Reviews of yesteryear: Ninja Gaiden

The NES Ninja Gaiden games are known for their high quality and challenging gameplay and the many broken controllers resulting from frustration. They also don’t have very complex stories, so you’d think a fifty minute adaptation would be able to provide a pretty good experience, if only for fans of the series. You would be wrong. 

Let’s start with the story. A scientist supposedly develops a cure for cancer, although this entire piece of information turns out to be completely pointless but I’ll go into more detail about that later. Some reporters hear rumours that he’s been performing unethical human experiments so they break into his house to find out that the rumours are true and the scientist is involved in a plot to revive the evil Gods. Unfortunately they can’t go to the police since the evidence wasn’t legally obtained. To be fair scientists trying to revive the evil Gods could be a good Ninja Gaiden plot. The problem is that the execution is horrible. You’ll notice that the entire cancer cure could’ve been left out without losing a single thing. There’s actually a lot of padding involved in this. Establishing shots drag on and there are several scenes in the beginning that don’t have any impact on the plot whatsoever. There’s also a lot of clunky dialogue that really doesn’t serve a purpose. You might ask, are the action scenes at least good? Well, no they aren’t. Part of the problem is the monsters themselves, I’ll get to that later. There’s also the more serious problem of them being boring. The characters go through the enemies very quickly and they don’t seem to pose any real threat which causes a complete lack of dramatic tension. In the games slicing thorough hordes of enemies works because you know that a slight error could result in you dying, and by slight error, I mean standing slightly off of the only safe part of the stage, but in this it’s just boring. 

As for the characters, Ninja Gaiden II has very few important characters. There’s Ryu, Irene, and Robert. This OVA takes place directly after Ninja Gaiden II. All three of these characters are included along with Sara, Jeff and a random girl with glasses. This is another problem. They have too many supporting characters. None of whom are given developed personalities or characters. The worst part is that the story focuses more on the support characters than Ryu, and he’s the bloody protagonist of the games. Aside from the cardboard cutout support characters, let’s look at the characters we actually know from the games. Robert is reduced to the cliche, grumpy, ex-soldier. As for Irene, remember in the NES games when she was actually competent and the only reason she got captured was that the odds were heavily against her? In this she’s a completely incompetent and cliched damsel in distress. She can barely shoot a gun, when she tries to use a sword she fails miserably, and she gets captured by two guys without even struggling. It’s really a disservice to her character since she was a CIA agent in the second game. Where did all her skills go? Ryu isn’t even done well. What little we get of his character makes him look like a melodramatic moron. 

Let’s move into the art. It’s bad, even for 1991. The backgrounds are just lazy. When they’re actually present they’re done as simplistically as possible. There are a lot of cases of characters going cross-eyed for no reason. As for the monsters, I told you I’d get to this, they look ridiculous. Any dramatic tension that the battles might have had vanishes when you see the monsters. They look like they belong in a children’s fun house rather than a legitimate threat. 

The sound is bland and the voice acting is pretty bad. None of the actors emote very well. This is especially a problem with Ryu and Irene, voiced by Nanba Keiichi and Touma Yumi respectively, since they both get some lines that should be emotional. I honestly blame the Direction since I’ve heard both Nanba Keiichi and Touma Yomi deliver very emotional lines. Zoisite in Sailor Moon and Refill Sage in Tales of Symphonia being two obvious examples. 

There’s no yuri in this. So its yuri factor is a 1/10. It’s just as well. Given the writing it wouldn’t have been any good anyway.

My Final rating for Ninja Gaiden is a 2/10. It’s very bad. The premise could have been good but everything else is just terrible. 

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