Gamers nowadays might be more familiar with the rebooted series, but now you've got yet another chance to experience the original NES Ninja Gaiden, the game that started it all.
A classic 2D action platformer, you assume the role of Ryu Hayabusa as he seeks to kill Jaquio, who murdered his father. This original is frequently remembered for its incredible difficulty, which might turn some people off, but the game can be conquered with perseverance. Ryu moves rather swiftly for an 80's game character, and can nimbly cling to walls and hop off, swing his sword and throw a variety of special attacks at enemies.
The enemies come in packs, though, and if you're not careful you'll be knocked around until your demise. Every hit knocks you back in addition to dealing damage, and with the large amounts of precarious platforming sections the game offers, expect to hear the death jingle many times; if you were wondering why people hate birds in videogames, then this one will gladly teach you!
Thankfully, Tecmo realized that this was going to be pretty tough to beat, so you've got unlimited continues and can resume from various checkpoints in the event of a game over, with the exception of the final boss — if you die against him you've got to start the entire level again.
But, despite the difficulty, Ninja Gaiden is still a great game. Once you really get the hang of things you can gracefully run and jump through every stage, avoiding near death experiences left and right and beating all of the bosses with ease, which feels very rewarding and truly makes you feel like a ninja.
It's also notable for being one of the first games to have a fairly deep storyline, with lengthy cutscenes between each stage telling a (by today's standards) fairly cliché, but nonetheless interesting tale. Both these cutscenes and the game itself feature some top notch 8-bit graphics, and are accompanied by one of the catchiest soundtracks on NES, full of fast-paced action songs that get you pumped, even after every death.
It's one of the toughest NES games out there, but if you consider yourself a retro master (or just good at using save states), you have to beat Ninja Gaiden to prove your worth; thanks to the 3DS VC you can now get plenty of practice on the go. It can feel a bit unfair at times, but nonetheless, the original Ninja Gaiden is a classic that everybody ought to play at least once.