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Page 1:
Intro
Ninja Gaiden (Arcade)

Page 2:
NES Trilogy Introduction
Ninja Gaiden (NES)

Page 3:
Ninja Gaiden II (NES)
Ninja Gaiden III (NES)

Page 4:
Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Sega Games

Page 5:
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden Sigma

Page 6:
Dragon Sword

Page 7:
Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360)
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Page 8:
Ninja Gaiden 3
Razor's Edge

Page 9:
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Page 10:
Ninja Gaiden Old & New
Bosses Gallery

Page 11:
Mobile
Other

Page 12:
Interview: Masato Kato

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index


Ninja Ryūkenden II: Ankoku no Jashinken (忍者龍剣伝II 暗黒の邪神剣) / Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos / Shadow Warriors II - NES, IBM PC, Amiga, SNES, Xbox, Wii (1990)

Japanese Famicom Cover

American NES Cover

European NES Cover

Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos takes place shortly after the events of the first game. Ryu has defeated the Jaquio, but soon the next threat arises in form of the Emperor of Darkness, Ashtar, who wields the sword of chaos and has Irene kidnapped. Of course, Ryu is up on his feet and to the rescue immediately.

This time, Tecmo was done genre shifting - the basic gameplay stays untouched from the first NES game. Yet there are a dozen small tweaks that make Ninja Gaiden II much more enjoyable. You now can use your extra attacks while climbing and climb up or down freely, though you still have to do wall jumps to get on the top of a platform. The ladders are still there, only this time they lead you to the next section of the stage. The jumping speed is also a bit slower and floatier, but easier to control.

Japanese Flyer

The weapons system underwent some changes, too. Now every weapon use draws much more points, and you also get them faster - there's even an item which fills up the stock completely. This time Ryu starts out with a maximum of 40 weapon points, though it can extended by collecting scrolls, which are hidden sporadically throughout the game, usually in difficult locations. This way, the game encourages you to use special weapons even more, since hoarding ammunition has become mostly useless. The game provides provides ordinary shuriken and 10 weapon points at the start of every stage. Also, weapon points don't get cut in half anymore after dying, but instead you keep all of them, unless you have to use a credit. There's also a new weapon available - it's the opposite of the Magic Fire Wheel, a flame that fires downwards. Tecmo ditched the unbalanced special air attack and the out-of-place time stop, while the Invincible Fire Wheel has become an "ordinary", if expensive, special attack that can be used multiple times.

The biggest addition, however, is the "Phantom Shadow" technique. By collecting this item, you can summon up to two copies of Ryu, who shadow his every movement. (Only one shows up on all the screenshots, because they blink alternatingly for a transparency effect on old CRT TVs.) They're invincible, but can still damage enemies. They also stay floating in mid-air after a jump, so it's possible to position them strategically to take down bosses easily. It even triples the special weapon power, since each of Ryu's duplicates launches a copy of the weapon. While they are cool to have, they provide very cheap methods to beat most of the bosses, and are a bare necessity for some of the others, therefore throwing off the game's balancing a bit.

The manual shows advanced techniques.

Compared to the first Ninja Gaiden, which kept things plain and simple, the enviroments are much more varied. It was all pits and platforms in the predecessor, but now you have to cope with strong winds, flowing water, spikes and the like. Most notably, there's a part in Stage 3-2 that takes place in darkness, and you have to wait until lightning flashes so you can see where you're going. The lightning still keeps flashing even when you've paused the game, which makes it much easier if you have the patience. The boss battles have also improved and now almost all of them require a certain strategy, though a few can be rendered useless through the aforementioned Phantom Shadows.

The graphics are on par with the original, although the power-up items are all encased in floating orbs, giving the game a more consistent look. The music is easily as good as the first NES game, although the drum samples have changed, so it has a pretty different sound to it. Overall, the difficulty has been toned down too, and there's nothing nearly as frustrating as the first game's last stage. There is also an extremely cool sound test called the "Musicruise", which shows super deformed versions of Ryu and Irene, along with the track names and a display of the sound channels.

This time, Manley & Associates Inc. developed ports for IBM PCs and the Commodore Amiga, which where published by Gametek. Similar to the original Ninja Gaiden on the PC Engine, the graphics received a major overhaul, now leading to a look that is in tune with many contemporary western home computer games. At some parts, it looks better than the NES version, but the overall art quality is definitely inferior. Ryu switched colors with his copies, so he is red and they are blue - in principle just a tiny cosmetic change, but slightly irritating after playing the NES original.

Everything these versions could have going for them is destroyed by an atrociously low frame rate, which renders them almost unplayable. But even if it wasn't for this huge handicap, there would still remain enough problems to make the game not worth a try. The collision detection is messed up, so now you die from a downfall long before you reach the bottom of the screen (annoying), it takes forever to wait for the lightning in stage 3-1 (very annoying), you get thrown back from a hit even when you are clung to a wall (extraordinarily annoying) and, while you get thrown back, you're turned around the other direction all the time (extremely annoying) and if you make the mistake to push "up" together with "forward" while jumping to a wall to immediately climb up as you reach it, you stop jumping forward and fall in to a pit, dying long before you reach the lower end of the screen. And if your system of choice is the Amiga, you get a nice, overly complicated 1-button control scheme free of charge. The PC version allows quicksaving at any time, so at least it's possible to savescum to the end, but that's hardly the way the game was intended to be played originally.

Apparently, 16-bit can't do this: Flashing lightning on the NES.

Of course, this episode is also part of the Trilogy for the SNES and received the same treatment as the first game. Again, there's some slight censorship, and the darkness and lightning effects in stage 3-1 were removed. Taking stuff out might always seem like a bad thing at first, but after going back to the NES version (not to mention the unspeakable PC port), it's easy to see how the latter is really a good change. The password system applies here too, but using passwords comes with a serious drawback: the amount of scrolls picked up to increase the maximum ammo isn't contained in the password, so you will have less weapon points on your disposal than you get with a continuous run.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Hideo Yoshizawa

Genre:

Themes:


Ninja Gaiden II (NES)

Ninja Gaiden II (NES)

Ninja Gaiden II (NES)

Ninja Gaiden II (NES)

Ninja Gaiden II (NES)

Ninja Gaiden II (IBM PC)

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)


Comparison Screenshots: Gameplay


Comparison Screenshots: Cutscenes


Comparison Screenshots: Censorship


Additional NES Screenshots


Additional Cutscenes Screenshots


Additional IBM PC Screenshots


Ninja Ryūkenden III: Yomi no Hakobune (忍者龍剣伝III 黄泉の方船) / Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom - NES, Lynx, SNES, Xbox, Wii (1991)

Japanese Famicom Cover

American NES Cover

The third and final installment of the NES trilogy brought a few greater changes regarding the theme as well as aesthetics. In the intro to this final episode, you watch Irene being killed by... Ryu Hayabusa? But, no wait, it was a clone. The plot is a tad more detached than in the first two games, and now instead of humans, animals and demons, your enemies are machines and mutants. The graphical style has changed to a flat perspective in contrast to the slightly isometric view that the previous games featured, but overall the visuals have vastly improved, with bigger and more various enemies, vertical scrolling and very detailed backgrounds, with quite a few parallax layers and lighting effects. The cover art now took the same style as the Ninja Ryūkenden anime, at least on the Japanese box. A lot of tasks were shifted from the creator of the series, Sakurazaki (real name Hideo Yoshizawa) to former artist & cutscene creator Runmal (Masato Kato), with Sakurazaki only staying as the game's executive producer. It's easy to tell from playing the game alone that someone else was in charge.

So it's no wonder the gameplay underwent a few greater changes as well, probably inspired by newer contemporary games like Strider and Shadow of the Ninja. The general pace of the action is slowed down, particularly because Ryu is given much more airtime during jumps, which sadly doesn't feel quite right. Also, the hand-over-hand climbing on bars from the arcade game is back, and Ryu now can climb onto higher platforms directly without having to wall-jump.

Furthermore, a new major special item is introduced with the sword upgrade, which greatly enhances your range and makes it possible to hit small or lower enemies without ducking. The Phantom Shadow fighters are gone for good, as is the ordinary shuriken, so that you now start every stage with the powerful Windmill Shuriken equipped. The ability to shimmy below platforms goes along with a new weapon tailored for such situations - a pair of energy blades that attacks enemies immediately above and below Ryu's position. The item orbs are now transparent, so there's no fear of accidentally collecting bad weapons anymore. The greatest novelty of them all - the enemies no longer respawn infinitely - makes for more tactical combat, since a retreat now actually can better your situation. Ninja Gaiden III is also the first game that provides a password system in the original release on the Japanese Famicom.

A page from the Japanese manual.

If you think all this will make your life easier, then think again. No respawning of enemies is made up by their sheer numbers, and the levels are full of traps like quicksand, moving or collapsing platforms and slippery ground.

The Japanese version actually is a bit easier than the first two Ninja Gaiden episodes, especially with the included password system. Fearing that longtime fans would be disgruntled (or perhaps just to prevent kids from beating it in a rental), the North American version was made considerably more difficult. Enemies' damage levels were raised, so that almost every enemy hit draws two points off your life bar from the very first stage on. Plus, the locations of extra weapons have been rearranged, and you get considerably fewer weapons. The Invincible Fire Wheel is very rare, and you have to hold out much longer without the sword upgrade on most stages. And if all the obstacles finally get the better of Ryu, you don't restart in that same area, but the beginning of the current stage. The password system is also gone, and now for the first time, you are limited to 5 credits. After that, it's time to start from scratch again. All this makes it the hardest of all Ninja Gaiden games and quite frustrating, and it is strongly advised to choose the Japanese or Trilogy version instead.

Alas, this final game of the series never saw a European release. At that time, games tended to come out in Europe one or two years after the Japanese or American games, Ninja Gaiden II wasn't released before 1992, and before someone could even think about bringing over its sequel, the NES was irrevocably outdated.

The titular vessel rises.

With Ninja Gaiden III getting ported to the Atari Lynx, now every one of the NES games was ported to a different non-Nintendo platform. This one is actually the most faithful port of the three, which is also its biggest problem. The graphics are just scaled down to the handheld's lower resolution, which means it's hard to recognize anything on screen. For some reason the positions for the attack and jump buttons were switched around. Although this doesn't do any actual change to how the game is played, it may prove confusing to players that are used to the regular button order used in the vast majority of 2D action platformers. Otherwise, it generally retains the good gameplay (though it is the tough, sometimes unfair gameplay of the North American version), so if you get eye cancer from playing it, you'll at least have had a good time.

The Trilogy port this time gets along without censorship (but there weren't any pentagrams/stars of David to begin with, thanks to the new theme), but otherwise it's the most retouched of the three games, and sadly not quite for the better. It's missing most of the graphical effects, the parallax-scrolling is completely gone (interestingly, it was still present in the Trilogy version of Ninja Gaiden II), as are a few lighting effects. At this time, they probably ran out of cartridge space or something like that, and so they took out at least two music tracks and replaced them with repetitions of other stages' tunes instead. Why does a Super Nintendo game have to be technologically inferior to a NES game?

As kind of a compensation, though, it sets the damage level of all the ordinary enemies back to a single point, making damage even lower than the original Japanese version. Unlimited credits and the password system are also back, of course (they should have fixed the last act of Ninja Gaiden I, while they were at it). In turn, for some reason the American NES version's arrangement of extra items and restart points was used, which actually made the game a bit harder for Japanese players in the end, while kindly relieving some of the hardships Western gamers had to endure.

Japanese Flyer

Quick Info:

Developer:

Publisher:

Designer:

  • Masato Kato

Genre:

Themes:


Ninja Gaiden III (NES)

Ninja Gaiden III (NES)

Ninja Gaiden III (NES)

Ninja Gaiden III (NES)

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)

Ninja Ryūkenden Tomoe (Super Famicom)

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)

Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)


Comparison Screenshots: Gameplay


Comparison Screenshots: Cutscenes


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Intro
Ninja Gaiden (Arcade)

Page 2:
NES Trilogy Introduction
Ninja Gaiden (NES)

Page 3:
Ninja Gaiden II (NES)
Ninja Gaiden III (NES)

Page 4:
Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Sega Games

Page 5:
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
Ninja Gaiden Black
Ninja Gaiden Sigma

Page 6:
Dragon Sword

Page 7:
Ninja Gaiden II (Xbox 360)
Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2

Page 8:
Ninja Gaiden 3
Razor's Edge

Page 9:
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Page 10:
Ninja Gaiden Old & New
Bosses Gallery

Page 11:
Mobile
Other

Page 12:
Interview: Masato Kato

Discuss on the Forums!

Back to the Index