Sunday, April 10, 2011

Shinobi Sunday: Ninja 外伝

After a brief absence, Shinobi Sunday returns to WaHNtHaC (and as an aside, I think I need to name a PC or NPC Wahnthac in the future).

Today, I'm talking about one of the best games ever released for the NES, Ninja Gaiden!  I also wax pedantic.  You've been warned.

It was also one of the hardest games of its era, and the NES was well known for having tough games.

The blue guy in the screenshot above, for those who don't know, is Ryu Hayabusa, the ninja protagonist of this game series.  He's on a mission to take out some evil cultists who want to summon a demon and end the world.  Pretty standard fare for a ninja in the 1980's, apparently.

Back then, I had no idea I'd ever learn Japanese, let alone live there for a decade.  Looking back now, I can only smile at the way we mangled the Japanese in the game.

We called the game, writing it phonetically the way we pronounced it, "Ninja Gay-dun"  The actual pronunciation is phonetically "Ninja Guy-den"  The poor protagonist we mispronounced (not knowing any better, of course) as Rye-you Hay-a-byoo-sa.  Ryu is pronounced r'you, but with a sort of rolling 'r' that's sort of between an r, l, and d.  Takes some getting used to when learning Japanese.  Hayabusa is 'ha-ya-boo-sa.'

More interesting to the rest of you than my mispronunciations and feeble attempts to teach the proper way over a written blog, would likely be my assumption that the Ryu Hayabusa of Ninja Gaiden (whose father is Ken Hayabusa) was somehow related to the Ryu and Ken of the Street Fighter games.

No, there's no connection.  Ninja Gaiden games are from Tecmo, Street Fighter is from Capcom.  Ryu just means dragon, so it's a popular name for video game characters.  Hayabusa means falcon, if anyone's wondering.

I haven't had a chance to play the new 3D versions of the games for the X-Box and PS3.  Maybe some day.  I hear they're also pretty difficult, which is refreshing.  So many of the recent 'revival' games of classic NES games really make them too easy (Castlevania, Metal Gear, I'm looking at you).

The old NES games were tough, sorta like Old School D&D.  You had lots of lives and continues in those games, because you NEEDED them.  Now you just get save points all over the place so you can pretend that you never had to die as you played through the game.

I don't mind dying, as long as I'm having fun.


  1. Classic game for sure. I have played through it many times, and yes, it is tough, especially the last level. I always wished they'd made more games with "cinema scenes" like this one back in the day. It was classy and gave it so much more depth.

  2. Eh, the NES version was more about being hard than fun. The original arcade game, however, was awesome.

    Which reminds me of another 80s martial arts arcade-turned-NES game: Double Dragon. The arcade game was great, the NES, bleh. NES did a much better job with Double Dragon II.