Ninja Gaiden Shadow (Game Boy) Playthrough – NintendoComplete
A playthrough of Tecmo’s 1991 platformer for the Nintendo Game Boy, Ninja Gaiden Shadow.
Tecmo’s line of ninja action games for the NES was excellent. Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II are both widely regarded as some of the best games of their type for the system, and they deserve to be.
Given their success on the NES, it’s pretty surprising that it took Tecmo well over a year to get a Ninja Gaiden-branded game onto Nintendo’s portable. Even more surprising, at least for me at the time, was that Ninja Gaiden Shadow wasn’t originally a Ninja Gaiden game at all, nor was it even created by Tecmo.
In the early 1990s, developer Natsume was starting to garner some attention with their fantastic NES line-up. They were the creative force behind cult-classics like Shatterhand, SCAT, Abadox, Dragon Fighter, and Shadow of the Ninja.
Instead of developing a Game Boy game themselves, Tecmo secured the rights to Natsume’s handheld adaptation of Shadow of the Ninja. They changed the title, added in a couple of Ninja Gaiden tunes, and lo and behold… Ninja Gaiden Shadow.
Even though the core game is completely unrelated to Ninja Gaiden, it is an excellent representation of Natsume’s NES work. The graphics are sharp, even on the blurry green Game Boy screen, and there is even some impressive parallax scrolling going on. And check out that wavy water effect on the aquariums in the office walls! The soundtrack will be familiar to anyone who has played Shadow of the Ninja or the Ninja Gaiden games, and these GB remixes are excellent – some actually sound better than their originals!
It plays well, too. The controls are smooth and quick-to-respond, and the level designs take into account both the slow refresh rate and the low resolution of the Game Boy’s LCD panel. The play field isn’t overly-crowded, you can always see things far enough ahead for it to feel fair in what it throws at you, and the screen scrolls quickly without the sprites turning into unrecognizable smears.
More developers should’ve have taken a page from Natsume’s playbook here. Ninja Gaiden Shadow is a shining example of how to move a game from the NES to the Game Boy without making it feel compromised. (But I do wonder why is a boss from Shatterhand randomly put in here?)
It might not feel like Ninja Gaiden, but give it a couple minutes and you’ll be enjoying it too much to care. Ninja Gaiden Shadow is one of those rare platformers that got everything right. Gaming Rewind: Play Gunstar Heroes Online. A Blast from the Past! Take a trip down memory lane and play seven force online. Rediscover the thrill of cooperative gameplay and intense battles.
If you’d like to see Shadow of the Ninja, you can find my playthrough of it here:
And though it’s not technically a sequel, there was a related game by the name of Return of the Ninja for the Game Boy Color. You can find my video of that one right here:
*Recorded using Retroarch’s DMG shader for that crispy dot-matrix look!
No cheats were used during the recording of this video.
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