Ninja Gaiden Wiki
Ninja Gaiden Wiki
Ninja Gaiden
421px-Ninja Gaiden (NES)
North American boxart, NES version
Developer Tecmo
Publisher Tecmo
Designer Shuichi Sakurazaki
Platform Nintendo Entertainment System, TurboGrafx-16, Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Wii Virtual Console, Mobile phones, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console
Release date Famicom/NES
JP December 9, 1988
NA March, 1989
PAL August 15, 1991
PC Engine
JP January 24, 1992
Cell Phone
NA Jun 28, 2004
Wii Virtual Console
NES version
JP April 10, 2007
NA May 14, 2007
EU September 21, 2007
PC Engine version
JP April 21, 2009
3DS Virtual Console
JP August 29, 2012
NA December 13, 2012
EU November 15, 2012
Wii U Virtual Console
NA February 6, 2014
Genre Platform game / Beat 'em up
Mode Single player
Media Cartridge
Input methods Control pad, Cell Phone Keys

Ninja Gaiden, known as Shadow Warriors in Europe and Ninja Ryukenden in Japan, is a platformer game for the Nintendo Entertainment System developed by Tecmo. Originally released in Japan towards the end of 1988, it was the first in a popular trilogy of Ninja Gaiden titles for the NES featuring the adventures of Ryu Hayabusa. This game is currently available for download for 500 Wii Points on the Wii's Virtual Console in North America. For Europe, Australia and New Zealand the game costs 600 Wii Points as part of its 'Hanabi Festival', where people can buy games not released in Europe for a higher price, despite the fact that Ninja Gaiden was released in Europe on the NES.

The game is renowned for its innovative use of cinematic cutscenes. It represents one of the first NES games to feature a full, movie-like story. The game's success spawned two sequels and several ports to other video game systems.


Ninja Gaiden chronology
Ninja Gaiden
Ninja Gaiden Shadow
Ninja Gaiden (Black/Σ/Σ+)
Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword
Ninja Gaiden II (Σ2/Σ2+)
Ninja Gaiden 3 (Razor's Edge)
Ninja Gaiden X
Ninja Gaiden Episode I
Ninja Gaiden Episode III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
Ninja Gaiden Episode II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
Ninja Ryukenden
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

In 1988, Ryu Hayabusa of the Dragon Ninja Clan receives a letter from his father, saying that he was leaving for a duel with an unknown warrior. Should he not return, Ryu was to go to America and seek a man named Walter Smith. Ryu honors his father's last request, and travels to America. While searching for information on Walter Smith, he is approached and shot by a young CIA agent, Irene Lew. Ryu awakens in captivity, apparently having been shot only with tranquilizer. Irene gives him a strange statue of a hideous beast and asks him to escape from his captors with it.

After escaping from the remote location of his capture, Ryu eventually finds Walter Smith, an archaeologist. Smith tells Ryu that he and Ryu's father, Ken, discovered two Demon Statues while on an archaeological expedition in South America. Once they realized that the statues contained great power, they determined that they must protect them. Ryu shows Smith the statue he was given by Irene, and Smith confirms that it is in fact one of the Demon Statues. Ryu's father had the other statue with him.

The two statues, combined with the body of a demon hidden away in a temple, could resurrect the demon and bring calamity and chaos to the world. During the conversation, a masked figure suddenly breaks into the cabin and steals Ryu's demon statue. Ryu gives chase and retrieves the statue. When he returns, he finds that Walter has been mortally wounded and his own statue stolen. A moment later, Ryu is captured by three armed men.

Ryu is taken to an interrogation room, where he is addressed by a man named Foster, the director of the CIA. Foster claims that the CIA was not responsible for Smith's death, and that the CIA has an interest in the Demon Statues. Foster has been monitoring the activity of someone named The Jaquio, who has discovered the ancient Temple of Darkness in South America where the demon is supposedly imprisoned. Jaquio wishes to gain the statues so that he can release the Demon, bringing about the end of the world. Foster enlists Ryu to eliminate The Jaquio, and implies that he will be killed if he refuses to follow orders.

Ryu parachutes into the jungle of Brazil, and makes his way up the mountains towards the Temple of Darkness. He infiltrates the temple and comes face to face with Jaquio. Jaquio, in preparation for Ryu's arrival, has taken Irene captive and threatens to kill her unless Ryu gives him the second statue. Ryu agrees, but after he hands over the statue, Jaquio drops him through a trap door into the bowels of the temple and prepares to make Irene into human sacrifice.

Ryu battles his way back through the Temple of Darkness, encountering all manner of creatures and evil henchment along the way. On top of the East Tower, Ryu is confronted by a man in a grotesque helmet. The man identifies himself as Malth and claims that he is the one who defeated Ryu's father. Ryu and Malth battle, and after Ryu defeats him, Malth reveals that Ryu's father is still alive. He tells Ryu that if he continues through the temple, he will see his father, but it is the last thing he will ever see.

Ryu fights his way to the throne room of the Temple and confronts Jaquio again. Jaquio reveals that he has used evil magic from the demon to transform Ken into a mindless beast known as the Masked Devil. Desperate to save his father, Ryu realizes that a device on the temple wall is controlling him. He destroys the device and Ken reverts to his former self. Jaquio attempts to kill Ryu with an energy bolt from his hand, but Ken throws himself in front of Ryu and takes the full force of the blast. Enraged, Ryu attacks and defeats Jaquio. Cradling his dying father in his arms, Ryu is called to action once more when a solar eclipse signals the merging of the two statues and the awakening of the demon. Ryu is able to defeat the Demon after an epic battle. The Temple begins to collapse, and Ryu and Irene escape. As they watch the giant structure crumble to dust, Irene receives a communication from Foster, instructing her to kill Ryu and steal the demon statues. Ryu overhears this and vows revenge against Foster, saying that he'll consider Irene's affections to be payment for his ordeal. Ryu and Irene watch as the sun rises over the sea.

Ryu's Enemies[]

The Malice Four[]

See Also: List of Ninja Gaiden characters

Jaquio's lieutenants in Ninja Gaiden. Personally chosen by the Jaquio himself, these four villains will do anything and everything to stop Ryu Hayabusa from completing his mission. The Malice Four are as follows:

  • The Barbarian: Known as the Executioner of South America, and feared by the natives, the Barbarian uses the Amazon rainforests of Brazil as his hideout. Although his weapon, according to the instruction manual, claims to be a huge ax, it looks more like a scimitar instead. The easiest of the bosses. Ryu encounters him inside Jay's Bar.
  • Bomberhead: Second-in-command of the Malice Four. A street punk originally from the Bronx, he was abandoned at a young age and quickly fell into a life of crime. Aside from being a member of the Malice Four, he also controls the streets of New York as the Lord of Evil. His main weapon is a sickle attached to a chain. He is found lurking inside Amura's Altar.
  • Basaquer: A master of various Chinese martial arts. Was a member of a Chinese killers' organization called the "Five Ranges of Doom," but was thrown out because of his sadistic methods. However, instead of a liability, the Jaquio sees him as a perfect candidate for the Malice Four. He steals the Shadow Demon Statue from Walter Smith, forcing Ryu to chase after him. Ryu corners him inside Yomi's Cave while in pursuit to recover the stolen statue.
  • Bloody Malth: The boss of the Malice Four, and the only person who bested Ryu's father, Jô Hayabusa, in combat. He is the cursed man of Northern European legend, since he bears the "Iron Mask of Blood" and the "Shield of Death." In the duel against Ryu's father, it is revealed that Malth himself was once a ninja. Once Malth is defeated, he tells Ryu some shocking news before he dies: "Your father is alive." Malth awaits to ambush Ryu at the cliff of the Place of Red Execution. It is possible that his name is actually supposed to be "Bloody Mars" (ma-ru-su could conceivably be interpreted as both "Mars" and "Malth"), a reference to the Roman god of war.

Jaquio and his Servants[]

  • Kelbeross (i.e. Kerberos) - Once Jaquio's pet dog, Kerberos was given up as a sacrifice to the evil spirits the Jaquio had pledged his life to. As a result, the soul of Kerberos returns and takes the form of a pair of creatures, continuing to be a loyal servant, protecting Jaquio. The name is likely a Japanese transliteration of the demonic guard dog Cerberus of Greco-Roman mythology.
  • The Masked Devil - Ryu's father, under Jaquio's mind control. The Masked Devil was being controlled via a crystal on the wall of the throne room, which Ryu promptly shattered, freeing his father from the grip of the Jaquio.
  • Guardia de Mieux, a.k.a. The Jaquio - The self-proclaimed "evil demon king", he is the almighty evil, determined to take over the world by utilizing the power of a long-sealed God. He believes in the legends that surround the evil temple ruins deep in the Amazon. He has taken over the temple to build an empire of evil, and utilize its spiritual powers. However, there may be more to his plans than meets the eye...
  • The Demon (Jashin) - The ancient God of Destruction sealed away centuries ago by Shinobi, an ancestor of the Dragon Clan. Shinobi managed to seal it in two statues of Light and Shadow, before separating the statues so that the beast could never return. Jaquio, however, plans to free this monster, and gain tremendous power from the energy that will be released when it comes to life.


Tecmo first announced the Famicom version of the game in the January 15, 1988, issue of Family Computer Magazine under the title Ninja Gaiden (which would later be used for the game's American version).[1] The game was released in Japan on December 9, 1988, under its final title Ninja Ryūkenden,[2][3] which roughly translates to Legend of the Dragon Sword. The Laserdisc for the 1990 Ninja Ryūkenden OVA features the alternate English title of Ninja Ryu: The Dragon Sword Story. It was developed and released around the same time as the beat 'em up arcade version of the same name; neither of the games were ports of each other but were parallel projects developed by different teams. According to developer Masato Kato (listed as "Runmaru" in the game's credits), the term "ninja" was gaining popularity in North America, prompting Tecmo to develop a ninja-related game for the NES at the same time the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden was being developed. Hideo Yoshizawa (listed as "Sakurazaki") developed and directed the NES version. Ninja Gaiden was Masato Kato's first full-time project as a video game designer, and he contributed the game's graphics, animations and instruction manual illustrations.

Drawing inspiration from the Mario series, Yoshizawa kept the same title but changed everything else; it became a platform game as opposed to a beat 'em up such as Double Dragon; the gameplay was modeled after Konami's Castlevania, with Ryu being equipped with a katana-like Dragon Sword, shurikens, and ninpo techniques such as fire wheels. In designing the protagonist Ryu Hayabusa, the development team wanted him to be unique from other ninjas. They designed him with a ninja vest to place emphasis on his muscles, and they furnished him with a cowl that arched outward. They originally wanted to equip Ryu with sensors and a helmet with an inside monitor to check his surroundings, but that idea was scrapped. According to Kato, they used specific locations and environments to justify the need for having a ninja for a main character. A further concern, according to Yoshizawa, was to appeal to the gameplay-oriented expectations of Ninja Gaiden's target audience, mainly represented by experienced players who appreciated challenging game design. He recalled that during development, Tecmo adhered to "the philosophy that the user would throw a game away if it wasn't hard enough". As a result, Yoshizawa decided to give the game an overall high level of difficulty.[4]

Yoshizawa placed greater emphasis on the story, unlike the arcade version, and wrote and designed a plot that included over 20 minutes of cinematic cutscenes—the first time an NES game contained such sequences. Yoshizawa stated that the adoption of this presentational style came from his earlier aspiration for a career in commercial filmmaking, which led him to seek an opportunity "to put in a movie somehow". His idea was to reverse the then-prevailing trend wherein the narrative aspects of contemporary NES games were undervalued by consumers with the inclusion of an interesting plot that could engage those players. Tecmo called the cutscene system "Tecmo Theater" where the game reveals the storyline between Acts through the use of animated sequences. They are used at the beginning of each Act to introduce new characters such as Irene Lew, Walter Smith, and the Jaquio. This feature uses techniques such as close-ups, alternate camera angles, differing background music, and sound effects to make the game more enjoyable for players. Unlike earlier titles such as Final Fantasy, the cutscenes consisted of large anime art on the top half of the screen with dialogue on the bottom half. This made the artistic style more reminiscent of other manga titles such as Lupin III and Golgo 13. Dimitri Criona, Tecmo USA's director of sales and marketing, said that console games had an advantage over arcade games in that they allowed the creation of a longer game and the inclusion of cutscenes, which Tecmo trademarked as "cinema screens". He noted console games required a different reward structure than arcade games. The game contains a feature that was originally a glitch but was left in the final game intentionally, according to Masato Kato; having lost to any of the game's last three bosses, the player is sent back to the beginning of the sixth act.

When the game's text was translated from Japanese to English, the game needed to be reprogrammed to accomplish this; different companies handled this process in different ways. Tecmo's Japanese writers wrote rough translations in English and then faxed them to the American division. According to Criona, the American division would "edit it and put it back together, telling the story in a context that an American English speaker would understand. This would go back and forth several times." Moreover, the game's text was stored in picture files instead of raw computer text. Because of the NES's hardware limitations, the English text needed to be very clear and concise to fall within those limitations; many times, different words with the same meaning but with fewer characters had to be used. All symbols and objects were scrutinized by Nintendo of America, who had specific rules on what could be included for North American releases; for instance, any Satanic, Christian, or any other religious, sexual, or drug-related references were not allowed.

Origin and ports[]

Although the NES game, Ninja Gaiden, was the second title to bear the name, there were few similarities to the original arcade game. Ninja Gaiden in the arcade was a two-player co-op beat 'em up, reminiscent of other street fighting games such as Double Dragon. Besides the opening cinematic of a ninja duel and the similar opening urban stages, the NES and arcade games had different gameplay, graphics, and storylines.

Many video games were released bearing the Ninja Gaiden name between 1989 and 1992, including games for the PC, Atari Lynx, Sega Master System, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, and Sega Game Gear. However, the only version that was a direct port of the NES title was the 1992 Japan-only release for the TurboGrafx-16|PC Engine. It featured an alternate English translation and more colorful graphics, as well as various difficulty and gameplay tweaks from the original.



External links[]

Smallwikipedialogo This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Ninja Gaiden (NES). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Ninja Gaiden Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the GNU Free Documentation License.

  1. Template:Cite magazine
  2. Tecmo.
  3. McLaughlin, Rus (2008-01-28). IGN Presents The History of Ninja Gaiden.
  4. Template:Cite magazine