Title: Arcade Archives NINJA GAIDEN
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 05/09/2019
In this action game, you take control of two unnamed Ninja (While technically the Blue one looks like Ryu Hayabusa, he’s not the same one from the NES or modern series and is never named, along with the orange one) who set out to the United States in order to defeat an evil cult lead by the evil Bladedamus!
Like every other Arcade Archives game, all the fancy visual options are here to tinker with, from several scanlines, the option to toggle the annoying border, and the ability to adjust the screen size and position however you like. It’s fairly standard stuff that all works fine, so I won’t be repeating this much in future reviews.
When it comes to the game itself, Ninja Gaiden is pretty good looking, going for a 16-Bit art style that really pops. Considering how the SNES never got a unique Ninja Gaiden game, it’s impressive how this original game is a look at what could have been, along with some outstanding songs. They may have not been as iconic as the NES score, but a bunch of these stage and boss themes hold up really well and are pretty iPod worthy.
It should be noted though that this game does suffer from a lot of reused enemies, with the only difference being that tougher enemies get darker skin the further in the game you are, so expect a bunch of color swaps of the same few enemies if you were hoping for variety. The bosses are pretty cool looking but even those get recycled, with only four unique bosses in the six.
It’s also worth nothing that this game is also the altered version included with Ninja Gaiden BLACK, meaning that the Stage 2/5 boss theme is missing and stars that were scattered across the final stage have been erased for seemingly no reason at all. These don’t really affect the game at all, but some may be disappointed that this rerelease isn’t quite the original version.
The Arcade Ninja Gaiden plays like a typical belt scroller, going for a more simplistic take akin to the first Double Dragon rather than the more complex, special move focused nature of future games. With six stages to play through, the game takes around twenty to thirty minutes, so it’s your typical arcade game length, and the stages themselves aren’t too long which helps with the repetitive nature a little bit.
Your controls are equally basic, with a jump, attack and grab button that you can freely map to any space you desire. Your attack button can only really perform a basic three hit combo while on the ground, with the ability to use your sword for more powerful attacks if you find a powerup. Mashing the attack button by itself can get boring after a while since there’s hardly any variety, but there is one helpful maneuver that can come in real handy.
While jumping, if you hit the attack button when over an enemy, you can toss them forward, dealing quite a bit of damage and even having the potential to break crates and other obstacles that can reveal items. This trick can be used to easily take out bosses and every enemy in the game, with the one exception being the final boss, so this one technique makes the game a lot more fun, since throwing enemies at each other is really satisfying.
As per the norm with Arcade Archives releases, Ninja Gaiden includes both the original 1988 American version while also including the 1989 Japanese version, which is easier than the US one and has extra musical effects. The Hi-Score and Caravan modes also return, but Ninja Gaiden is unfortunately not that reliant on scoring, with hardly any way to earn extra points, so both modes offer little incentive for replay value purposes.
Another annoyance comes from how this game just flat-out will not save the high score chart on either version of the game, so if you were hoping to keep your own personal high score lists, you’re out of luck. Still, as a two-player belt scroller, it’s decent fun and pretty enjoyable to practice and get the hang of, although the US version suffers from bad balancing that can make the later stages literal hell to go through, so the Japanese one is preferred.
In conclusion, Ninja Gaiden is a fun co-op adventure to play with a friend. While it’s not much of a score chaser and thus loses some replay value for that alone, anyone interested in the origins of the Ninja Gaiden franchise should be willing to check this out, and if you have a buddy around for local co-op then this is a fun way to kill an hour. The standard $8 ACA price applies, and while I do think the lack of replay value makes this game not nearly as good as many of the other options, it’s still a fun curiosity.
I give Arcade Archives Ninja Gaiden a 6 out of 10.