Shadow of the Ninja
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|Shadow of the Ninja|
North American cover art of Shadow of the Ninja
Shadow of the Ninja, originally released in Japan as Yami no Shigotonin Kage (闇の仕事人 KAGE?), and later released in Europe as Blue Shadow, is a 1990 futuristic ninja-themed side-scrolling action game by Natsume for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Shadow of the Ninja can be played by up to two players simultaneously, with one player controlling Hayate (the male ninja) and the other as Kaede (the female ninja). In either mode, the player can decide which character they want to control before the game actually begins. There are no actual performance differences between either character, however they look almost completely different in-game (and in other versions' manga-style covers) than as shown in the US cover art: Hayate is blonde and Kaede is green-haired, wearing a miniskirt and wielding a sword and a kunai.
The player character can run, crouch, climb ladders, attack, and jump like in most side-scrolling action games as well as hang onto an overhang and move under it. If the player has more than half of their vitality remaining, they can perform a special attack by holding a button for an extended period, summoning a thunderstorm that will damage all on-screen enemies, but at the cost of roughly half of their maximum vitality.
The player's default weapon is a katana, which can be traded for a kusarigama and vice-versa. The kusarigama has a longer range than the katana and can be swung upwards diagonally and horizontally, but can only damage enemies from a specific distance and does not work as well at close range like the katana. If the player picks up a weapon they already have, its attack power will be strengthen by an increment of one level (with up to three attack levels). However, if the player takes too much damage, their weapon's strength will be reduced back to its previous level. There is also the possibility to use both weapons, if the player starts with the kusarigama and collects secret powerups hidden in some levels. The player can also obtain shurikens and hand grenades as well, both which can only be used as long the player's supply lasts before the player reverts to using the katana or kusarigama. All four weapons are obtained by destroying item boxes scattered throughout each stage, along with vitality potions.
The game consists of five levels with 16 stages, with the first four levels being divided into three stages and the final level into two. The player will fight numerous types of enemy characters throughout each level, including bosses and sub-bosses. Once a boss has been defeated it will explode, this explosion will heal players the closer they are from it, since actually the same amount of health from one level will be carried to the next one until either recovered with potions or by dying. The game ends if the player loses all of their vitality and only five chances are provided to continue. If two players are playing the game, their continues will be shared.
Set in the year 2029, the evil dictator Emperor Garuda has taken over the United States of America, building a stronghold in the middle of the nation's "largest city". To stop Garuda and avenge the innocent lives that were lost in his reign, two ninja masters from the Iga clan, Lord Hayate and Lady Kaede, are sent to infiltrate Garuda's impregnable stronghold and assassinate him.
Development and release
Natsume began development of a Game Boy version of Shadow of the Ninja following the original NES release. However, the publishing rights of the game were picked up by Tecmo and the title was subsequently revised as a Ninja Gaiden spinoff titled Ninja Gaiden Shadow, also developed by the Nagoya division of Natsume. The game was also retitled in Europe as Blue Shadow.
GamePro ran a contest in 1991, awarding 10 readers with a free copy of the game. The magazine stated the 10 giveaway copies were an exclusive edition of the game, which had a password feature not included in any of the retail versions of the game, though nobody has yet confirmed to own such a copy.
Electronic Gaming Monthly hailed the game's "superb graphics and sound" and GamePro called it "an above average ninja fare with top of the line graphics and fast-paced gameplay" and "a top flight, fast-paced action cart". Nintendo Power featured the game in the article "Weird Heroes" for allegedly having "a first" male-and-female team in video game history.
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- GamePro Video Game Greatest Hits June-July 1991, pages 24-25
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- "Game Boy Special Feature: Coming Soon". Nintendo Power (Volume 28): p. 67. September 1991.
Another (Game Boy title) to look for is Shadow of the Ninja, a Game Boy adaptation of the NES ninja thriller.
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- Club Nintendo Vol4 Issue 1, page 12
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- Nintendo Power 18, page 90