For the three of you who haven't played the first Ninja Gaiden on nes, it starts off with a still-exciting cinematic of two ninjas in an open field. They stare each other down for a moment, then begin running at each other, culminating in a fifty-feet-in-the-air clashing of swords in the moonlight. Sounds basic today, sure, but it was mind-blowing stuff in 1989!
You, the player, are Ryu Hayabusa, a ninja with a potty mouth("what the......") who is on a mission to locate his missing father. Along the way, he falls in love with a CIA agent with the worst hairstyle/name ever(Irene Lew), meet a lumberjack that is somehow friends with a world-class ninja, who ALSO has a lame name(Walter Smith), and is ordered by the CIA to retrieve two demon statues from "the Jaquio," a shemale wrapped in a blanket of purple worms.
As for the gameplay, it's standard action/platforming but with a few wrinkles. For starters, you are able to hang and jump off of walls, which comes with it's advantages AND disadvantages! For example, though it is a handy maneuver for getting to higher platforms, hanging off of a platform leaves the player vulnerable to the world's most annoying birds who drain your life faster than you can scream "UN-FRIGGIN'-FAIR!!!!"
You have a sword, along with an array of secondary powerups such as fire wheels that shoot upwards at an angle, boomerang ninja stars, invinsibility fire wheels, etc. My favorite, by far, was the spinning attack powerup, an ability that was nixed from future installments. Think the screw attack from Metroid, and you wouldn't be far off.
By now, I'm pretty much stating the obvious that this game is difficult. In fact, it's brutally difficult, and it is so because of a multitude of factors. For starters, enemies can come out of nowhere, especially near pits, and you have a tendency to gravitate towards them whenever you are hit! On top of that, this game has the cheapest respawning glitch that I have ever seen before in a game! If you kill an enemy and take ONE STEP backwards, that enemy is all but guaranteed to respawn. In the early stages, this isn't so much of a problem, but wait until you get to the last stages of the temple and it becomes something that makes the game seem unwinnable! In addition to that, the game has three final bosses that need to be beaten in succession and, if you lose, you go ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF THE LEVEL!
The game itself, in spite of it's shortcomings, is incredibly well put together and can be quite addicting. It controls well, the music is fantastic, and the cinematics will keep you coming back, again and again, to see how the story(ridiculous as it is) advances. Just approach it with a wealth of back-up controllers and plenty of patience.
Final Score: B
Ninja Gaiden II
The game begins with a cinematic of an angry looking Ninja thing named Ashtar who is apparently upset with Ryu for having beaten Jaquio. He kidnaps Irene as lure for Ryu, who obviously takes it. Along the way, he runs into Robert "Jungle Rat" Sturgeon, who works for the Army and wears a cut-off shirt and sunglasses because....ummm....it's cool. He aids Ryu in his quest for Irene by firing a shot at Ashtar, which does nothing, and informing him that his evil tower of supernaturals is completely surrounded, which does even less. He comes to the rescue again by exclaiming "what the heck(Army men and their potty mouths!)" before being zapped by Ashtar's electric sword. So, Ryu kills Ashtar, but that isn't the end. As it turns out, Jaquio isn't dead!
Much of what I said about the first Ninja Gaiden holds true here. However, the game is a bit easier than the original and, as a result, more fun. That doesn't necessarily mean that the game is easy, but it's not the maddeningly-frustrating game that the first was. Part of what makes the game easier is the addition of shadow Ryus, a powerup which allows up to two shadows to follow you and mimic your actions.
Another thing that makes this game easier than the first is the ability to climb walls, as well as attack from them! Though cheap hits are still rampant, these two abilities at least take away the "sitting duck" factor.
Final Grade: A
Ninja Gaiden 3
The definite black sheep of the nes trilogy, and for a number of reasons. When Tecmo released this game, they made the mistake of doubling the amount of damage that enemies dish out, as well as cutting down the unlimited continues to merely five, ensuring that all but the most-seasoned gamers would never reach the end! To make matters worse, this game would still be the most difficult of the trilogy, even with unlimited continues!
The plot, in all honesty, is also the worst of the three! Irene is apparently killed by Ryu(gee, I wonder if she's really dead), and heads for the desert compound to find out what happened/who killed her. I have one question: if this was a "top-secret mission," how would Ryu even know that she was there? Does he have a secret psychic Ninja ability?
He makes it to the compound, only to find his old nemesis from the first game, Foster, who has apparently had mounds of plastic surgery since that game since he looks absolutely nothing like he did! As it turns out....you know what, the plot is stupid so I'll give you the five second plot. You kill a lot of hard bosses, partner up with a complete stranger who (*gasp) betrays you, and enters a sub-dimension where he turns into a hideous monster who wants to save the world from "ugly humans who fight" by.....ummmm.....destroying them. Sort of a mixed message, eh? For whatever reason, the last level takes place on a huge warship that literally comes out of nowhere as it is never mentioned at any point of the game, save for the title of the game!!!!
Tecmo apparently thought that the first two games were too easy, so they took the kitchen sink approach! The first two levels are fair enough, but the third level starts throwing everything at you! Army men who charge at you, flying head-things which fly in an up-and-down pattern, weird helicopter enemies(the birds of this game) which are fast and cause major damage! If you make it through the jungle section of the third level, you can call yourself an official gamer! If you make it through the FIFTH level, which literally has enemies raining from the sky, then you are a gaming GOD(would it be egotistical of me to give myself that title, since I made it to the second-final boss tonight?).
The game isn't bad, but it is poorly-designed. What's ironic is that they finally fixed the cheap respawning from the first two games! So, in essence, you have a game that is still utterly cheap, but in new, inventive ways.
Final Grade: B-
I'd like to add one more criticism to my Ninja Gaiden III mini-review: the time limit. In previous games, the time limit never seemed to be that big of a deal, but in this game it is impossible to make it through certain levels without losing a life by running out of time! This, to me, is the definition of cheap!
These are well written reviews. I liked everything about them but the grades. I'd put the first two games in the D range and the third in the F range. They are just too difficult and poorly designed for their own good. I have no problem with a game being hard, but the respawning enemies, convenient bottomless pits, awful level design, and the stupid birds ruin the games completely. They may have been new and different in the 80s, but the gameplay hasn't held up at all. Tecmo purposely wanted to punish the player. Not my idea of fun.
I agree, the first game isn't particularly hard. Everything is so pattern-based it's all about figuring out the correct action rather than utilizing superhuman dodging and reaction skills.
I also think it's much better than NG2. NG2 isn't BAD by any means, but the low difficulty level and the far less interesting level designs make it a much less charming game.
However, I don't think the "respawning glitch" is necessarily a bad thing. It forces the player to be decisive and deliberate in their actions, and punishes players for retreating backwards. Sometimes the best action is to avoid an enemy rather than killing it and letting it respawn.
As for the birds and maddening difficulty ... you are a Ninja, right?
I agree with the B grade for the 1st Ninja Gaiden. Everything in this game is done exceptionally well, especially if you're looking for a tough game.
Oh, and NG 1 and 2 get A+ in the box art category. Awesome!
I really have to say that NG2 was the worst in the NES trilogy, hands down. I can see the games appeal from a newcomers standpoint- however as a seasoned veteran of the series and the genre in general, the replayability simply isn't there for me. Compared to other NG titles from any console this is an absolute cake walk. The game may stand out in some ways, yes. The wind that blows you back and forth and the ice that you slide on incorporate some strategy but lets face it- This one is the poser of the bunch and by far the most overrated. While the addition of the two ninja clone power ups seem cool, it completely ruins the challenge. You can play NG3 for months and not beat it- NG1, maybe a couple weeks. This one... a couple days.