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Level 1
Shadow of the Ninja (Level 1)
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on March 31, 2011   |   Episode 16 (Show Archive)  

   

Welcome to Level 1. Every week we look at a random game's very first level. It doesn't matter what kind of game it is or what system it's for -- we're here to dissect the game's first level and see what it tells us about the rest of the game. I promise you an eye-opening experience in each episode! Forget magic potions, guns and a protective suit, the only thing you're going to need to need this week is blood axe. This week we celebrate our final update before the big Defunct Games 10th anniversary! We're taking a look at one of my favorite 8-bit ninja games, Natsume's Shadow of the Ninja. Find out what makes this ninja so special when you tune into another episode of Level 1!

Shadow of the Ninja (Natsume)
[ Release: 1990 - Console: Nintendo Entertainment System ]
Shadow of the Ninja (Nintendo Entertainment System)
Shadow of the Ninja (Nintendo Entertainment System)
Shadow of the Ninja isn't here to tell a long-winded story. It's not here to make you cry. This 8-bit game just wants to be the most exciting ninja game on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Forget Ninja Gaiden, this Natsume classic is the game to get when all you want is balls-to-the-wall action.

Although Natsume never published a sequel, the game did have a second life of sorts. A year after its U.S. release, Shadow of the Ninja was remade into a Game Boy game. Even stranger, the game was published by Tecmo under the name Ninja Gaiden Shadow. For the sake of this article we're going to look at the NES original, a full color 8-bit masterpiece. I think you'll see what I'm talking about when I push the start button ...

Stage 1-1 - Shipping Tanker: My name is Hayate and I live in the shadows. You have never seen me and never will, because I am a ninja. The last thing you'll know is that somebody stabbed you from behind. That person was me. I snuck up behind you and killed you. It's
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-1: Shipping Tanker!
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-1: Shipping Tanker!
what I do. I'm a ninja. My platonic female friend, Kaede, and I live away from the rest of the humans, just waiting for evil to rear its ugly head. I don't think I'm going to be waiting long.

The year is 2029 and my world is about to be rocked. I see a meteor fall from the sky, sending the entire city into a panic. Kaede and I brace for the worst, ready to defeat whoever is responsible for this madness. We're not afraid to go into space
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-1: Shipping Tanker!
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-1: Shipping Tanker!
and silently kill asteroids if we need to (but secretly we hope we don't have to do that). Before we can scrape up the cash to head into space, a huge figure appears over the city. At first I think that it's God, but Kaede reminds me that we turned our backs on the Mormon faith when going through ninja training.

Thankfully the large figure identifies himself, sparing us an enormous philosophical discussion. His name is Emperor Garuda and he is here to wipe out civilization as we know it. It
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-1: Shipping Tanker!
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-1: Shipping Tanker!
looks like it's time for us to come out of the shadows and kick some space bully ass! Don't worry America; this is the kind of job we've been trained for. We're ninjas!

As I step out of the shadows I find myself on a large shipping tanker in the middle of the Hudson. Emperor Garuda chose a stormy day to launch his attack on New York City, but I'm used to it by now. The guard over there doesn't see me, so I have a few seconds to plan my action. I could go in and explain what I'm doing here. I might even be able to explain that there's this giant guy in the sky who is trying to destroy life as we know it. But I guarantee that he's not going to believe that I'm Earth's best chance of fighting back. Nah, I'm going to just kill him. Oh, and the guard over there and the one on the second story. Actually, now that I've started I might as well kill everybody on this boat.

The Sub-Boss: Boat Security Chief: So far I've managed to kill every single guard, from the left side to the right. I didn't want to have to do it, but the Emperor Garuda left me no choice. Apparently I need to get past this boat in order to take go head to head with the big guy. It makes no sense to me, but
Shadow of the Ninja - Sub-Boss: Boat Security Chief!
Shadow of the Ninja - Sub-Boss: Boat Security Chief!
I'm just a ninja who lives in the shadows with his completely platonic girlfriend. Speaking of which, where is that doll? Oh, probably at home getting things ready for end times. She's a peach.

I'm shaken out of my daydream by a gigantic figure. It's the ship's security chief, a real tough son of a gun. He approaches me with his orange jump suit and trucker hat. For a split second I wonder if that kind of hat is still named after truckers when you're working
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-2: Harbor!
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-2: Harbor!
on a boat, but I'll have to save that debate for another day. Right now I need to sidestep my way to safety. He rushes me, accusing me of being a murderer. If he only knew. I dodge his advances, but I can't keep doing this all day. I come down on the top of his head with the weight of a million meteors! What, too soon?

Stage 1-2 - Harbor: My ninja senses tell me that I should flee the scene. I jump off the ship and make my way down the harbor. Here I run into a new batch of enemies, women with whips. I don't engage
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-2: Harbor!
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-2: Harbor!
right away, instead I sit back and ponder what kind of harbor would need scantily clad women proficient in whips. What kind of crime would require that response? I decide to simply jump over this new batch of enemies. It's not that I fear the women below; I just have better things to do.

I make my way over the boxes, running past the turret guns and pushy guards. There's gunfire everywhere and I'm not sure why. I'm not their enemy; I'm the one that is going to
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-3: Harbor Factory!
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-3: Harbor Factory!
save them. I didn't do anything wrong, I'm just misunderstood. Okay, I'll admit, killing everything on that boat was probably a bad move, but I had to do something. I'm a ninja and I live in the shadows. What part of that do these guards not understand?

Stage 1-3 - Harbor Factory: Usually I would hide in the shadows, but in this case leap into the harbor factory. I'm not sure what all of these industrial machines are doing, but they're loud and should give me great cover. At least, that was the plan. Before I could hide a guard with a giant gun started shooting at me. This was no ordinary gun, it was a
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-3: Harbor Factory!
Shadow of the Ninja - Stage 1-3: Harbor Factory!
bazooka. Suddenly I knew that I was going to need to catch my breath somewhere else.

I dodge the heavy fire and roll past the guard. In front of me are rotating platforms. They don't look stable enough for my body, but I don't have much of a choice. Reinforcements are rushing to my location, forcing me to take the risky jump. Success! Unfortunately I have another half dozen platforms to hit if I'm going to make my way out of this factory. Some days it doesn't pay to get out of bed.

The Boss - Cyclops Robot I duck into a small room at the end of the factory. It's moments like this that make me wish I didn't shun technology. This
Shadow of the Ninja - Boss - Cyclops Robot!
Shadow of the Ninja - Boss - Cyclops Robot!
would be a great time to call Kaede for help, but neither of us has owned a phone since we were little kids in Utah. Oh, those were simpler times. Now I'm stuck in a factory with no way out. What more could possibly go wrong?

Talk about famous last words. Even before it exited my mouth, I knew what I said was stupid. And right on cue, the payback for my foolishness. I turn around to discover a giant robot with one very large eye. I run to the other side of
Shadow of the Ninja - Boss - Cyclops Robot!
Shadow of the Ninja - Boss - Cyclops Robot!
the room and strategize. The robot hops around the room and uses three large blowholes to shoot sparks. I would have a fighting chance if only I could get in close. But he keeps me at bay with his spark assault.

Finally I decide to just go for it, rushing the one-eyed monster with everything I had. I kept confusing him by jumping from one side to the other. And then, just when I thought I couldn't fight him anymore, he falls to the ground and explodes. Piece of cake. You're going to need to send something bigger if you
Shadow of the Ninja
Sigh.
want to defeat me! I'm a ninja; I'm trained to take down one-eyed robots. It's in our blood. And don't you forget it.

What Have We Learned Today: I see no reason why we shouldn't take Shadow of the Ninja as complete fact. In eighteen years this world is going to be engulfed in pain and suffering. And don't forget about the meteor and Emperor Garuda stuff. We only
Shadow of the Ninja
We're screwed!
have a few years to prepare, so let's make this count. On a happier note, it's good to see that New York City has managed to rebuild the World Trade Center by 2029. It's about damn time!

What Did We Miss: By stopping at level 1 we were robbed an epic battle between Hayate and Emperor Garuda. On the other hand, we missed the opportunity to fight through the sewers. Plus, we avoided downtown New York City. Any day you can avoid that mess is a good day as far as I'm concerned. Worst of all, we missed the triumphant return of Kaede, our hero's platonic lady friend. It's the stuff songs are written about.

What Emperor Garuda Says: "Attention puny Earth being. I mean you no harm. I am from the future projecting my body onto your cloudless sky. I bring you a warning from the year 2030. There are a couple of crazy ninjas on the loose and you need to do something about it. If you don't stop these maniacs it will be the beginning of the end for the human race. Listen to me! I have sent down this meteor as a warning. Do not ignore this warning; those ninjas are straight up crazy. I now return you to your regularly scheduled advertisement!"
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