Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ninja Gaiden: Hardest Of The Hardcore

Tecmo has spawned some great things over their existence, but nothing has been as great as Ninja Gaiden. The exploits of Ryu Hayabusa have been documented in video games since 1988. What a lot of young gamers don't know is the brutally hard Team Ninja creation started life as a slightly below average beat em up that featured the grimiest continue screen in arcade history. That original arcade Ninja Gaiden was popular enough for Tecmo to develop and release completely original trilogy of games that surrounded Ryu Hayabusa and his quest to protect the world from Jacquio, Ashtar, and their quest to destroy humanity. Three things characterized the Ninja Gaiden trilogy: tight control, revolutionary, for their time, cutscenes, and some at times brutal difficulty. All three games were highly heralded through gaming circles as high water marks for platform action games. The original Ninja Gaiden Trilogy was released as a compilation cartridge for the Super Nintendo, and while it's extremely rare, it wasn't the best port of Tecmo's high water mark. This marked the last time Ninja Gaiden appeared on a console for almost a decade, but it's protagonist, Ryu, would appear in the highly popular fighting game series Dead or Alive. This led to speculation that Tecmo was working on a reboot to the Ninja Gaiden series. in 2004, the reboot came, and boy did it make a splash.

The modern imagining of Ninja Gaiden takes the beat em up action of the arcade game, and combined it with the speed and weapon based combat of the NES games to great effect. The result was a visceral masterpiece, and something that put Tecmo back on the map in a huge way. This new series takes the series vaunted difficulty and turns it up to 11. It's truly a game for the hardcore, and gamers ate it up, with both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions selling quite well. The series has even found its way to the Nintendo DS and it has been announced that Ninja Gaiden sequels are in development for the upcoming Nintendo 3DS, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360.

For a long time, Ninja Gaiden was synonymous for hardcore gaming, and with this current imagining of Ryu Hayabusa's quest, Tecmo has reclaimed the hardcore action gaming mantle.

Author's Note: while there were ports of Ninja Gaiden for Spectrum ZX, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, etc., I focused on the more well known games with the Ninja Gaiden name. So, There was a reason I didn't mention Ninja Gaiden Shadow for the Game Boy actually being a Game Boy port of Shadow of the Ninja that was licensed by Tecmo, or that I neglected to mention the prototype of a Ninja Gaiden game being developed for the Sega Genesis.

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