Ah, the memories. While I never actually owned Ninja Gaiden as a child, I can still remember hearing about it, half the kids I knew had the game, and talked about it regularly. For some reason, though, I never bought the game for myself, until just a couple weeks ago when I found a copy for $3 with a plastic case. I was pretty sleepy, but I decided to try the game out a little before I went to bed, so I put the game in and played... and played... and played for hours. Sleep can wait when you're playing a game this good. I don't know why I never got this when I was younger, I really should have, I didn't know what I was missing out on. Ninja Gaiden was a pleasant surprise, I expected the game to be good but it was even better than I had expected. The gameplay is addictive, and the game is put together very well. It just proves that NES games really WERE better than games today, and NES players don't still play games on the NES because of nostalgic reasons.
Ninja Gaiden has been said to have some of the best graphics on the NES. I can't say I agree, as I found the graphics to be a little too grainy for my liking. Actually, they were much too grainy, which is a shame because the player must adjust to them to get into this great game. It's something you can get used to, though. I can't tell what the enemys are, sometimes I can look at the same enemy twice and see 2 different things. Perhaps what that person was talking about when they said Ninja Gaiden had the best graphics on the NES were the cut scenes. Now I admit, the cut scenes really are remarkable. Ninja Gaiden will go down in history as the very first game to utilize cinema scenes. During the scenes, the storyline is brought to you in the best way possible with the NES' technology. The graphics look crisp and clear, a stark contrast to the graphics during gameplay. This is a real surprise coming from Tecmo.
Graphics Rating: 80
Gameplay is what makes or breaks a game, and I say assuredly that Ninja Gaiden features some of the best gameplay you'll find anywhere. It's something you can't quite put you finger on, it seems simple enough, run, slash, jump, cling to walls. Perhaps it's the level design, or perhaps it's the fast paced action, but something here makes this game very addictive to play. It will push you to try again even when you've been stuck on a part for the greater half of an hour. Like I said, the game is very fast paced, moreso than the majority of the games I've played. Though it may resemble a beat-em-up game from the screenshots, it's nothing like that at all, it's purely an action game, with some similarities to Castlevania without the stiff play control. Each and every enemy, besides the bosses, takes only one hit to destroy, but what makes them difficult is they each have different patterns of attack. The trick to Ninja Gaiden is finding each enemy pattern and memorizing it, once you do this the enemy becomes much easier. Another main aspect of the gameplay is that Ryu can cling to walls. This comes into play a lot throughout Ninja Gaiden. One main flaw is that you cannot climb most walls, which is irritating. There is a way around this, by holding the jump button and pressing away and forward very quickly over and over again. This method is monotonous, and isn't necessary anywhere in the game but can help if you are in a bind and land on a low wall that you can't get away from. This is my only real complaint with the gameplay. Other than this key flaw, the gameplay is put together very well.
Gameplay Rating: 95
The music in Ninja Gaiden has also been called some of the best on the NES. I don't know if I would agree with this either. While it does have an amazing soundtrack, Ninja Gaiden has some stiff competition for the title of best music on the NES. All things considered, though, the music matches the gameplay very well, with a hard-hitting soundtrack to match the fast-paced frantic gameplay. No songs stick out in my mind, though, so basically the music is all the same quality all the way through. Tecmo did a great job with the sound effects, it's exhilerating to slash into an enemy and hear the crack-like sound effect that results. All of the sound effects are dead-on, and there is an effect for just about every motion you can think of.
Sound Rating: 90
The storyline in Ninja Gaiden is brought to you in grand fashion, with top-notch NES cut-scenes. Many games afterward have copied the Ninja Gaiden cutscenes, they set a precedent amongst action games. The story goes as follows; The game opens up and shows a fighter you will later find out is Ken Hayabusa seemingly fighting to the death against an unknown ninja. The next day, his son Ryu Hayabusa finds a note in his fathers room. It reads something to the effect of, "I have gone to a life or death fight, if I don't return I need you to go to find my friend in the United States, Walter Smith, he'll tell you everything you need to know". When Ryu comes to the states, he finds a love interest, Irene Lew, who gives him a mysterious statue, and gets mixed up with the FBI before finding Dr. Smith. Dr. Smith explains to him that there are 2 demon statues, 1 of which is the one Ryu has, Dr. Smith sends Ryu off to get the other one and bring it back. When he does, ninjas jump in through the window and steal it, leaving Dr. Smith hurt. I don't want to spoil anymore of it for you, but lets just say that it has a lot of twists and turns after that, all brought to you in the cinema scenes in between levels and just before major bosses. Tecmo did a great job of coming up with a storyline, especially when the game itself is so great it doesn't need an entrhalling story. But it sure got one.
Storyline Rating: 96
I've found myself going back to play Ninja Gaiden many times since I first beat it. It's a fairly tough game, but nothing too impossible, and 6 levels of play. I'd have to say Ninja Gaiden has one of the best learning curves I've seen, with the first level being more of a warm-up level and the last levels being pretty tough. There are no extras in Ninja Gaiden, but that doesn't matter. The gameplay is addictive and it will keep you coming back for more. Even after beating it, I still have problems on the last boss. It's good for quite a few replays before it starts getting old.
Replay Value: 85
(Not an average)
Ninja Gaiden is a wonderful game, whether you're a NES veteran or a new-age gamer who just bought his first system. The overall quality hasn't changed much with it's age. The Ninja Gaiden trilogy sparked many knock-offs such as Wrath of the Black Manta, and many games afterward started putting cinema cut-scenes in thier games, but none were quite as good as the cut-scenes in Ninja Gaiden. Now the Ninja Gaiden series looks like it will finally get a worthy successor with Ninja Gaiden 4 for the PS2, but it looks to be drastically different from the original games, with the gameplay focusing on stealth and exploration. Oh well, there's always Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2.