Monday, December 12, 2011

Ninja Gaiden Box Of the TEN HARDEST NES GAMES OF ALL TIME, Ninja Gaiden is the only I've owned since its release. Which means I've been ragequitting at Stage 5-4 (bloody Bloody Malth) for 22 years. Released by Tecmo (Ready! Down! Hut Hut Hut Hut Hut Hut Hut...) in 1989, Ninja Gaiden is a side-scrolling beat 'em up following young Ryu Hayabusa as he journeys to America to avenge his fallen Father. Through various cut scenes, this story expands to include the CIA, Possessed Statues, the Amazon and a Furry named Jaquio.

The Original Angry Birds.
None of the plot really matters, of course, because this game is EFFING HARD ("That's what she said"). How hard is Ninja Gaiden? The game's difficulty can be completely encapsulated with two simple words: Infinite Birds. You want to jump over to that ladder? Well this army of white falcons would rather you just jump into that bottomless pit. And guess what? The birds win every time.

Oh, and there's also the inconvenience of losing a Boss Battle, but we'll get to that later.

Bar Boss
I'll have a Chocolate Malt, please.

This first stage is some sort of American street (complete with Coca-Cola signs) and offers no real challenge. Move slowly and stab everything. The boxer drones offer some difficulty if you let them get too close, but as long as you're jamming on the B button, they shouldn't be an issue. The Boss is a purple sloth with a sword who seems to have occupied a Soda Parlor. Your Schwartz is bigger than his, so simply stand back a bit and slice him until he explodes.

Stage 2
Save us both the time and get in the pit, Ryu.
Let the controller-throwing begin. After a simple jaunt, Ninja Gaiden begins cheating on Stage 2-2. The baddies are upgraded with projectile weapons, and most of them are perched right before perilous jumps. I've found the best strategy is to jump at them and slash before they get a chance to fire guns/throw knives. To compensate for the fact that Ryu ends up at the bottom of a pit every 3rd jump or so, Ninja Gaiden allows for infinite continues and puts you at the nearest doorway when you die.

The Boss is a guy swinging a scythe. Avoid his weapon and wall-jump over him--he's not that difficult.

Stage 3
I'll just jump in this pit now.
The Levels of Ninja Gaiden don't vary much in design.  Instead, the difficulty comes from the evolution of baddies. Case in point: Stage 3 introduces of the aforementioned birds. One second you're jumping between platforms, the next you're bounced into a pit by a falcon. Welcome to Ninja Gaiden. Once you learn the quirks of each drone (and at what pits they spawn), the levels become manageable. The Boss of Act III is a Jumping Ninja. His only attack is to occasionally throw a trio of bullets at you. The bullets can be destroyed by your sword, so simply follow him around the room, slashing him (and his bullets when he shoots). So far, the Bosses have been a pushover.

Not much to say here.A jungle then a mine. Lots of birds. The Boss is a pair of demon dogs. They jump around the room, spit poisonous loogies and look very scary, but they are, in fact, harmless. They always spit over Ryu's head and if Ryu stands under one of the two pedestals in the room, the dogs will jump over him. Jam on B until they die.

Stage 5
Into the pit you go!
Act V is very long and very difficult. New and devious baddies obstruct your path. Green Jumping Ninjas, Silver Blade Throwers, Jumping Monkeys Jet-Pack Ninjas and, of course, more birds. Also in ACT V is the most difficult jump in the game, requiring Ryu to jump down from one wall onto another wall. Missing the lower wall rewards you with instant death. Dallying on the upper wall too long means death by bird. I blew through 6 lives before I finally made it to the other side.

Bloody Malth
Bloody Malth? Bloody Hell.
After that, its an arduous climb through some ruins, with jet-pack ninjas peppering you with throwing stars. The Stage Boss here is even more frustrating than the stage that preceedes him: Bloody Malth. It's theoretically possible to avoid the balls of lightning he chucks at you, but I couldn't manage it. Instead, I stood right next to him and slashed like mad, taking my hits as they came. This worked well--on the second try. My first battle with Malth ended in my demise, pushing me ALL THE WAY BACK TO THE START OF THE STAGE. Losing to a boss seriously sucks.

The final stages pull out all the stops. Birds everywhere. Lots of jet-pack ninjas and their throwing stars. Jumps that border on impossible. It's very important to note that there's a spin-attack power-up on the first screen of 6-3. GET IT. Seriously Get. It. And whatever you do, don't accidentally swap it for throwing stars or fire. Make certain to keep the Spin Attack until the final boss.
Why, you ask? This:
One hit death
The battle against Ryu's possesed father is probably pretty difficult. I wouldn't know, because the spin attack gives you a 1-hit win. Unfortunately, your power-up is taken away, leaving you with only your sword against Jacquio and the Demon.
Jacquio and the Demon
This is where Ninja Gaiden earns its stripes as NES Hard. Jacquio is the more difficult of the two, flying over Ryu's head and chucking fireballs everywhere. It takes some practice to dodge his projectiles, and unfortunately, practicing against Jacquio means dying and having to beat all of Stage 6 (a VERY long stage) again. After besting Jacquio, there's a brief cut scene in which the Demon awakes before its off to battle again. This second of the final bosses is decidedly easier. The Demon attacks by chucking little demon spawn at you, and although they do major damage (Major Damage [salute]), they're easily dodged. Destroy the head, destroy the tail, destroy the heart. I got it on my second try.

With the Demon vanquished, Ryu puts on some Al Green and gets all "brown chicken brown cow!" with the lady that shot him in Act I.
The sun isn't the only thing rising *wink*
Ninja Gaiden most definitely deserves to be listed among the Hardest NES Games. Losing a Boss battle, especially later in the game, is a soul-crushing defeat, putting poor Ryu at the very start of the stage. And have I mentioned the birds? To hell with those birds.

3 Controllers
NES MONSTER!Ninja Gaiden, however, is more tedious than difficult, earning it three Controllers of Impossibility. I considered four, but the game doesn't really get difficult until Stage 5. Compared to Ghosts'n Goblins--which throws the hardest boss at you ten seconds into level 1--3 out of 5 is justified.

Only two left now. There's probably no surprise as to what the two Hardest NES Games of All Time are, but perhaps a little surprise at the order in which they appear. Which is which? You'll have to surf over here next Monday to find out.

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