Ninja Gaiden for the Master System is not a port of the arcade brawler, nor is it part of the trilogy that appeared on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Instead this Ninja Gaiden is an all new chapter in the on-going adventures of Ryu Hayabusa. Don't let the fact that this is made by Sega and released exclusively on the Master System worry you, this Ninja Gaiden might not be the best game of the bunch, but it can certainly hold its own.
This Ninja Gaiden game plays almost exactly like the NES versions, which is certainly not a bad thing. You run around the environment looking for special items all while making sure not to get killed by the guards, ninjas, and assassins. Ryu is not only good with sword play and special items, he can also hang from just about anything, jump from walls, and crawl through tight passages. He may not have the amazing abilities of his 3D counterpart, but don't count Ryu out in fight.
The story is basic Ninja Gaiden fare; Ryu Hayabusa (the same Ryu Hayabusa that appears in Tecmo's Dead or Alive series) adventures forth to avenge an attack on a nearby city, only to find supernatural ninja forces may be to blame. Although there are cut scenes between levels, the story kind of takes the back seat after awhile. It's not that the plot is bad (it's certainly on par with most of the stories in the 8-bit era), but the excitement of Ninja Gaiden is finding out what the next level is going to be.
Each level is split up into a series of areas making for extremely diverse locales. And not only are the level designs inspired, but they keep getting better as the adventure goes on making it a real joy to continue playing. This is easily one of the best action games you can buy for your Master System, and a Ninja Gaiden title that has been all but forgotten by fans of today's 3D outings.
There's really only one major flaw with this rendition of Ninja Gaiden ... the boss battles suck. I know this is an 8-bit game, but the bosses found in this game are only a couple notches above the regular foes. Most battles can be won just by running up and constantly using your sword, regardless of the fact that you're taking damage. They also seem kind of random, leading to some awfully funny bits in the story. It's kind of a shame that there's not a better payoff for these great levels, but ultimately it's still fun to just get there.
The graphics and sound are good, definitely on par with what we saw from the Tecmo games on the 8-bit NES. In some ways the Master System version feels like a pale imitation of what we saw on Nintendo's system, but there's certainly enough challenge and depth here for just about any gamer to enjoy.
As a huge fan of the NES games it was fun playing a 2D version I had never seen before. It has a couple of flaws, but if you're an owner of a Master System then Ninja Gaiden should be in your collection. Not only is this a great action game, but it's a completely original Ninja Gaiden game that is well worth your time.