Hey ho! Did you know that the PC Engine had some pretty good NES ports? I have already mentioned the Double Dragon II port, the Nintendo World Cup port and the River City Ransom port briefly in the Top 10 Turbografx16/PC Engine co-op games list but there is more! Ninja Gaiden also got ported and it caught my attention for its updated graphics and more balanced difficulty. I have never been a big Ninja Gaiden fan and always felt the game was difficult in an unfair way so this prompted me to go play both games and provide the world with what can be expected of the PC Engine port vs. the NES original.
This article will assume that you know the basic premise of Ninja Gaiden.
The first thing you will notice is the updated graphics, they look pretty good. The backgrounds are updated extremely well and they give the game a totally different look. Sprites are also updated and look nice. Cut scene graphics are also updated. This might sound a little harsh but when i tried the NES version again i felt like throwing up. Especially in the jungle themed stage 4 which i never knew was jungle themed until i played the PC Engine version because the backgrounds for that stage in the NES version is just an incoherent mess. Apart from some weird and choppy background scrolling, the PC Engine version will give you a totally new, fresh perspective on Ninja Gaiden. Some of the screenshots below are a bit dark on the PC Engine but that is not always the case.
As for balance in difficulty, the stage layout is same essentially. There are minor tweaks like a missing hole in stage 5-3 in the PCE version and some other stuff I might have missed but in any case it does not matter much. The difficulty balance comes in the form of tweaked enemy placements and more forgiving enemy repawns. On the other hand the game fixes a bunch of glitches where enemies and projectiles just disappear when they go off screen. Now normally this would be a good thing, and i guess it is but it makes the tactic everyone uses against the second final boss useless. Stage 6-2 is generally easier on the PC Engine version if you do not count the glitch in the NES version where the skeleton in the impossible jump disappears like in the video below.
So yeah… The game is a little less annoying and easier than the NES version apart from some bug fixing and as a result but i feel the final boss and stage 6-2 in the PC Engine version are more troublesome which can break your brain cause if you lose just once against one of the final boss forms you are thrown back to stage 6-1.
Probably because of some licensing issues the music for the PCE version was almost completely changed. The new tunes are not bad, some of them even sound pretty great and i think they hold up to the NES soundtrack. The sound is of course of much higher quality and gives the game a bit of a different feel without changing it drastically. Overall just well done and very enthusiastic for a port.
I’m not going to bore with an explanation of the Ninja Gaiden gameplay. It is just a solid action platformer with insane difficulty as you probably already know. It has a wall jumping mechanic that is innovative but flawed in my opinion. You cannot move once you stick to a wall, so your also option is to jump back. Feels like you are a fly stuck on fly paper and it can get you in a lot of trouble in boss fight and in mid stage. If you want to see good wall jumping mechanics go play the Master System version or Batman NES by Sunsoft, the better game in my opinion as can be seen in my full review of the game on this site.
Core gameplay and controls are the same in both versions so nothing to worry about there.
PC Engine version longplay:
NES original longplay:
Ninja Ryukenden was only released in Japan but the game can be played in English with a code (hold I + II and press select) making it all the more inexcusable that the game never made it to the US.
In the end i feel that the PC Engine is the better experience up until the second of the final three bosses, i just wasn’t able to clear him and i kept getting knocked back to the beginning of the stage. In the NES version i was able to make his shots go off screen giving me a chance to hit him but apparently that was a glitch that go fixed in the PCE port. So even though the PCE port was easier and more fun to go through, ultimately i could only clear the NES version. Maybe I am just a big loser giving up on the PCE version but that’s how it went down.
The PCE version looks a lot better and the music is different but good. The NES tunes are more nostalgic i guess but don’t let it fool you into automatically dislike the PCE ost.
If i were to replay Ninja Gaiden i would definitely go with the PCE version because playing the game through is more fun (even though i can’t clear the game) and it looks a lot better than the NES original despite the choppy scrollinf. This might be unfair to the NES version since that is the original version and for its time and year of release it might have been the more impressive game but for gaming in 2017, if you are going for Ninja Gaiden, go for the PC Engine version.
PCE Version NES Version
Gameplay 7,5 Gameplay 7
Visuals 8 Visuals 7
Music 7 vs. Music 7,5
Lasting appeal 7,5 Lasting appeal 7,5
Is it fun? 7,5 Is it fun? 7
Overall 7,5 a very good game Overall 7 a good game
Winner: PCE version!
There is also a SNES version that plays pretty much the same as the original. Then there is a Master System version but that is a totally different game. Check ’em out if you are interested!
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