Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Ninja Gaiden 2 - The Dark Sword of Chaos

Retro Game of the Day! Ninja Gaiden 2 - The Dark Sword of Chaos

Ninja Gaiden 2 - The Dark Sword of Chaos by Tecmo, released 1990 for NES. Yes, these were the games that defined who the gamers were!

The first Ninja Gaiden 8-Bit NES game showed up out of nowhere and took everyone by surprise. Tecmo was hardly as respected or known as the likes of Konami or Capcom in those days, yet here they blasted out of left field with this high-quality madness. The first Ninja Gaiden was an iconic instant classic, up there with the likes of Metroid, Bionic Commando, and Castlevania. So when a sequel to this masterpiece was announced, you can bet some eyebrows were raised.

Showing up the year following the original installment, screens of Ninja Gaiden 2 promised to deliver more of the same - lots of jumping, lots of climbing, lots of slashing, lots of "cinema display" dramatic cutscenes. Even during those early peeks of the game, it looked like it was going to be a more polished, refined experience than it's rough-around-the-edges predecessor.

And that was exactly how the new game felt, when one finally did get their mitts on it. The game felt like it was built from the same skeleton as the first - this was actually not too commonplace back in the day - and yet everything was smoother, the graphics were hotter, the levels were less frustrating to navigate (well, for the most part!)

The big deal in this game were your "shadow body" powerups which could be obtained, as the name implies they'd mimic your movements ("options" in many shooter games were the norm, why not in ninja games as well?) and effectively double your firepower. You slash, they slash; you shoot fireballs, they perform accordingly. A neat idea, though one which failed to impress much once you got into the meat of the game. But that's alright, Ninja Gaiden games never really needed little gimmicks like that to prove their worth.

This came out shortly after the introduction of 16-Bit consoles into the consumer marketplace, even then it still commanded a high degree of interest and anticipation. Such was the legacy of the first one. Revenge of Shinobi had been available for Sega Genesis was "the next level" of these types of games and had been out for awhile, and it was high on my list - yet Ninja Gaiden 2 running on the measly 8-Bit unit could still go toe-to-toe with that title, both in looks and gameplay.

As for the breakdown of the game itself - this was the ultimate ninja platformer. You run left to right across most of the gorgeously rendered levels, slashing your enemies and grabbing powerups that are suspended in midair. Many of the enemies have pretty cheap attacks (though much less so than in the first game) so a certain amount of concentration and timing is necessary to make this journey. Patience, grasshopper! Each round ends with a fairly trying boss fight, followed by an (at the time) revolutionary cutscene which advanced the story. Like it's predecessor, Tecmo made a big deal of promoting these, as cutscenes were likely something of a memory hog and so you really didn't see much use of them in 8-Bit games. The Gaiden games went over the top in their storytelling with them (in a good way) so they always looked great, and added a certain amount of dramatic flair not seen in many other games of the period.

The game's levels were definitely lookers as well. The first game had a lot of beautiful landscapes; the sequel matches that as well, with a slightly more polished look overall and some fancy touches here and there to let you see how proud they were (scrolling multiplane parallax during the traincar fight, "hiding" the player behind the ruined castle level). As for the gameplay itself, as mentioned it was directly very derivative of the first title, though not as famously cheap - and therefore, the game was a much easier quest. Still a tough battle, but it was definitely far less challenging than its predecessor (is this a good thing? I am not sure).

One cannot mention Ninja Gaiden games without bringing up the soundtrack - the first one had such an epic score, and the sequel does not disappoint. Everything sounds like gravy (in the good way). Though I think like the soundtrack's case, like the entire experience, this much can be said - while Ninja Gaiden 2 is indeed a very worthy title, and certainly one of the NES' best overall experiences, the first one still shines that much more brightly in my mind for a variety of reasons. Still, this is a game not to be missed, and writing about it makes me want to play through the whole thing again! One of these days I will have to pick up the final installment of this NES trilogy, as I've never actually given it much of a look.

Our game iFist is free for a few days!

This is the first title we released for iPhone, so it is pretty small and simple - we were just figuring the tech out and trying to gauge how much work it would be to create a larger project. It is still a fun little contest, though. Basically it's a sequence memorization game with a twist, and global scoreboards. Have a look - and happy holidays!

Game Details

iTunes Link

Here's how the gameplay works - the CPU will throw a sequence of moves (Rock, Paper, or Scissors). You must input back the opposing sequence to survive the round. If it throws "Rock Rock Scissors Paper Paper," you'd need to counter afterwards with "Paper Paper Rock Scissors Scissors."

Basically watch its sequence, and then recall and execute the proper opposing sequence.

The longer you can last, the larger the sequence will become. There's 3 game modes to challenge you, it's just a very easy game to pick up and play and things will get pretty tense after about half a minute into it!

1 comment:

  1. Ninja vampire? Very cool concept and reviews
    The work is very versatile, with so many concentrations intermingling
    Ninja Gear