1 player, horizontal game
Atari Corp. for the Atari Lynx
Adapted from the arcade game (and not the Nintendo adventure series), NINJA GAIDEN represents the second Tecmo arcade conversion for the Atari Lynx. The storyline is irrelevant; you play a lone ninja, who must defeat all of the assorted criminals and villians in a scrolling city landscape. Your only weapons are your fists, feet, and the occassional sword, while the villians have more weapons and much more numbers.
As the landscape scrolls by, you can walk and jump all over the terrain. Enemies will come from offscreen, and you must fight them to the death. Several attacks are possible, such as swinging from overhanging poles, backwards jumps over walls, and flipping the opposition. Some obstacles along the way can be broken, by throwing someone into it, and will often reveal benefits such as extra health, lives, or a sword. For extra pressure, you must finish each level before an on-screen clock runs down.
The biggest gripe against Tecmo's earlier Lynx title, RYGAR, was that it was a scaled-down version of the arcade original. Sadly, NINJA GAIDEN offers no improvement at all, and some would call its curtailing even worse. Only about half of the different types of villians are present, though there is some variety to their attacks. The game makes up for this deficency by bringing out even more enemies than the arcade version did. The challenge thus comes in simply surviving a swarming attack, rather than reacting to a wide variety of opponents.
NINJA GAIDEN is challenging, though not exceedingly so. You start the game with four lives, and each life can take up to five blows before dying. When you finally die, you may continue the game up to two times with a score of zero. The biggest problem, though, is that the game is too short; only four levels from the arcade original are present, which will not be enough for many action fans.
The highest point of NINJA GAIDEN comes in the game graphics. Though they are only about average for a Lynx game (reminescent of RAMPAGE to a degree), the visuals are almost a direct lift from the arcade version. The smooth animation and distinctive appearances are translated intact. Game sounds are limited to the thuds and crashes of combat, though that is a fault of the original game instead. A background soundtrack adds a little spice to the action.
NINJA GAIDEN is not a bad game; it's just not a good game, either. More sophisticated games have been done before on the Lynx, which makes this all the more depressing. However, it is not a total pushover, which saves it to a degree. For the arcade purist, NINJA GAIDEN is a dissappointment, but for the Lynx player looking for an action game, it's worth a try.
GAMEPLAY: 7 GRAPHICS: 8 SOUND: 7 OVERALL: 7