Wednesday 4 February 2015

Ninja Gaiden Review (Master System)

There is no doubt that Ninja's are cool. There is just something about them that lends itself to walking around speaking in some of the worst accents known to man. You see, Ninja's are mysterious and magical, almost superhuman (which makes them ideal for videogames). Indeed, back in the days where every other film going straight to video was one where some American bloke would train to be a ninja and defeat some evil Japanese master, the gaming market was filled with endless Ninja games. A large amount of these titles were utter rubbish. Think back - how many can you remember? Shinobi? Probably. Last Ninja? Maybe. And of course Ninja Gaiden.

To start with, the plot seems rather straightforward - after all, this was the time before games really needed such things. The story goes that the Dragon Ninja village has been completely destroyed and a magical scroll taken. Enter Ryu Hayabusa, the last surviving ninja who must get the scroll back before it destroys the world. After each level the plot is updated and although the old 8-bit system manages to add a few twists and turns that engage the player (and make you want to push on to see how it all turns out), clearly this title appears to be more than just a rushed ninja cash-in. 

Being on the Master System, graphics are a touch small but that doesn't take away from the action. Characters are always clear, and there is no slowdown or other nasty graphical glitches to spoil the fun - it's just you against them, and whoever can react the fastest will win. Ninja Gaiden is not really about the graphics, and although the backdrops and locations are all nicely done, it is the gameplay at the core of the title that proves Ninja games - when programmed well - positively shine.

The levels in the title scroll from left to right, with the occasional bit of climbing from time to time. Each area is a good blend of action and platform-jumping precision - all carried out with a huge injection of style. Okay, so in terms of fighting, you haven't really got that many moves (limited as you are to sword slashes and a few special weapons) but that is arguably all you need - as once the initial levels have been cleared, the focus is very much on working out how to reach platforms that seem just out of reach. 

Our nimble hero can hang under ledges, rebound off walls, and jump a fair distance in order to make his way safely through the levels. Though only given a few moves, it is the way in which you must use everything at your disposal to progress that impresses (and even reminds one of how the 'basics' have been adapted for newer releases like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time).

Making your way across a screen can involve any number of jumps and bounces while flipping between different levels of the platforms; at the same time having to take out enemies mid-movement to avoid being knocked to your doom. Luckily, the controls are responsive enough to cope - meaning every death is fair. 

Ninja Gaiden holds up remarkably well against newer titles. It may seem a little bit restricted by the screen, but the challenge is perfectly-balanced and ultimately requires pure skill and dexterity to get through. It comes highly recommended.

Overall 8/10

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