As a kid at the local Dairy Queen they had a playchoice-10 machine. At the time I didn't know this, but being something of a gaming enthusist I've found out that nintendo released arcade units with nintendo games on them called Playchoice-10. These machines were around a few places I saw, but the one I recall was that dairy queen one. I recall playing Mario 3 on it, but more than that, I recall Ninja Gaiden. Specifically the opening cutscene. A lone field. A full moon. One ninja gets a close up. Then the other. Weeds blow in the air as they stare each other. Then it shows the legs. They run at each other. Look at each other. Run some more. Jump. Slashing noise. Both fall to the ground. As I type this, I have to play the game right now. I frantically got up and got it out of the box, put it in, picked up my controller anxiously and watched the whole scene again.
Another scene from the game.
I can't tell you what happens storyline wise one game to the next. I've tried. I really paid attention and read wikipedia today. I still don't know. I don't understand at all. I could read a novel and still not know what or who is going on. Something with spies and ninjas and magic, and then theres a sword. And I don't get it. Alls I know is, I like it. I like being a ninja and hitting people until they die. That's always been enough for me. You're after your fathers killer from the starting movie, that's all I need. Until when I replayed it that is. I've grown quite fond of the cutscenes. The storyline itself isn't terribly complicated. Something of a revenge plot, the CIA shoots your Ninja character at some point, bad guys steal statues, and this scene at the mountain.
That really strikes me because of the way it happens. I was just minding my own buissness walking along this level, after being killed by stupid birds constantly and consistanty, and then this scene happens. You walk over to the peak of this mountain and you see off in the distance where you're heading. I giggled at how inspiring and action movie like this scene was. I really wished I could pay attention better. It's a shame I can barely recall plot details from RPGs I've played either. But this mountain scene will stick with me for years. I don't know how I didn't remember this thing. A sudden realization that, maybe in my youth, I never made it that far? This isn't the type of thing that leaves your memory like that scene in Final Fantasy 9 with that extra party member who leaves, I dare anyone to remember that guys name ten years after playing through it once, this is different. This is the type of thing you mention in blog posts. It just happens out of nowhere and was so jaw dropping.
If you've played any action platformer you know how to play Ninja Gaiden. Its very simple. One button jumps. One button attacks. You can bounce jump off walls and things hanging are attackable for power ups. Anything else can kill you. And it pushes you back too, which can kill you. The main thing I'll point out with this and Castlevania is the speed. Castlevania feels so much slower and almost methodical next to this. In this, within minutes you've killed twenty things. I say things, as I have no ideas who or what these guys are supposed to be. Of course, you'll realize by the third level that this simplicity becomes more complex. Enemies are added that seem to exist soley to knock your ninja into the death pits. Your health becomes a precious commonity, much like Castlevania, in that one hit from a regular enemy spells doom for a boss. I've only made it to stage
My favorite thing I noticed today was the bosses explode after you beat them. No explination necessary. It just seems to make sense. A full on series of explosions, for no reason. I assume they're in the storyline somehow but I can't follow it. The bosses never really had anything to do with anything, they're always big lumbering things that end up hitting you, then you them, until someone dies. Guess who that usually is? One particularly nasty guy just jumps around the screen. Making hitting him near impossible. He jumps to the right in an arc, then back left. He shoots bullets at you that you can destroy, but I always seem to get hit anyway. The infiltration of this castle level itself wasn't so easy, but then to fight this guy. Get sent back to the start. Over and over. Now that's a video game! And this is only stage three!
One last and final note is about the creator of the storyline itself. In the credits, they're listed as RUNMARU. It was typical for developers and people who worked on games to get silly credits like that, I don't know why. But recently an interview on Hardcore Gaming 101 right here
that talks about this person working on the game. Well, if you're a follower of these types of names, you might recognize that person's real name, Masato Kato, as having worked on several big game franchises. Not that Ninja Gaiden isn't a big name, but Chrono Trigger and several other well known storyline based games are also there. Such as Princess Maker 2, a masterpiece of strange japanese gaming. Oh you've never played THAT? or seen it? It's a game about raising a daughter who can marry you, as well as several other suitors. And other wacky things! But this guy wrote Chrono Trigger and Ninja Ryukenden! How cool is that! In my opinion, it's ice cold, it's so cool.
Today I replayed this and woah nelly. I can't stop myself. I'm on the third stage, and I feel special doing THAT, and made it ot the boss. I yelled something to the effect of: "I had him to two blocks. TWO BLOCKS!" I yelled, enthusastically at the game. No one was around to hear it, but I don't even have to explain what this means. You know it. I know it. But I guess I will say. First of all it means I take video games too seriously. Secondly I suppose this means I'll have to replay the entire stage as that was my last life. Oh, no I got a game over. I have to replay the entire game. In the weeks that passed between this sentance and the last, I've slowly worked my way up to stage five. I doubt I'll be able to finish this. The level I'm at is particularly full of the bird enemies. I know that this is barely a harbinger of the rocket ninjas to come, but my goodness do I hate the birds. Some day I'll finish it up. Maybe.
Did you ever play Ninja Ryukenden? Did you ever actually beat this game?
Here's as many screens of myself dying as I could manage to capture. I would pause and snap a quick picture.