Ninja Gaiden (arcade)

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Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden arcade flyer.png
Sales flyer for the arcade game.
Developer(s) Tecmo
Composer(s) Mikio Saito
Ryuichi Nitta
Series Ninja Gaiden
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Beat 'em up
Mode(s) Two-player, co-op

Ninja Gaiden, later released in Japan as Ninja Ryūkenden (忍者龍剣伝?, lit. "Ninja Dragon Sword Legend") and in Europe as Shadow Warriors, is a 1988 side-scrolling beat-'em-up originally released by Tecmo as a coin-operated arcade video game.[2] It was first released in North America, and Europe in 1988 and in Japan in 1989.[3] The Ninja Gaiden arcade game was produced and released almost simultaneously with its home console counterpart for the NES, although they are different games with only a few similarities.[4] The designer of the game is only credited as "Strong Shima", but Masato Kato, who worked on the NES Ninja Gaiden, identified him as one Mr. Iijima.[5]

Home versions of the Ninja Gaiden arcade game were released in Europe under the Shadow Warriors title in 1990 by Ocean Software for five different computer platforms (Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and Amstrad CPC) and in North America for IBM PC by Hi-Tech Expressions. An Atari Lynx version was also released. The arcade version of Ninja Gaiden is also included as a hidden bonus game in Ninja Gaiden Black for the Xbox in 2005.[6] The arcade game was published as a Virtual Console game for the Wii in 2009.


The game's first stage. It bears a strong resemblance to the first stage of the NES version.

The arcade version of Ninja Gaiden is a "belt-scrolling" beat-'em-up. The player controls a ninja whose mission to defeat an evil cult led by Bladedamus, a descendant of Nostradamus who seeks to fulfill his end of the world prophecies.[7][8] Upon starting the game, the player is greeted by the phrase "NINJA IN USA". Up to two players can play simultaneously (Player 1 controls the blue-suited ninja, while Player 2 controls an orange-suited ninja).

The controls of the game consists of an eight-way joystick and three action buttons: Grab, Attack, and Jump. The Grab button is located on top of the joystick itself. The player character has five main techniques: The "Triple Blow Combination" is the player's primary attack, performed by pressing the attack button repeatedly while the player is standing on the ground. While jumping towards an adversary, the player can do a "Flying Neck Throw"; throwing an enemy into a background object (such as trash cans, phone booths, or signs) will cause different power-ups to appear, such as health restoring pills or a sword that can be wielded for a limited time. While standing near overhead signs or bars, the player can hang unto them by pressing the Grab button and perform a "Hang Kick". While overhanging on a bar, the player can also move by performing a "Tightrope Walk". The last of the five techniques is the "Phoenix Backflip", in which the player runs towards the wall and performs a backflip.

The game features a morbid continue screen, where the player character is tied to a table thrashing his head violently while a giant circular saw is being lowered towards him and what appears to be a crowd of enemies is watching in excitement in the background. If the player does not continue within the 10 second countdown, the screen fades to red, the ninja cries out in agony, and the words "GAME OVER" appears followed by dramatic music.

The first five rounds (stages) are based on actual American cities and places such as Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Las Vegas, North Carolina, the Grand Canyon, and a transcontinental railroad. The sixth and final stage set inside the main villain's hideout. The recurring bosses includes a sumo wrestler; a pair of wrestlers resembling the tag team The Road Warriors; and a trio of claw-wielding acrobats. The final boss is Bladedamus, who wields two swords. Among other accolades of the game it is remembered as an extremely difficult arcade game.

Version differences[edit]

Regional differences[edit]

Ninja Ryukenden, being the later version of the game, has the following differences from the other versions:

  • The Ninja Ryukenden version has a copyright date of 1989 instead of 1988, suggesting it was a later release. The Famicom version of Ninja Ryukenden was already released when the arcade game was distributed in Japan.[8]
  • The background music for Stage 4 was replaced.
  • The enemy characters cause normal damage during the final stage, unlike the U.S. version, where at the last stage the standard enemies and the bosses just need to hit the player once to take off one or two life squares, and the last boss can kill the player's character with just one attack.
  • A digitized voice shouts the game's title on the "stage clear" screen.

Virtual Console[edit]

This game has been ported to the Wii as a downloadable Virtual Console Arcade game. However this contains several differences.

  • The boss music in Stages 2 and 5 has been omitted from this version (due to the similarity to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man"), in turn the regular background music will remain playing even after the bosses appear (which would normally prompt the quick music switch)
  • The use of the Star of David in the game's imagery (such as the rug at the end of Stage 4) was edited out.
Preceded by
World Cup Italia '90
UK number-one Spectrum game
October 1990-February 1991
Succeeded by
Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "500th Downloadable Wii Game Makes for a Smashing Holiday Season". Nintendo of America. 21 December 2009. Retrieved 22 December 2009. 
  2. ^ "Ninja Gaiden". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 6 Oct 2013. 
  3. ^ "Ninja Gaiden (Release Data)". GameFAQs. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  4. ^ Hardcore Gaming 101 editorial staff. "Ninja Gaiden at Hardcore Gaming 101 - Interview with Masato "RUNMAL" Kato". Kato: Both (the arcade and NES versions of Ninja Gaiden) where developed side by side on the same floor, at the same time. However, we only shared the same title, while each team developed their game as they pleased. 
  5. ^ "Signature Series: Ninja Gaiden". Retro Gamer (Bournemouth: Imagine Publishing) (92): pp. 78–81. July 2011. ISSN 1742-3155. OCLC 489477015. 
  6. ^ Brightman, James (February 10, 2004). "Ninja Gaiden Extras Confirmed...Again". GameDaily. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved 2006-08-23. 
  7. ^ Joe Yamada (February 1989). 紹介 - 忍者龍剣伝. Gamest (in Japanese) (Vol. 29): p. 103. 
  8. ^ a b Satoshi Tajiri (1989-01-06). ぼくたちゲーセン野郎. Family Computer Magazine (in Japanese): 114-115. Retrieved 2015-11-27.