RETRO REBOOT VS - Ninja Gaiden Vs Revenge Of Shinobi

There's never room for a lack of ninja video game praise here on Retro Reboot. The pajama-clad assassins, their art of ninjutsu/ninpo, and their accessories are perfect for gaming. Even as the years went on into the 90's with the success of the Tenchu series, which got their start on the PlayStation in 1998. But before then, there were two prime options for your ninja action from Tecmo and Sega. The high paced, thrill ride Ninja Gaiden on NES and the adventurer platformer sequel Revenge of Shinobi for Sega Genesis. I don't mean to keep making these Nintendo vs Sega on purpose, but that's going to happen.


Ryu Hayabusa is no stranger to Retro Reboot, the near lighting fast reflex-based experience is hard to replicate.  ts challenge differed from the more meticulous and complex Castlevania or the structured Mega Man series. Ninja Gaiden feels like the original speed-running action game. It has its fair share of frustrating ebbs and flows (I've gone over the eagles and the conveniently placed pitfall traps), so its difficulty places it in NES notoriety. Released in 1991, Ninja Gaiden's home port blends its wall-hopping slasher mayhem with elaborate anime-style story sequences, making it pretty unique for its time. It saw two more entries on the Nintendo, and a reboot in the late 2000's on the Xbox platform that continued its stubborn challenge curve.


A follow-up to the arcade game Shadow Dancer, The Revenge of Shinobi was also released in 1989 exclusively for the Sega Mega Drive. Sega's console was brand spanking new, and they wanted something to really showcase the awesome power of the 16-bit beast. The more arcade style gameplay was given a bit of an overhaul and the mechanics, along with enemies, made for more conventional home gaming. Revenge Of Shinobi follows a stronger story narrative than the more straightforward Shadow Dancer and establishes more lore for the quests of Joe Musashi.


It's generally not fair to put a 16-bit game against an 8-bit one. The Genesis tech was pretty cutting edge for its time, and Revenge Of Shinobi was great visually. It didn't experience a great deal of slowdown, and the sprites carry good color and animation. One of the things I like the most about Shinobi is the level design. Many of the stages alter between scaling vertically as well as horizontally. And while it makes little sense in the context of ninja, I like Joe's white outfit. Sure, it stands out like a Mardi Gras float in a funeral motorcade, but I like a video game that offers some nice contrast between player and background. Same can be said about a ninja running around a city clad in purple. A lot of Joe's magic has cool flare, followed by those sound effects that I like to describe as "Genesis-y".

Ninja Gaiden's shift from the standard beat'em up to its slash-n-dash adventure may boast smaller sprites than Sega's counterpart (because of course it does), but while it lacks the color pallet and larger graphics, it makes up for that with speed and practically no slowdown. There is some graphical clipping, fairly common with your faster NES games (nothing like having the excuse of your video game being way too awesome for the console to handle), but there's a slick comic book appeal to how Hayabusa runs, jumps, and strikes that's a contrast to Joe's brisk walk.

Both games have some very compelling level designs, but Shinobi definitely goes beyond the pale with how Joe goes from battling enemy ninjas and oni, to destroying lasers in a high tech laboratory, and then fighting a Toho kaiju. The blend of Japanese occult and science fiction crashes together for heaping teaspoons of "what the hell!?" the longer I sit and think about the scenarios I'm bearing witness to. I love Ninja Gaiden's stages and its color, and it dabbles into its fair share of demons and mysticism, but The Revenge Of Shinobi is my personal choice. Also, Joe's use of magic is a little sweeter than Ryu's. ADVANTAGE: The Revenge Of Shinobi


Ninja Gaiden has a pretty rich story, once you are able to overcome the game's challenge. Hayabusa is out to seek revenge for the murder of his father, Jo. As he later learns that the CIA is almost recruiting him against his will to stop "the Jaquio" from resurrecting an ancient demon that will destroy the world, Hayabusa's against all odds to put a rest to the numerous threats against his life. Irene Lew, an agent who is tasked to keep tabs on him, begins to fall for Ryu and finds it hard to carry out her mission to execute him once he's outlasted his to the CIA. It's quite an engaging and lengthy story to indulge in, and it's worth the task of trekking the stages to see it through to its conclusion.

Joe Mushashi's journey is also one of the revenge-flavored variety, but beyond an opening crawl, that's pretty much the most you're going to get. There are two different endings, depending on if you can defeat the final boss in a fast enough time to save Naoko. It's harrowing, but Ninja Gaiden is a little substantive. I'm not too much of a story driven player, yet, when provided, it can make some of elements I indulge in a little better. ADVANTAGE: Ninja Gaiden


Like many 2D platform stars, Joe and Ryu would get their chances to take a try at the world of 3D, but it wouldn't be until the turn of the century. In 2004, Ninja Gaiden would see its return on the Xbox. The series now headed by Dead Or Alive creator, and human-sized bowl of mashed potatoes who wears sunglasses Tomonobu Itagaki, Ninja Gaiden would adopt free range combat and a heightened difficulty, making it one of the toughest video games during the era. It received critical acclaim and sold very well. Itagaki, however, took some of the criticism of the game's challenge to heart, leading him to release Ninja Gaiden Black, an enhanced version that feature, among other things, new costumes and some sharper game mechanics. He added two new difficulty modes, Master Ninja, for those who breezed through the original, and Dog Ninja, where the challenge is lessened significantly greater, but the game will mock you throughout, including DOA's Ayane looking down on you for dying.

Shinobi's relaunch occurred two years prior in 2002 on the PlayStation 2. Originally scheduled for release on the Dreamcast, the project was postponed due to the impending end of Sega's final piece of hardware in 2001. Transitioning to the PS2 was easier for Team Overworks, a division in Sega, for program for.

This incarnation of Shinobi would not see the return of Joe Musashi, but rather following the journey of Hotsuma and his demon blade, Akujiki. Like Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi 2002 is a fast-paced action game that relies on pretty simplistic controls, but a very high skill ceiling and wasn't really a game that made for a casual approach in mind. This is one of the tougher, more demanding games in the PlayStation 2's library. The levels were very straightforward, so Hotsuma would make ample use out of his wall running skill. The game garnered good reviews and its success spawned sales of a comic book and a soundtrack. A follow-up and direct sequel Nightshade, featuring Hibana, a Kunoichi (female ninja) was released a year later, but the director apparently said, "Okay, so people thought the first game was really hard. What happens if we make this one just a little [a lot] tougher?". ADVANTAGE: Ninja Gaiden

Other than some scarce appearances from Hotsuma in Project X-Zone 2, Sega has done little with the Shinobi name and the IP has been more than an afterthought. Since Shinobi 2002 and Nightshade, the character and series has seen little attention beyond appearing in Sega Anniversary collections. Ninja Gaiden has seen more sustainability with its reiteration and crossing into the Dead or Alive lore, while nothing has been seen since the spin-off Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, the modern trilogy is getting a redistribution collection. 

Suffice to say, I think Ninja Gaiden fares a little better in the end. Revenge of Shinobi is indeed a fun game, but the former remains a thrill-ride experience that's a little more fun to revisit. But that's just my opinion. Which game or series do you prefer?

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JULY 27th


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