It’s Ninja Week at Nintendo, as 2 of this week’s 3 games are ports of Ninja arcade games. We have 2 games for the NES (500 points) and 1 for TurboGraphx 16 (800 points). Let’s do a retrospective of each, and also compare them to their original arcade versions.
Ninja Gaiden | NES | 500 Points | Platformer
Probably the strongest of the three titles is the NES version of Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo’s port of their arcade Beat-em-Up that was released in the same year. Although they bear the same name, and same main character, that’s about where the similarities end for these two games.
The NES version of Ninja Gaiden had 2 features which stood out a the time; very cool character and story development, by way of cut scenes between each level, and it was hard. Really fn hard.
The difficulty was mainly due to the way Ryu Hayabusa reacts to being hit – no matter what you are hit by, be it a bullet, baseball bat, or a flying bird, you will be thrown back a distance, and will be facing in the opposite direction when you recover. And there is also a delay between attacks, so you can’t just chop your way out of trouble if you find yourself being bounced between a couple of respawning mobs. Yes, they respawn, so be careful when you turn to go the other direction!
Although Ninja Gaiden for NES is a hard game, like Ghouls n’ Ghosts, it’s a rewarding experience if you figure out the timing of each level and boss. All in all, I think this is one of the stronger titles for Virtual Console, and probably one of the more eagerly anticipated 3rd party NES titles.
As mentioned, the arcade version bares little resemblance to the NES version we know and love. It is more of a pure beat-em-up game; it was released in 1988 between big titles like Double Dragon and Golden Axe. The graphics are obviously better than what the NES could come up with, but gone are the cut-scenes between each level (although the introduction does play during the game’s attract mode).
It played like a very slow, awkwardly controlled version of Double Dragon, but that never stopped me from popping my quarters in and giving it a shot time after time. I don’t think I ever made it past the 2nd level though… The gruesome “Continue” screen is probably the most memorable thing in the game… That and the “NINJA in U.S.A” intro screen… Oh, and the ninja breaking through the arcade screen at the start of each level. Okay, this game had some cool ideas, but none of them had anything to do with the game unfortunately.
Ninja Spirit | TurboGraphx 16 | 800 Points | Platformer
I have to admit, I have never played this game on the TG16 or in the arcade; I guess it just never came around my way. I did fire it up in Mame to check it out, and the games actually play quite similar. Arcade mode is tough as hell though, as you are killed in one hit. If you are feeling like taking some punishment, you can even set the TG16/VC version to arcade mode too, but I would recommend against it.
When played in ‘home’ mode, Ninja Spirit plays similar to Ninja Gaiden, as most enemies are killed in one hit (you are a Ninja, after all). However, think of it more like Ninja Gaiden on meth, as your Ninja (named Moonlight) can jump all the way to the top of the screen ala Legend of Kage (which is also available on Virtual Console, but I wouldn’t recommend this one). The powerups are really cool; in the very first level, you get a SHADOW NINJA~! that mimics your moves.. You can just blast through the first level and boss like nothing. It feels very empowering to do this after getting your ass kicked repeatedly as Ryu Hayabusa. This could be one of the better pickups on the VC, if you haven’t come across it before. The moves are cool, the enemies and graphics are cool, and Ninjas are fn cool. The sound.. not so much. Still worth picking up if you’re in a retro mood, but still want to try something ‘new’.
Pac-Man | NES | 500 Points | Maze
Yup, another VC port of an NES port of an arcade game. This is Pac-Man nearly at its purest on a home console (so yeah, nothing like the Atari 2600…). This version plays and looks pretty much exactly like the arcade; the graphics aren’t quite as sharp, and Pac-Man’s chomping sound has been altered.
As far as the Virtual Console version goes, I would normally recommend it for Pac-Freaks, however there are so many better console versions of the original Pac-Man already available. For instance, you can pick it up on XBOX Live Arcade, and get internet-based leaderboards, achievements, and other features. Or you can pick up one of the many Namco Museum versions that have been released; if you don’t have an XBOX 360, surely you have some console that Namco Museum has been released for. This way, you’ll get added artwork and trivia between levels.
But if the Wii is all you have, and you want to get your Pac on, the NES version isn’t so bad. It’s just so weird to hear him go “blup-bloop-blup-bloop” instead of the classic “wakka-wakka-wakka-wakka” that we all know and love so much. Surely the NES could have made that sound! I have a pocket device bought in a vending machine in Japan for $1 that makes that sound! (and it’s fun to play with too!).