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Ninja Gaiden

Temco 1991

Atari Lynx



Ninja Gaiden, many people are too enamored with the excellent NES games and more recent Xbox version to remember this series started as a mediocre arcade fighting game. While the other NES home versions departed into (awesome) fast platform action, the Lynx version remains true to the arcade vision, which in the final estimation was a bad thing.

You play Ryu Hyuabusa in a side scrolling beat'em up in the vein of Double Dragon or Final Fight, although this game isn't as good as either as those. The story is the usual ninja-revenge thing and loosely follows the home versions although there is nothing like the innovative cinema scenes seen on the NES. You attack with a quick three hit auto combo and can also throw people in this pretty cool flipping shoulder toss. If you throw people into breakable obstacles like phone booths and such you'll occasionally uncover an icon that lets you use a ninja sword for a limited time. In addition to this you can also grab onto overhead objects like light poles and things and kick outwards. This is a pretty low number of moves for a game like this, most of the time you end up relying on the auto combo which can get pretty repetitive. How hard would it have been to add some kicks or elbows or something? You don't even have the usually standard beat'em up jump kick attack.

Also for some reason whenever your ninja comes in contact with a vertical surface he feels the need to automatically run up it and do a back flip which really serves no purpose except looking cool. Thing is more than once I did this by accident and promptly got nailed for the mistake. If you're gonna do stuff like that in a game it should be integrated into gameplay somehow.

The main problem with the game is that it moves very, very, very slowly. In the arcade part of the fun was seeing the different enemy types and figuring out which strategies you need to defeat them. Here they send wave after wave of the same red hockey mask guy after you, over and over and over again, and the game is such that the screen does not progress until you kill them all. It gets bad; there's a part on the third level where there must be like 25 white enemy ninjas just mobbing you, so many you can barely see where your character is. And this cycle repeats like every three steps - walk forward a little itty bit, beat up 37 red hockey mask people, walk forward three more steps, etc. Lame.

For fans of the arcade the game is pretty accurate. The levels are the same, same bosses, etc. The guy with the purple leotards that does the rolling kick has been removed. Problem is the arcade game was pretty crappy to begin with.

Graphics: Not half bad. Blocky as Lynx usually is blocky, but animated well and distinct enough that you can tell what is going on.

Sound: Crap as always. Music is pretty low key, almost nonresistant. There's a very 8-bit sounding "Voop!" when you do a flying throw that sounds out of place.

Gameplay: Three attack moves makes killing hundreds of the same guy quickly repetitive.

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