Who cares what the title means? It’s got ‘ninja’ in there, it’ll sell. IAN OSBORNE grabs a katana to find out if it should.

As hack-’em-ups go, Ninja Gaiden could be a lot worse. A horizontally scrolling epic in the Shinobi mould, you jump and hack your way through various stages, leaping over obstacles and blowing away enemies. The graphics are exciting, it runs very quickly, and the animation is near perfect.

Where a lot of Game Gear software of this genre fails is that the sprites are either too big for the screen, or so small they lack detail — not so with Ninja Gaiden, which strikes a very playable medium.

The game features a wide variety of enemies, from moronic thugs that try to run through you, to sneaky bomb-throwing heavies. Others include kamikaze swordsmen falling from the trees, nasty machine gunners, and divers firing harpoons as they leap out of the water!


The further you get, the harder it is, and those power-ups sure come in useful, especially the missile weapons and energy potions. Unfortunately, there are one or two question marks over the gameplay. Every time you die you return to the beginning of the level, even if nearly at the end. This is hellishly annoying. Also, the end-of-level baddies are very easy to kill once you’ve mastered the method of attack. This is especially true for the first, a huge thug with a club. All you have to do is stand in front of him and slash away till he dies.

On the plus side there’s a password system to prevent you from getting bored with the early levels, which is a great idea. The sound is reasonably effective and the between-level screens are well drawn, though there’s no intro sequence.

All in all, Ninja Gaiden is reasonably good, but could have been a whole lot better with a little spit and polish.


I have reservations about playing Game Gear hack-’em-ups: usually both graphics and gameplay are mediocre. Sometimes the sprites are so small you can’t see what the heck they are. Take Rastan Saga, for example; it was awful!

Ninja Gaiden suffers from none of these faults. The action never lets up, furious sword swishing all the way! The animation of the main sprite and baddies is great. I love the way the nlnjas bound out of trees to clonk you one. All graphics are crisp and colourful. The backdrops are adequate, thankfully you don’t lose yourself in them, and there are some nice presentation screens between stages.

The levels are a mite bit easy and the end-of-level baddies don’t take too long to kill. Even so, Ninja Gaiden is a playable game, not the best thing on the Game Gear, but at least it’s addictive.



SF Rating

79% - No intro, but good password system
84% - Well-drawn and animated sprites
72% - Good spot effects, reasonably interesting tune
69% - Marred by lack of mid-level start-up points
71% - Fair learning curve, but you won’t play forever


playable hack-‘em-up that won’t make you commit suicide after buying it

Sega Force magazine
Sega Force - Issue 01

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