Ninja Gaiden
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Game Gear
  • Developer:
    • Biox
  • Publishers:
    • JP Sega
    • US Sega
    • UK Sega
    • Brazil Tec Toy
  • Released:
    • JP 11/01/1991
    • US 1991
    • UK 1991
    • Brazil 1991
Score: 65%

This review was published on 02/07/2017.

Ninja Gaiden is a side-scrolling platform video game developed by Biox for the Sega Game Gear. It was originally released in Japan on November 1, 1991, and North America, Europe, and Brazil in 1991. Tecmo, the owner of the Ninja Gaiden franchise, licensed Sega to publish the game in Japan, North America, and Europe, but Tec Toy handled distribution in Brazil. This is the first game in the series to have the same name in all regions, even in Europe, where it's normally known as Shadow Warriors. The first three Ninja Gaiden games were developed by Tecmo and released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where they garnered significant success and acclaim. They were recognized for being some of the first console video games to have intricate cinematic scenes to convey the story, plus they had awesome, action packed game play. Success of that caliber generally results in countless spinoffs and sequels, and this is one of them. Despite having the same name as the original Ninja Gaiden for the NES and arcade, the Ninja Gaiden on the Game Gear is a completely different game, and it's nowhere near as good as the NES trilogy.

Image

For the uninitiated, gaiden is a Japanese word that roughly translates to "side story," which is usually attributed to spinoffs or stuff that's not pertinent to the main series of something. As a result of that, the title "Ninja Gaiden" never made much sense for the main series, as these games weren't spinoffs. However, the title finally makes sense in Ninja Gaiden for the Game Gear, which actually is a side story. This game's story begins with a mysterious assault on the Dragon Ninja village, the home of Ryu Hayabusa, the ninja protagonist of the series. Ryu rushes back to his village to fend off the invaders, who appear to be after his Dragon Sword. Upon being defeated, the leader of the attack reveals that he was hired by a smuggler who sells weapons to various unsavory clients. Eventually, Ryu discovers that the smuggler has ties to a demon named Shiragane who wants to steal the Dragon Sword to start World War III. Yeah, the plot's a little wonky.

Image

As the above paragraph insinuates, you control Ryu Hayabusa in this game. You press the d-pad left or right to make Ryu run in those directions, and down to crouch. On the other hand, the 1 button makes him slash his sword and the 2 button causes him to jump. Unlike the other Ninja Gaiden games, Ryu can run and slash his sword at the same time, which improves the pacing. Like the other Ninja Gaiden games, Ryu will cling to walls if he jumps towards them, and like Ninja Gaiden II, he can climb up or down them by pressing up or down on the d-pad. He can't use his sword while climbing a wall, however. The controls aren't too bad, but they lack the precision of the other Ninja Gaiden games, feeling too loose and sloppy. Further contributing to this loose feel is Ryu's jumps, which are much floatier than the other games in the series. He also runs kind of slow.

Image

On top of Ryu's sword, he also has access to various special weapons, which function like the ones from the main series. There are countless tiny floating orbs throughout the game, and breaking them open will reveal different power-ups, like potions that restore Ryu's health on the spot, the special weapons themselves, and gems and scrolls that give Ryu Force. Force is used as ammo for the special weapons, each of which consumes a different amount. Instead of using special weapons by holding up on the d-pad and pressing the attack button like in the other games, this game has you use them by holding down and pressing the attack button. It's a jarring, but ultimately meaningless change. Special weapons can still be used whilst climbing walls, but you have to hold down and attack to do so, which is awkward. The special weapons include the typical throwing stars, an energy wave that is shot upwards, energy rings that are always shot to the right, and a Contra-like spread shot. Most of the cooler special weapons from the other games are absent here, being replaced by more generic stuff like the energy rings and spread shot.

Image

All the stages are timed linear jogs that task Ryu with getting to the end while dealing with whatever threats that come his way. Unlike the other Ninja Gaidens, the screen doesn't scroll backwards, preventing you from going back, but that's not much of an issue. What is an issue is the boring stage design. The stages basically amount to large, mostly flat stretches of land with a bunch of enemies in the way. There isn't much in the way of enemy variety to keep things interesting, either. However, one stage changes things up on you by consisting of a large section with automatic vertical scrolling where you climb up two skyscrapers while potted plants and other objects fall towards you. This unique stage still isn't too exciting, but it does help slightly alleviate the tedium. There are only four stages in the whole game, and they're all rather short and easy. It's entirely possible to complete this game in under an hour on your first try. You don't have infinite continues like the other Ninja Gaiden games, though. There are also no checkpoints, for some reason.

Image

Surprising absolutely zero people, there are bosses in this game, usually at the end of every stage. Right off the bat, the first boss gives a bad first impression. It's a basic ogre-like creature with a club that slowly lumbers around, taking swings at thin air whenever Ryu turns his back to him. The boss isn't at all threatening, but first time players will likely find themselves at an endless stalemate due to not knowing how to damage the thing. The solution is totally unintuitive, as the boss is only vulnerable while it's in the middle of an attack, but not before or after. The other bosses aren't as hard to figure out, but they're equally unimpressive. For example, the second boss is basically a monotonous game of whack-a-mole against an ogre that pops his head out of various windows on a ship to throw explosives at you. Also, if you get too close to a boss, you'll sometimes get stuck in a continuous loop where you keep taking damage until you die. That sucks.

Image

It's not the worst game on the Game Gear, but it's one of the worst Ninja Gaiden games. This game has mediocre stages, mediocre bosses, mediocre controls, and is just plain mediocre. Graphically, this isn't one of the better looking Game Gear games, and the music isn't anything to write home about, either. There's really not much of a reason to play this particular Ninja Gaiden over any of the ones from the original NES trilogy. Unless you're a diehard fan who wants to play every single Ninja Gaiden game in existence, you should skip this one. If you want a good portable Ninja Gaiden, then try Ninja Gaiden Shadow for the Game Boy.

Word Count: 1,220

Tweet