The TurboGrafx, or PC Engine rather, is capable hardware for the heavy platforming of Ninja Gaiden. Ryu Hayabusa's jaunt through city streets, mountains, and likely haunted interiors mirrors the NES edition, not the beat-em-up arcade game.
Tweaks are inbound though, the soundtrack mostly new with a handful of recognizable themes buried somewhere in the mix. Importantly, despite the change in rhythm, the driving bass line remains to a skilled player, feeling in sync with Ryu's motion. Still, these new tracks are not unappealing simply because of differences; they lack the punch and drive needed to overlap the often infuriatingly difficult stages.
Ninja Gaiden has been toned down slightly in its brutality. Although enemy concoctions and placements are still vicious, power-ups are often more forgiving. No one will likely disagree the game needed an additional pass in play testing for controller safety reasons. This PC Engine import is a lucky recipient.
Despite changes, the game remains ruthless. Ryu carries added fluidity to his motions, yet none to his actions. Climbing still requires clinging to walls and jumping back & forth to scale. The ability to climb wasn't discovered until Ninja Gaiden II, leaving the original as a physical relic. Ninja Gaiden has strict rules though, methods the player must work around to succeed. Despite an outward appearance that says otherwise to the unprepared, level design is carefully calculated to take advantage of the swift movements. That's what makes a perfect level run such a thrill.
Ryu stands up against the routine unruly bunch, from street thugs to what appear to be monks in tattered rags. His pain tolerance is spectacular too, withstanding machine gun fire from military types without losing a step. How birds hurt him then is anyone's guess. Collision is a little less forgiving on the stock, forward slash on the PC Engine. You can tell via the first boss whose plodding motions made him easy prey on the NES. Without the slight edge on the sword, he can (and will) walk into Ryu unless the battle is played with a hint of care.
Part of the collision concern falls on the small sprites. Despite given a colorful edge and shred of shading to spruce them up, resolution is too low for the bulk of the improvements to pop out. A bizarre, choppy parallax scrolling background may be new too, but it is also a distracting hindrance. Imagine a stunted stop motion city panning in the back during the first stage. A loss of motion is created in the process.
Perfectly playable in the US with a HU Card adapter, Ninja Gaiden's loss in the States is narrative. That is told entirely in Japanese. The only English in the game says, “Press Start.” While mandatory for its day, the actual story structure – in retrospect – is a confusing dud at times, so the actual impact on the material is negligible anyway. Skipping them means missing increased image definition and nothing else.
Now set aside for the hardcore who are willing to spend the money to access the physical card, Ninja Gaiden's fluid, responsive legacy is not tarnished in this uniquely structured port. Were it not for the SNES Trilogy, this would stand out as arguably the best edition, tweaks to music and wonky backgrounds notwithstanding.]