Now that we've worked our way through 13 episodes of Cyril Reads Ninja Gaiden, I thought it might be fun to take a look at the differences between Ninja Gaiden the book and Ninja Gaiden the game. But before we do that, I have put together a very special video that will help aid us in this comparison guide. This video runs about 24 minutes and features every cinema from the Ninja Gaiden game, along with some helpful notes I've made that will assist us as we dig deeper into the difference between the interactive story and the A.L. Singer story. So, without further ado, let's check out Ninja Gaiden: Book to Game Comparison (Pop-Up Edition)!
As expected there's a lot more back story given to these characters and their plight in the A.L. Singer book. The biggest difference is the flashback story, which takes place over three separate chapters. Yet in the game this flashback is represented by a 30 second clip of the opening cinema (only now in black and white, without audio). In the book these early chapters are some of the best, if only because it features the bumbling idiot Dr. Whimple. Whenever Dr. Randolph Whimple is around things look up, he just has a way of making everything good. But the game doesn't have any of that, instead we see Dr. Smith (Whimple's pseudonym) act like a fool and then get killed.
And that brings up the second big difference between the book and the game. For some odd reason the Ninja Gaiden book refuses to kill anybody. Neither Dr. Whimple nor Ken Hayabusa actually die, instead they are merely hurt and, in the case of Dr. Hayabusa, came back into the picture at a laughably absurd moment. It's as is A.L. Singer didn't want this story to be too depressing, even though the deaths were part of Ryu's drive in the original game. Everything in the book just seems a lot more up-beat, which probably isn't a good thing.
On the other hand, Ryu definitely had to go through a lot more in the book than he did in the actual game. Oh sure, in the game Ryu has to put up with hundreds of regular ninja characters and animals, but in the book he's falling off of mine carts, battling five bosses in a row, just barely fitting through holes in the wall, battling cars, getting kicked off of a college campus and getting in fights at a bar. While it's true that the bar fight is actually in the game, it's also true that there's no context for it in the actual game. Until I read the book I thought the creepy bar guy was part of this elaborate conspiracy to have Ryu get involved with the CIA and do their dirty work. Now I know that he was just some random loser that likes picking on ninjas.
The most jarring difference between the book and the game has to be the character's age. I think it's safe to say that in the game Ryu Hayabusa is NOT a thirteen year old boy. That's not to suggest that he's old, but he's certainly not a young teenager. Yet in the book A.L. Singer decides to turn Ryu into this young child who appears to have a death wish. There's really no reason for this change, since it just seems odd that Ryu's mother would allow her son to go half way around the world killing other people. What's more, the young age also makes the CIA stuff patently ridiculous. And don't even get me started on the girl who shoots him. Who shoots a thirteen year old kid?
And finally, I would like to end this comparison by thanking A.L. Singer for not simply reusing the terrible dialog from the video game. You could make an entire drinking game out of the amount of times Ryu says something like "..."! I mean, how on earth am I supposed to say that on a podcast? Yet in the game he's constantly "saying" that. It's interesting to see the different approaches the writers took, especially when it came to the dialog.
All in all I'm impressed with how similar these two stories are. Sure, A.L. Singer took a few liberties here and there, but for the most part he did it to make for a more compelling book. Now that we've made it all the way through Ninja Gaiden, I'm excited to see the differences between other game books. Come back in July to see how the Bionic Commando book fares against both the new and old Bionic Commando games. Trust me; you won't want to miss it!