At last we come to my first bought boxed game, a title that I hope will stay special to me as it stands all on its lonesome on the NES shelf like a leper as the other carts seeming to shrink away from this beauty. As I have mentioned earlier in this blog I have no intention of going out of my way to buy boxed games as I want to play as many titles as possible without committing to the more serious parts of collecting. So when it came to my next game of choice I wanted to pick one of the more well known games and Shadow Warriors seemed the perfect match. Prices on EBay vary from small to silly in many cases and I was lucky to find a fully boxed copy with manual for just 50p more than a stand alone cart and at that price I thought it would make a good investment to add it to the gaming collection.
Shadow Warriors or Ninja Gaiden as it’s known in every other country (thanks to the silly 80’s UK censorship view that Ninja’s are somewhat naughty, capable of destroying young minds so the word Ninja was always downplayed no matter the media) is a home version of the arcade game similar to Double Dragon, a simple side scroller with the main Ninja character beating 10 shades out of everyone who gets in his way. However Tecmo seem to have done away with this for the home version, remaking the game into more of a platformer/beat em up hybrid. This pays off no end as the arcade game wasn’t anything special and SW really shines in its new form.
The box boasts of it having movie like graphics, high quality cut scenes and surprisingly for a NES game they do a pretty good job of telling the heroes plight. The story is deep for an 8bit game however it is the usual nonsense of finding a missing father, carrying on his legacy and getting revenge but I guess back in the 80’s such themes were not as hackneyed or over used as they are today. This is the decade that brought us the A-Team after all so it’s understandable that action games were all the rage at the time. We may laugh about it now but when most games story was no greater than “Plumber looks for and saves Princess” then you have to admit that Shadow Warriors was something special.
I start off controlling our hero (Ryu Hayabusa) in the streets of New York, running around slashing enemies with a sword like that from the Strider arcade game and throwing the odd optional weapon as I come across them, there’s even a few special moves that can be used once collected which range from flinging fireballs to a sword spin attack. Control wise it’s pretty tightly put together and the main character responds pretty well to whatever you dole out on the controller. One feature of the game that I quite enjoyed is the ability to cling to walls, firing weapons and even jumping onto other surfaces. You can even climb structures this way just by jumping back and forth, gripping each time. Just like...well a Ninja! Each stage comes with a boss to fight and these can be quite difficult until you learn the pattern, however the bosses aren’t the real difficulty of the game it’s the unforgiving levels. Everything from mad dogs, vampires, punks and all types of maniacs are thrown into the mix so each level always feels different to the last.
You are thankfully given unlimited continues because you will need them. The game is very difficult with lots of enemies and jumps that require almost pixel perfect timing to perform. The great thing is once you achieve them you get that thrill of a job well done which adds to the experience. The artwork and general work of the game is genuinely superb and there are a few moments where I was surprised at just how much detail and work must have gone in to the level design. The last 3 acts are well worth the hours of hard play just to see. Music wise it doesn’t let up either and each section holds something special to listen to. For a game that cost me £7 I’ll certainly be getting my value for money from repeat play.
A bit of a snoop around EBay and Wikipedia and it seems there are 3 Ninja Gaiden games available on the NES and the 2 sequels seem to have been US only releases. Which I can imagine being a pain for some but with my modified NES I’ll certainly be picking them up sometime in the future!