2004 – while visiting a friend, he invites me to try this brand new game which he has just brought home. The two of us, handing the controller on and off, manage to fight through a castle full of ninjas and get to the boss, who promptly hands us both a to-go bag full of our pride and ambitions.
2007 – I take advantage of fire-sale prices on Xbox games to buy my own copy of Ninja Gaiden. I fight through a castle full of ninjas and get to the boss, who says “Did you not learn your lesson three years ago?” and sends me to the game over screen without breaking a sweat.
2007 (take two) – I try AGAIN, this time being super-careful to conserve healing items. I get to the first boss with an inventory full of potions and discover that this really just prolongs the inevitable.
At this point, I got rid of Ninja Gaiden and bought Ninja Gaiden Black, at slightly more-than-fire-sale price, because I understand that, if I do poorly enough, it will give me the option of a “ninja dog” difficulty level, tuned for people who are bad at action games.
2015 – I finally put Ninja Gaiden Black into an Xbox, fight through a castle full of ninjas, and – surprisingly – beat the first boss on my first try. Sadly, I discover after the fact that you can no longer activate “ninja dog” mode after clearing the first level, so I’m stuck with Normal difficulty until the end or until I admit defeat.
This post really isn’t about my multiple attempts or my general inadequacy at action games. What actually blew my mind about Ninja Gaiden yesterday was that the game doesn’t ALL take place in castles full of ninjas. In fact, while the second level takes place in a somewhat archaic-looking Japanese village, the third level has you fighting across an airship and the fourth drops you into a very European-looking town, with lots of brick architecture and narrow alleys. It’s more than a little jarring to have my decade-old mental image of the game completely thrown out the window, and it’s put me in the pleasant position of having no idea what sorts of places the game is going to send me but eagerly anticipating the trip.
Well, except I assume there will have to be either a) a swamp level or b) a sewer level or c) both, but I’ll deal with those when I get there.
If I get there.
Did I mention that I’m still pretty bad at action games?