Ninja Gaiden is a saga of action and platform games that triumphed in the 80s with its original trilogy for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and later made a strong comeback in the era of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. In this in-depth article we will explore the main aspects of the saga, what changes occurred with its leap into the three-dimensional world and what are the future projects of a saga that since 2014 has not presented news, but that continues to be remembered as a cult series.
The original 8-bit trilogy
Composed of Ninja Gaiden (1988), Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (1990) and Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom (1991) , this saga stood out on home consoles for its great fidelity to the original Ninja Gaiden of arcades that also appeared in 1988. The trilogy combines action and platforms with a fluid level design and extreme difficulty, which is why it is remembered as a very demanding title and lacking in mercy with the player.
Precise jumps, destructive combos, ninja magic, and powerful enemies that include ninjas from other clans and monsters of different types, make the original Ninja Gaiden trilogy on NES a show of the genre. The three titles share some contributions that have shaped the saga since its inception, with beautiful scenes between levels with a marked anime style and graphics that at the time served to tell a fairly deep story.
The game style, similar to that of sagas like Shinobi or Bionic Commando, combined fast fights, jumps between platforms and all kinds of obstacles that crowned each level with a final boss that required mastery in the use of the sword and the special powers of ninja techniques (or Ninpo).
The review for SNES and the portable prequel
In 1995 the popularity of the Super Nintendo led Tecmo developers to try their luck with an adaptation of the three original games for the 16-bit console. The improvements in sound and graphics are minimal, but the game nonetheless served to introduce a whole new generation of players to the adventures of the ninja Ryu Hayabusa.
Another interesting title to mention is Ninja Gaiden Shadow for GameBoy , a 1991 game for the Nintendo laptop that adapted, despite the limitations, the frenetic pace and difficulty of the jumps and battles of Ninja Gaiden. The story was a prequel where the foundations of the Ninja Gaiden universe were laid, with the Dragon Sword and the Dark Dragon Sword at the center of the scene.
The glorious return on Xbox 360 and PS3
In 2004 Tomonobu Itagaki’s team ( Team Ninja ) developed a title inspired by Ninja Gaiden with three-dimensional graphics, exploration and battles loaded with difficulty and blood. Demonic elements and a story with voices in Japanese and English helped give a more cinematic flair to a game that would mark a new trilogy starring Ryu Hayabusa and his companions.
On home consoles, the Ninja Gaiden era had three main titles: Ninja Gaiden (2004), Ninja Gaiden II (2008), and Ninja Gaiden III (2012). There were also spin-offs for Nintendo DS (Ninja Gaiden – Dragon Sword – 2008), and Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z that has a new protagonist but has appearances by Ryu Hayabusa although it has been classified as the worst installment of the saga.
The future of Ninja Gaiden
The title Ninja Gaiden 4 has not yet been announced, but there are strong rumors that it could return as an Xbox exclusive, as originally happened with the second trilogy and Xbox 360. Although after a while, Ninja Gaiden Sigma carried the trilogy of 2004 to PS3.
What makes Ninja Gaiden different?
Ninja Gaiden is, in its most recent versions, a three-dimensional hack’n slash . Players can explore the scenarios and make use of different combos and ninja moves to defeat hordes of enemies and very challenging final bosses. It is a visually very attractive title, which has managed to take advantage of technological development to offer greater spectacularity, both in the combats and in the intermediate scenes, where the characters tell the story, express their feelings and we can learn more about the background of the universe.
One of the most liked aspects of the Ninja Gaiden franchise, since its inception, is the combination of active game dynamics, with a plot. In the NES it looked incipient and has aspects that could be improved, but it made a difference with other games that only had an introductory text and nothing else. In this case, the saga evolved and in the second trilogy it improved significantly in the presentation of characters and the construction of a relational universe between the plot and the fighting. The outcome: a saga that since the late 80s has remained in the memory of lovers of action and adventure on different consoles.