For my second PC Engine review I decided I’ll try something a little different. Ninja Ryukenden may be a game my fellow retro gamers have played before on the NES, but we know it as Ninja Gaiden. Yes that hard and sometimes unfairly difficult Ninja Gaiden. The same game that freaky dude in The Wizard oddly pronounced. Yes the NES version came first back in 1989 so I am pretty familiar with it. I honestly didn’t know it was ported to the PC-E until the other day. Ninja Gaiden is a tough game but back then I had it mastered for the most part. Because I am familiar with the NES version, I decided to compare the two throughout this review complete with some pictures I whipped up! (Warning: there may be more screen shots than usual)
I can’t say if the story is exactly the same on the PC-E. Going by the cutscenes alone I would say yes. They are exactly the same minus the graphics. The story is actually pretty long for such an old game. This was one of the early games that used Anime cutscenes to tell a story. To sum it up without going too far into it: A ninja named Ryu Hayabusa is out to avenge his father’s death. A nice typical 80’s plot but you soon discover there’s much more. As I stated earlier, the graphics are the main difference between the NES and PC-E. Which is better is a matter of opinion. I found in most cases the NES cutscenes look better, but the PC-E version is much better during gameplay.
When I first started playing the PC-E port I was blown away by the colors! So much more colors than the NES version! It feels about the same in terms of physics. I actually stopped to play the NES version as a refresher and a good way to compare. Ninja Rukenden wins hands down in terms of graphics, other than the cutscenes. Well that’s not fair. In other cutscenes I though the PC-E version looked better. The first boss has so much more detail and colors, same with the background! The bar always looked odd to me on the NES but it looks properly proportioned on the PC-E.
Ninja Ryukenden or Gaiden if you prefer is a action platformer for those who are not familiar with the game. The controls are simple: one button attacks while the other is the jump button. You do collect various power ups that you use by pressing up and the attack button at the same time. You can only use a power up if you have enough ninja orbs. I totally just made that up as I’m not sure what they are called. You can keep track of how many you have by looking at the top of the screen. It’s next to your lives. Some power ups you get are: ninja star, a red/orange ninja star that hovers around and a fire ball force field that protects you temporarily.
One of the cool features is the wall jump. It really makes you feel like a ninja! Ryu can jump wall to wall and cling in place. You’ll be doing this a lot throughout the game. Other than bosses, enemies can be killed with just a simple attack but the respawn rate is ridiculous! If you kill an enemy and take even a centimeter back, they will respawn. This can make platforming a nightmare. The bird and bat enemies seem to respawn instantly no matter what. Your best bet is to just keep moving and dodge them. Sometimes if you keep moving the enemies chasing you will disappear. I noticed the PC-E version is a little more forgiving with enemy respawn. The NES version is unforgivable at times and can be nerve racking.
The PC-E version actually drops the ball in the music department which I found to be odd. Going by the few TurboGrafx 16 and PC-E games I’ve played, the sound quality is much better than the NES. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some NES music but I can admit when something is better. It really baffles me that the PC-E version’s music is bad. The hardware is better than the NES and the PC-E port came out in 1992. That’s three years after the NES version! Some of the music is just so nasty sounding like level 4-3. I actually turned the sound off which is super rare for me. The NES is the winner in the sound department for sure.
This game isn’t for everyone! You will die a lot and you will need to do levels over and over again to learn enemy patterns. Both versions have infinite continues which is a blessing. If you die you continue on the same level as well. So say you die on 2-2, you’ll respawn on 2-2. But if you die on a boss, it’s back to -3 of that level. As a kid I could actually beat the NES version but now it’s hard for me to get past 5-3.
If I had to choose which version is better, it would honestly be hard to do. I grew up with Ninja Gaiden on the NES and I love the soundtrack. The PC-E port looks way better in the graphics department. Other than that the music is horrible and the levels are almost identical to the NES version. I think I’ll stick with the NES version. I won’t deny that the PC-E port beats the NES in terms of graphics. Hopefully for those who read this will like this new form of review/comparison thing. Let me know what you think in the comments section and I may do this again in the future if there is an NES port. For fun I made up some more comparison pictures so you can decide for yourself which version you think looks better!
- Bright colorful graphics
- Wall jumping makes you feel all ninja like
- Infinite continues
- Frustrating repawn rate
- Music is pretty bad
- Nice looking cutscenes