Retro Game of the Day! Ninja Gaiden (NES)
Oh, Ninja Gaiden - with your Ancient Ships of Doom and your Dark Swords of Chaos. How could I NOT love you? You were released stateside in 1989 by Tecmo for NES, based (very loosely) on an arcade game-
I remember first seeing an ad in Nintendo Fun Club Magazine for "Dragon Ninja" by the makers of such games as Solomon's Key and Mighty Bomb Jack. The screens were small and scratchy and the promo art was funky. Still, several months later, Nintendo Power started showcasing the upcoming game "plays like Metroid." Okay, what's this about then?
Ninja Gaiden was one of those games that your Spidey-Sense just kicked in and told you to buy. And you started playing it and everything just clicked right away. Controls, music, graphics, presentation, everything. A really big selling point was Tecmo's "Cinema Display" system, to make you feel like "you were in the movies." Cutscenes are old hat nw, but back in the day they were quite rare and this was the first noteworthy game to play it up in between every round of the game. It was a gimmick, but it worked really well.
Not much to this game, as was the style of the day you'd run to the right, slice fools with your Dragon Sword, and collect powerups and MP to use them. Shurikens, super shurikens, spin move (like screw attack), fireballs - a decent arsenal for any respectable ninja, doncha know. Clinging to walls was novel in this game (Spider-man style), though unless there was a ladder you weren't gonnabe doing much vertical movement. Practice "wall jumping" would teach you to back-and-forth yoru way through the narrow passages, which was pretty inventive. Each level had a boss waiting for you at the end in a special room, whale on that guy!
Legendary difficulty is what Ninja Gaiden is known for. Honestly, it's not that difficult of a game. There's some dubiously-placed enemies which take some chap shots at you now and again, but nothing a seasoned NES player couldn't dispatch without a little effort. The game got hairer in the later rounds, with less-convenient "restart checkpoints" - but by that point in the game, you are so close to the end that you can taste it, so a little extra replay isn't out of the questions. You know, unless you are weak...! On top of all of this, unlimited continues are there to get your back. Though of course modern players will furrow their brow at not having genuine battery-back-up(said with disdain!!!)
NG is a classic in every sense of the word. It's absolutely held up and is still a blast to play. Put down your Xbox controller and pick up the NES original, you'll get your ass beat and love it!