The Wild East…I mean Continent: Ninja Gaiden (Sega Master System)…and a Mega Drive Prototype

So this will be the last console version of a Ninja Gaiden game, next up is a notable 16-bit port. Now this one is the one that’s not known by many but there is a good reason for it, and it involves the Sega Master System.

Ninja Gaiden, developed by SIMS (no, not those Sims) and published by Sega, it was released in 1992 in Europe and Australia. And this is why this game is unknown to the US, since the Sega Master System was still popular here compared to how it failed miserably in the US and Japan. But what’s weird was that Sega still had the balls to leave the Ninja Gaiden name in tact regardless of UK laws. Rock on Sega!

The game isn’t really canon to the main plot though it does summarise of Ryu Hayabusa going on adventures in America. Ryu goes home in Japan, only to find his town destroyed, with the last dying survivor telling Ryu that the sacred Bushido scroll was stolen and anyone who has it will have unlimited power. So it’s up to Ryu to get it back because he can’t catch a bloody break.

The gameplay is pretty similar to the original NES games, moving around and attacking are near enough the same. You can’t wall climb, rather wall jump automatically, and level design revels in the wall jump. You can also cling on to platforms and such, which again, the level design revels in. The levels are inspired by many of the levels from previous Ninja Gaiden games but any cool horror-themed levels are sadly absent…well maybe the fire level counts I guess?

Ryu’s power-ups include a Shuriken, homing fireballs, a fire shield, a 4-way Kunai throw, but homing fireballs was my favourite for long-range combat, but you can only use it if you have a number of chances…BUT, if you collect 999 charges, you can use unlimited charges for the rest of the game, meaning that you can use the power-ups without ever running out. Now that would probably make the game easier, but not really.

My issues include knockback, on the one hand, your health depletes very slowly so at least you have a chance, but on the other hand, there’s a lot of bottomless pits in some levels and it can be annoying. The knockback in the original NES games weren’t too bad considering that I was expecting it and you can fix your nonsense next time, but many times where I feel that enemy placements make it so that anything you do won’t work, so you’ll use a ‘desperation attack’ that will wipe out all the enemies on-screen but takes away a chunk of your health…so basically the developers took a element from a Capcom Beat ’em Up.

The bosses are like the Game Boy Ninja Gaiden Shadow where they might seem hard but once you know their pattern, they’re quite easy. They’re even easier when you use the homing fireballs, but make sure to use it once the boss is out of his invincibility phase so you can attack him again.

The graphics are great, it’s the best looking Ninja Gaiden game thanks to the Master System havign better hardware for colours…when developers eventually realised how much potential the console had. The level design is OK, not great as there are issues I have with some, especially with enemy placements, but for a Ninja Gaiden game, it’s not bad. The music is forgettable…and that’s about it.

Overall, Ninja Gaiden on the Sega Master System is a decent attempt at a Ninja Gaiden game for another home console other than the NES (I know of the PC Engine port of Ninja Gaiden and PC ports of Ninja Gaiden II). As a Ninja Gaiden game, it’s a good enough attempt but not as great as the NES originals…albeit the first game. But on it’s own, it’s a good Sega Master System game. I’d recommend having a go if you can find a copy of it, especially if you live outside of the European areas, but even then, it’s quite a pricey game to pick up.
You can get it on the Sega Master System.

Before I go, I’ll talk a bit about a cancelled Sega Mega Drive version of Ninja Gaiden, completely developed by Opus and would have been published by Sega and would have been released in 1992.

I don’t really get what the heck is going on due to bad Engrish, but there’s a plot point involving a female ninja getting kidnapped and Ryu has to save her. I’m sure she will definitely return to the dojo and gets killed by her masters for being absolutely useless…I don’t know how Japanese Ninja culture works…if it even exists…I highly doubt it at this point.

What makes this interesting is that instead of going for the usual ‘gotta go Ninja fast’, the game would have gone back to its roots by being a Beat ’em Up very similar to the original. You can jump kick, punch, roll and a somersault kick. There are cutscenes, though the chapter titles are in Japanese, the cutscene text are in English, albeit poor English.

Judging from the gameplay, it would have been a mediocre barebones title, the controls feel weird because everytime you move, you’ll move down without you ever pressing down, so it feels awkward.

I didn’t get far due to a boss I managed to beat by knocking him into the sea and the game just would not progress so…yeah, it probably would have been a ‘meh’ game at best. If you want to try it out, it should be on emulation sites I guess.

Ninja Gaiden (Sega Game Gear) & Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy)

So the NES trilogy is done…but then again, most people only know Ninja Gaiden of the classic NES games and the new series, but what about the in-betweeners? What about the Ninja Gaiden games for other consoles during the 90’s? Welp, it seems Ryu jumped ship from Nintendo, to Sega, but not on the Mega Drive where it could have awkwardly sat next to Shinobi, but on the Game Gear.

Ninja Gaiden (忍者外伝), developed and published by Sega and licensed by Tecmo, it was released in 1991 worldwide.

So the plot revolves around Ryu trying to stop an evil organisation because they want to start World War III and the main villain wants Ryu’s sword because the main villain is a demon. OK, the stories in the original NES games weren’t all that good, but this is by far the stupidest plot I have ever heard or even have to summarise, it’s so dumb.

As for the gameplay…erm…it’s not all that great, it’s not as fast-paced as the original and just a barebones platformer where you slice enemies but it doesn’t feel as good, the controls are so loose that you never feel like a Ninja, the power-ups are minimal and are only useful for bosses. Speaking of bosses, they’re incredibly easy but the final final FINAL boss might offer you a challenge but only because the game’s programming can be very finicky like getting stuck on a boss…as in literally, you can’t move and you lose health and die.

How about that skyscraper level where you have to climb up a building and random crap is dropped down and you have no idea which side is going to drop stuff unless you play it over and over again and remember which side to jump on but it doesn’t really matter anyway considering that the level is short anyway.

The graphics look absolutely boring with its dull city levels and barely anything that could be considered unique unlike the NES games. The level design is compact and again, barebones and even when it does change things, the changes aren’t fun and are flawed. The music…oh, it’s trying but is annoying noise, it’s really poor.

Overall, Ninja Gaiden on the Sega Game Gear is both ‘meh’, and just not good at all. It seems Sega couldn’t do it. But can Nintendo, as I talk about the Game Boy alternative next time.

So after the train wreck (albeit, utter boredom) that is the Game Gear Ninja Gaiden game, I looked forward to what the Game Boy had to offer. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but something good enough.

Ninja Gaiden Shadow, known in Japan as Ninja Ryūkenden GB: Matenrō Kessen (忍者龍剣伝GB 摩天楼決戦, “Legend of the Ninja Dragon Sword GB: Skyscraper Showdown”), and Shadow Warriors in Europe and Australia, developed by Tecmo and Natsume and published by Tecmo, it was released in 1991 in Japan and in the US and in 1992 in Europe.

The game is set three years before the very first Ninja Gaiden game on the NES, in which Ryu Hayabusa has to save New York City from the evil forces of the servant of Jaquio, Emperor Garuda. In terms of the plot…well it’s simple, what I said above is exactly what you get, there’s no cinematic cutscenes apart from the very beginning and that’s it, but I wouldn’t call it as cinematic as the NES games.

Now why Natsume of all companies? Well Natsume made their own version of Ninja Gaiden called Shadow of the Ninja (which I’ll review in a later date) and were going to make a Game Boy port of the game. But Tecmo decided to team up with Natsume and turn this Game Boy port into a Ninja Gaiden game.

This is a much simple game compared to the NES original where you slice enemies with level design that tries to be as good as those games but are still simple in practice. The only Power-Ups you have is the fire wheel ability, meaning that the lackluster Game Gear port has more Power-Ups than this game. Though you do have a grappling hook, where you can shoot a hook onto ceilings and certain platforms to rise up, which in all honesty is the only interesting part of the game.

The game is quite easy, some BS moments and not in a good way but enough tries will be a piece of cake. Bosses also have that same aspect too where they might be difficult but the pattern will come to you in an instant. But other than that, it’s a below decent game, this was NOT supposed to be a Ninja Gaiden game, it doesn’t really properly play like one but whilst I don’t think it’s up to the standards of the NES originals, at least it’s much better than the Sega Game Gear port.

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