern trilogy and one of the reasons there's so much bashing on the games where Hayashi was involved (Sigma, Sigma II and III) - any title not directed by Itagaki can only be a pale imitation. It doesn't help that before leaving Team Ninja pre-merger, Itagaki specifically said he didn't like Sigma, that Ninja Gaiden II was the definitive version of the game and he was the only one legitimate enough to continue the series.
  • Player Punch: Ninja Gaiden III goes to great length to make players feel the pain of the enemies they kill, be it the brutal Steel-on-Bone mechanic or the moaning of enemies if they aren't finished off as they crawl helplessly on the ground, bleeding to death.
    Crawling and bleeding Mook: "I don't wanna die...I don't wanna die!"
  • Polished Port: Zigzagged for Razor's Edge - apart from the addition of several weapons, upgrades, collectible items and playable characters, nearly every aspect of the Ninja Gaiden III game-play has been improved, from Combo speed to weapon responsiveness, to enemy AI, to the use of the ki bar and the revamped Steel-on-Bone mechanic, making the game much more technical; the PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 ports also corrects the frame-rate drops from the Nintendo Wii U version. Thus, while Razor's Edge seems to play this straight, it's Subverted when it still contains unusual bugs and glitches, such as the "infinite karma" glitch.
  • Scrappy Mechanic
    • A lot of problems, death pits and enemy hazards in the original NES trilogy could've been negated if Ryu could mantle up the top of whatever walls he climbs. He can't, so you need to jump between adjacent surfaces or hop off to a nearby platform and then jump higher than the prior wall. A few cases in the trilogy even have tight jumps where even if you catch the wall above a pit, you can't climb up it to safety, so your life is forfeit anyway. At least the first game only had the basic wall cling, so it made more sense for this limitation, but the sequels are fully willing to exploit this in stages with wind currents, where the only way to progress is to jump into the current to reach the tops of platforms!
    • The save system in the modern Ninja Gaiden makes it so that if players die, they restart at the last save point, no exception. This means if they die fighting a boss, they must redo any section between the save point all the way to the boss again; additional redundancy occurs if death happens at the beginning of the next chapter without having saved the game, where they must fight the boss from the previous chapter again.
    • The Steel-on-Bone mechanic in Ninja Gaiden III was largely unnecessary due to it randomly activating in the middle of striking enemies and can interrupt Combos. Rectified in Razor's Edge where Steel-on-Bone is used as a form of Counter Attack to prevent enemy Grapple Moves.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: Someone watching the plots of the NES trilogy today will find them Narmy and overdone with their "three Plot Twists per second" narrative, but the trilogy back then was considered a big leap forward for video game story-telling by having cut-scenes and fully-sentenced dialogue, coming all together for a coherent plot, compared to other games released during that generation.
  • So Bad, It's Good: Whatever fans think of the respective plots of the modern installments - Dragon Sword and III/Razor's Edge have a little more detailed ones, not that this saves the latter from being a Contested Sequel, though.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song: Two of them in the arcade version - the second stage almost sounds like "Bad" by Michael Jackson and the second boss theme is very similar to "Iron Man" from Black Sabbath.
  • That One Achievement: It's literally impossible to obtain the platinum trophy for the Sony Playstation Vita version of Sigma II Plus, as "Tag Mode" forces players to partner with the AI since Cooperative Multiplayer was removed. At least three missions demand two human players work in concert, which cannot happen if one of them is an AI-controlled character.
  • That One Attack: Two examples from Ninja Gaiden II
    • Zedonius' flame wall is unblockable and cannot be avoided at close range; even some moves with invulnerability frames cannot provide protection. The only thing players can do against it is casting ninpo spells, but if ninpo stocks are out, pray he doesn't use it. The only reasonable way to truly evade it otherwise is to stay the hell away from Zedonius as much as possible.
    • Elizabét's "blood orbs" are similarly hard to dodge, unblockable, deals the largest damage from her arsenal of attacks, can place players into a Stunlock such that they'll be hit by the next orb AND heals Elizabét the more the attack deals damage.
  • That One Boss: Just about every single one of them, especially in the modern games.
    • Bloody Malth in the first NES game throws lightning fast homing projectiles that are nearly impossible to dodge. Unless players have god-like timing, the fight is more than likely going to boil down to a war of attrition. Meanwhile, good luck getting to the fight ensuring Ryu has full health by the time players get to Bloody Malth.
      • Since the battle follows a cutscene, players start the Boss Fight with a full health bar. Because of that, the best strategy really is to just rush him and mash the attack button. It could be considered an act of mercy if there were any evidence the developers were capable of such a thing.
    • Murai in the modern Ninja Gaiden, not because he's the Warm-Up Boss, but rather he's a Wake-Up Call Boss.
    • The first fight with Alma from the same game is often regarded as the toughest at that point due to aerial, agile strikes, unpredictable attack patterns, high-damage maneuvers (some of them unblockable) and high-resilience to almost all weapons in Ryu's arsenal at that point in the game. The later Awakened Alma Boss Fight before the climax is worse when these attributes are also carried over; the True Dragon Sword or the Unlaboured Flawlessness won't be of much help.
    • Ninja Gaiden II has pretty brutal bosses, but Zedonius takes the cake, especially the rematch against him in the underworld. While the other three Greater Fiend bosses should have the same difficulty, and are fought in similar arenas to the original duels, Zedonius takes players on a series of rather small rock out-croppings floating in a big lake of magma. As the "Ruler of Flame", he's fireproof; Ryu's not, and since the previous boss fight with him forced Zedonius to use primarily-ranged attacks in a relatively-confined space of a clock tower, unwary players will quickly learn this is no longer the case when he starts teleporting miles away to open up with his flames, particularly That One Attack.
    • The Regent of the Mask in III and Razor's Edge, another Wake-Up Call Boss akin to Murai, except he's also an SNK Boss who blocks almost every attack players do, is less exploitable than other bosses in the game, and can No-Sell attacks. Without careful thinking on when to strike, expect to be brutally punished for it if players don't have the patience to time their attacks correctly.
    • Provided players wish to tackle "Ninja Trials" in III and "Test of Valor" in Razor's Edge, Marbus, but for a different reason: due to the lack of a controllable boss camera angle (introduced in Sigma II, but strangely absent in III), players face him 50% of the time off-screen. Thankfully, Razor's Edge brought the feature back, but that doesn't mean Marbus still isn't as tough as he was in previous installments. Furthermore, he's riddled with glitches, which is noticeable when doing online Ninja Trials with a partner (human or AI).
    • The Final Boss of Razor's Edge, in sharp contrast to its vanilla version in III: the first phase of it is notorious for being extremely cheap and unfair (never-ending homing projectiles, infinite Mook respawns of Chimera), locks out all other ninpo spells other than "True Inferno" and forces players to grind the ki gauge in order to build it up to unleash True Inferno on the boss, as it's the only attack that will damage it to allow the next phase of the fight to occur. The first phase more or less forces players to resort to overusing the cheapest techniques available in order to pass it.
  • That One Level
    • The infamous 6-2 in the first NES game: 6-1 and 6-3 are extremely difficult as well, but 6-2 takes the cake for cheap deaths and one spot where players have to exploit a flaw in the programming to get past it. If players die even once on any of the three final bosses, they're forced to redo the entire stage at 6-1 again.
    • Stage 3-1 in Dark Sword of Chaos, where the periodic lightning reveals the stage before you while all enemies and items are otherwise visible. You basically need to exploit the lightning still going while the game is paused to be able to reasonably platform it, because the game swarms you with fireballs that will likely send you into a pit or mob you to death, and some of these jumps are tight. And just for an extra kick in the nads, the last part of the stage is a large number of one-tile wide platforms with almost pixel-perfect precision needed. You fall, back to the beginning of the stage.
    • Stage 7 in The Ancient Ship of Doom: not only is it the longest stage in the NES trilogy, but running out of time is always expected of players, and borderline impossible of ensuring that doesn't happen (this "perfect run" accomplishes the stage without death, yet closes with a mere two seconds remaining on the clock) unless something kills players first.
      • More specifically, 7-1 has wind currents impeding player progress and can cause frequent plummets off the stage to death if care isn't taken. While there is a "Fire Wheel" ninpo spell that can be acquired, it's the only one in all three of the sub-stages, and incredibly easy to lose either through dying or picking something else up by accident. 7-2, among other things, has traps looking like part of the background until players realize too late they took damage from it. Sure, there are two One Ups for this section, but the first one is difficult to get without dying in the process. Finally, 7-3 goes completely overboard with the Spikes of Doom, placing them almost everywhere in screens that wouldn't be out of place in I Wanna Be the Guy. Oh, and if players are looking for health potions, don't bother: there's not a single one in the entire stage. Perhaps the only saving grace is unlike the first NES game, losing to the Final Boss won't send players back to 7-1, but the sub-stages being so obtuse and the fact players have finite continues in this game make it much more problematic, though not one they'll have to repeat if they mess something up at the Final Boss.
    • The "Path of Zarkhan" chapter in the modern Ninja Gaiden: not that it's particularly harder than previous chapters, but players spend most of the level swimming back and forth to solve a puzzle. Upon solving that, they must go through a long swimming sequence through areas previously visited but now submerged. Sigma may have removed the puzzle and made the level more straight-forward, but the chapter favors swimming shenanigans over action sequences.
    • The Elevator Action Sequence in Sigma II for Rachel's chapter, mainly because of Camera Screw issues and also because of Rachel's melee weapon not being very adaptable to fight in narrow spaces. Savvy players will stand in the corner to charge up the Ultimate Technique over and over again between waves to cheese their way past the lower difficulties, but it gets complicated at higher difficulties where the upgraded flare-based Fiends are Demonic Spiders and deal a lot of damage - often One Hit Kills in Master Ninja. Furthermore, a fully-charged Ultimate Technique is no longer a guaranteed One-Hit Kill on Master Ninja difficulty.
    • Ayane's chapter in Sigma II is the hardest one to beat, particularly at higher difficulties, since she's the "fast, but weak" character of the playable girls and the chapter sends a grab-bag of every enemy type in the game, even those which seem better-designed for heavier, more-powerful weapons. Prepare to see the "Game Over" screen a lot with her.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: What some fans think of Ninja Gaiden III, from the game-play not changing much since its predecessors, to its tone-downed difficulty to overall game length compared to the others. It stands to reason Razor's Edge was made to correct every criticism inflicted upon III.
  • They Copied It, So It Sucks!: Averted with the NES trilogy - people have noted the games copy a lot of things from Castlevania, most obviously the life bars, but most players agree the Ninja Gaiden games back then were still good in their own right despite the obvious influences. What likely helps is its Power Ups are fundamentally different from the ones seen in Castlevania.


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