Game Review

Shadow of the Ninja Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Mat Allen

Ninja master or a shadow of glory?

Ninjas suddenly gained popularity during the 1980s, what with their cool moves, cool clothes and unashamed ability to kick ass. It's murky as to why exactly this happened but the legacy left within the fields of media was huge, ranging from the American Ninja films, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Last Ninja series of games and a fistful of arcade coin-op titles. If pirates had been popular at the same time, who knows what might have happened...

On that note, Natsume's NES title Shadow of the Ninja was a little late for the boat; released in 1991 in the US and Europe, it had a wealth of other titles to be judged against. In essence it is part run-and-gun, part platformer as you control either Hayate or Kaede (or both in two player mode) to defeat the evil emperor Garuda. Apparently the old boy has somehow managed to take over the entire United States and subjected it to his control. Your job, naturally, is to usurp that control.

The game is set over five levels, split into either three or four stages each. Hayate and Kaede can both run, jump, climb and leap about the levels, and both swing along overhanging platforms and drop down through them. To make this a fair fight you are merely equipped with a katana to begin with; however, opening certain containers in each level can reveal a kusarigama (which replaces the katana) or a limited number of shuriken stars that can hit at range. Collecting the same weapon as that which you already wield powers it up, although taking too much damage can reduce it back one level.

Each stage has a variety of enemies present depending on its theme, all looking to knock your health level to zero. These vary from bog standard grunts, to water leaping ninjas, gun totting robots and mutant monkeys. Most can be dispatched fairly easily, but the toll to your health bar becomes apparent if careful strategy is not employed. Some stages have minor bosses at the end, and each level ends with a major boss; these take quite a lot damage but most can be defeated with careful, repeated tactics.

If all of this screams run of the mill to you, then you are not going to be far wrong, even with the added lure of co-op two player mode. Graphics are reasonable and a might unimpressive for such a late era NES title, although the soundtrack easily makes up for that, with some impressive and catchy tunes. None of the stages are that long, even though some are challenging, and it's as much a test of memory as skill for some of them, knowing which weapons to use in each situation. Inspiration is rather lacking in most aspects of the game.


As far as scrolling platform games go, Shadow of the Ninja is no pushover, in the traditional NES vein, but it doesn't do anything new nor offer anything greater than ubiquitous. It's fun, enjoyable and can divert your attention for a little while, but after that time you begin to hanker for something more impressive and more original. Download if you're bored but don't expect anything different to the norm.

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User Comments (15)



JamieO said:

Cheers Mat, you have saved me a few bob with this review. I was interested in learning about Shadow of the Ninja, because I like Natsume games, but your analysis shows that I would be better off looking elsewhere.

Good on it for including co-op two player, and there is no harm in a little extra supplement to Ninja Gaiden, but I will not be in a rush to download this one.



Cia said:

I always liked this game more than Ninja Gaiden, mostly because of it's co-op mode and great soundtrack. Also, this game is hard, but not impossible.



Varoennauraa said:

Co-op made this better than Ninja Gaiden, which is esteemed classic. Both of them are unoriginal.



BulbasaurusRex said:

Nintendo Power mentioned this game a couple of months ago in their section on games that take place in real "futuristic" years. The only thing they mentioned about the gameplay is that there are "lame special attacks that drain half your health." How do you guys who have played it feel about that?

By the way, how does the difficulty compare to Ninja Gaiden, which I've heard is way too hard?



Mayhem said:

There is, but I forgot to note it in the review; hold down attack for a few seconds and it acts like a smart bomb at the cost of half your health. Personally I wanted to enjoy the game but there was nothing present that screamed at me and grabbed me by the throat, compelling me to keep at it...




I knew I recognised this game, it was called Blue Shadow for the NES in the UK! I owned it and I have to say I quite liked it!

I was only around 10 at the time, and didn't really understand what made a "bad" game bad, but I remember enjoying it! For 500 points I'd download it - admittedly more for the memories and nostalgia - but what I REALLY want is either Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu for the NES, or even better, Soleil/Crusader of Centy for the Mega-Drive/Genesis!!!

That is, of course, unless they update the virtual console to include Sega Saturn games, then it's defo got to be Shining Force 3!!



NeoShinobi said:

I remember playing a bit of this game on my PC.
I thought is was okay. I enjoyed it alot more than any of the Ninja Gaiden games on the NES.



Rarewarefan7495 said:

It's OK but the gameplay is too slow and kind of boring at times. The co-op does make the game somewhat worth your time. But 6/10 does seem fair.



gamebox2d said:

I couldn't get enough of this game as a kid. I think it may have aged quite badly, though, hence the relatively low score.

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