Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Great NES Game You Probably Never Played: Shadow of the Ninja

UPDATE 2: Shadow of the Ninja just arrived via the USPS. Works fine and is just as awesome as I remember. I will keep you up-to-date on my progress.
UPDATE: I won Shadow of the Ninja off eBay...so the battle of wits has begun.

It was a cold Saturday morning in 1990. I was working as a phone counselor for FCI and studying my little driver's manual since I was three weeks away from taking my driver's test (which I passed...<kool aid voice>oh yeah</kool aid voice>).  Ed Semrad of the EGM fame was the only other person to come into the office that day and walked down and asked me to give a new NES game that came in overnight a try before I left for the day.

Since the Genesis and TurboGrafx were the big systems to play at the time, I rolled my eyes at the thought of playing an NES game.  But, I took Natsume's Shadow of the Ninja and popped it into the NES and was taken aback.  I was actually playing an 8-bit game in the 16-bit era (while given, in its infancy but still) that was pretty damn good. 

The two things that I noticed right away: it was like Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania had a little too much drinkie, drink and spawned a Shadow of the Ninja love child; and it was freakishly difficult.  That being said, the game itself was fun as hell to play and showed some of the best graphic, playability, and sound capabilities the NES had to offer.  I mentioned to Semrad my thoughts about Ninja Gaiden and Castlevania getting it on and he said he had heard that there were a few ex-Konami workers now working for Nasume.  If that was true or not, I have no idea - just passing on what the man told me.  But, back to the game, I thoroughly enjoyed it but had to admit, I didn't get too far (did I mention the game was freakishly hard for one-player) until the following week when I was able to play with a coworker in two-player mode.  It was at that time that I was able to get a good portion of the way through it but never completed.

Fast forward twenty years and I am sitting at my desk in my office coding a Web application, listening to last night's 'Daily Show', and for some unfathomable reason Shadow of the Ninja popped into my head.  I thought back and realized that I never went back to complete it.  Let's be honest, the Genesis, TurboGrafx and Super Nintendo took precedence over an old, while good, NES game.  I thought of how good the game was and wondered about its reception when it was released nearly a year later.  By the time of its release, I had left FCI and was worried more about being a high school junior than about the eventual future of this Natsume product. 

I did a little Web searching and didn't see much about it.  I found a few reviews that went either way, GameTrailers did a nice Video Game Vault about it, and that was about it.  It seemed to fall between the cracks since most hardcore gamers would have moved onto the 16-bit consoles and it was too difficult for the casual gamer that stuck with their NES.

Since I had a habit over the last decade to more or less purchase any retrogame I could get my hands on, when I went home for lunch I looked and noticed I didn't have Shadow of the Ninja.  I was bummed.  I was going to make it my conquest this week.  I decided I still needed to take it on so eBay I went and placed a bid on it.  Hopefully it will be mine (and if you read this in the next hour and outbid me, I hate you).  For those gamers who enjoy a tough retrogame that you probably never played, keep your eye out for Shadow of the Ninja.  I think that you will find it a worthy addition to your collection. 

Was this technically a game review or a nostalgic look back at my life?  I have no idea...perhaps an early onset of Alzheimer's.

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