Ninja Gaiden Trilogy
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • System:
    • SNES
  • Developer:
    • Tecmo
  • Publisher:
    • Tecmo
  • Released:
    • US 08/10/1995
    • JP 08/11/1995
Score: 80%

This review was published on 02/06/2017.

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy is a compilation of video games developed and published by Tecmo for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Famicom. It was originally released in North America on August 10, 1995, and Japan on August 11, 1995, but never made it to Europe. Similar to Super Mario All-Stars, Ninja Gaiden Trilogy is a single cartridge containing the first three Ninja Gaiden games that were originally released on the Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In other words, it contains Ninja Gaiden, Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, and Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom. Even though the SNES is packing far more powerful hardware than the NES, the games included in this compilation are closer to ports than remakes. However, they do look a bit better and a couple of improvements were made here and there. That would make them enhanced ports, but they're worse in a few minor ways, so not everything has been enhanced. Ninja Gaiden Trilogy isn't a terrible way to experience the first three Ninja Gaiden games, but it's also far from the best.

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In the event that you don't know what the Ninja Gaiden games were originally like, they're all side-scrolling platform games with a huge emphasis on fast paced action. Ryu Hayabusa, the ninja protagonist of all three games, runs through linear action stages whilst cutting through endless swarms of enemies using the legendary Dragon Sword. The games are similar to 8-bit Castlevnia, featuring a similar sub-weapon system and methodical game play, except everything is way faster and harder. In between the action are various cinematic sequences, which the series is known for, that detail the plot of each game. You can skip all of these, of course, but these cut scenes were a big deal when the Ninja Gaiden series debuted in the late 1980s, as not many console games did this sort of thing at the time. In general, the first three Ninja Gaiden games are a big deal, being that they're some of the best games on the NES.

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The most immediate difference between Ninja Gaiden Trilogy and the NES originals is the graphics. Since the SNES is able to display more colors on the screen at a time than the NES, everything in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy has a greater color palette than the original games. This makes some of the cut scenes look far better than they originally did. However, the art is strangely still mostly the same as the NES originals, so the visual differences during regular game play are fairly minimal. They're so minimal, in fact, that this compilation basically looks like a bunch of NES games with just a few extra colors. Compared to Super Mario All-Stars, this feels a little lazy. As a result of that, none of the graphics in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy are on par with the typical SNES game, especially in 1995, when some of the most visually impressive SNES games were being released.

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The second most immediate difference between Ninja Gaiden Trilogy and the NES originals is the sound. All the same music and sound effects from the original trilogy have been recreated, but because the SNES sound chip has a different sound to it, things don't sound exactly the same. For the most part, the sound effects have seen a major improvement, with explosions and Ryu's grunting noises sounding far more convincing. However, while the sound effects are certainly better, the music is, in most cases, worse. It's clear this soundtrack wasn't created with the SNES in mind, because everything sounds wrong. The synthesized "instruments," if you want to call them that, all sound rather goofy, which makes the amazing soundtracks of the original Ninja Gaiden games sound extraordinarily silly. If you haven't played the original trilogy, then the music might sound okay, but if you have, then it'll feel like an abomination.

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Besides the graphics, there are various other minor differences between the games in this compilation and the originals on NES. First of all, all games now have a password system in place to resume progress. Originally, only the Japanese version of Ninja Gaiden III had that feature, so this is a wonderful improvement. Not everything has been improved, though. For example, the end credits of all three games have been removed, along with the unique music tracks that played during them. There's also some visual censorship in each game, usually in the form of removing pentagrams and changing the color of blood from red to green. Some visual effects were also omitted, like the darkness and lightning effects of the third stage in Ninja Gaiden II. Ninja Gaiden III took the brunt of the hatchet, as all of the parallax scrolling is gone, some of the lighting effects were removed, and a few music tracks were replaced with repetitions from other parts of the game. This may have been due to limited cartridge space. After all, there are three whole games on a single cartridge. However, Nintendo managed to fit Super Mario All-Stars and Super Mario World into a single cartridge in 1994, so Tecmo has no excuse.

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Out of all the games in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy, Ninja Gaiden III has seen the biggest changes. Most of them are the aforementioned removal of graphical effects, which are bad. However, some changes are actually of the good variety. The original Ninja Gaiden III on the NES had some difficulty changes between the Japanese version and North American release. Originally, the North American version was made much harder than the Japanese one by shuffling power-up locations around, removing most checkpoints, nixing the password system, having limited continues, and increasing the amount of damage Ryu takes from enemies. However, the port of Ninja Gaiden III included in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy is a combination of the two NES versions, featuring the power-up locations and checkpoints of the North American version, but having the unlimited continues and password system from the Japanese version, though Ryu takes even less damage than the Japanese release. This makes the Ninja Gaiden Trilogy version of Ninja Gaiden III easier than the North American NES version, but still harder than the Japanese one. That's a good thing, because the North American version was simply too hard.

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Better in some ways and worse in others, Ninja Gaiden Trilogy is a lazy port job of three excellent games. The added color, better sound effects, password system for all games, and more balanced difficulty of Ninja Gaiden III are all good features, but they come at the cost of worse music, censorship, and the inexplicable removal of various graphical effects. Most of those problems are minor enough to be overlooked, but that's not the case for the music. One of the best things about the Ninja Gaiden series is its music, so having that ruined almost completely invalidates the experience. If it weren't for the sacrilegious soundtracks, the pros of Ninja Gaiden Trilogy would outweigh the cons.

Word Count: 1,175

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