By the beginning of 1989, the Nintendo Entertainment System already had a plethora of platforming titles available, but none of them had evolved the genre as much as one title in particular. Just a few short months into 1989, Ninja Gaiden set itself apart from other action games in a variety of ways and the timing of its release couldn’t have been more appropriate. The late ‘80s had kids in a ninja frenzy with the overwhelming popularity of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and syndicated episodes of GI Joe. I was personally bit by the ninja bug because my father was a martial artist. If anything had ninjas in it, he was getting his hands on it, and by proxy, I would too. So, as you can imagine, when my dad woke me up on a Friday morning with a brand-new NES game in his hands with a Ninja on it, I was stoked!.
Up until the release of Ninja Gaiden, storylines and objectives in platforming games could be pretty simplistic. Many times, the “save the princess!” gimmick you would get in the instruction manual was as much of a plot as you would get. Ninja Gaiden makes it apparent that this isn’t the case with this game as soon as you turn on the console. Instantly, you are greeted with a quick title introduction and then sucked into a cinematic cut scene featuring two ninjas dueling to the death in a field. Lit only by the lunar beams of the moon, they run at each other with great speed, leap high into the air, and clash swords. As both ninjas let gravity take them to the ground, only one remains standing. It’s an epic scene that sets the stage for the rest of the game, and it is delivered to the player in the first 30 seconds.
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