Blast Annual7th July 2020
Published in Blast Annual 2020 Volume 1
Ninja Gaiden: Shadow Warriors
With 10,243 points Ninja Gaiden: Shadow Warriors, ran a close contest coming in second place behind eventual winner Mighty Final Fight, in the 2017, ZX DEV Conversions competition. Shadow Warriors is a direct port of the 1991 Gameboy title of the same name.
Developer: Jerri (Yuri Potapov)
Game developer, Jerri, has programmed no fewer than nine ZX Spectrum games including Gunman (1999), Mine Worker (2010) and the impressive Speccy version of Walker (1996).
Ninja Gaiden: Shadow Warriors is set three years before the original Ninja Gaiden story featured in the 1988 NES title. New York city is under attack by the evil forces of Emperor Garuda. The only hope lies in the knife wielding hands of our infamous hero Ryu Hayabusa.
Upon loading the game you are greeted by an outstanding loading screen showing the main character against the New York City background. The use of colour is excellent for the Spectrum and this sets the tone for a high standard of conversion. The main title screen follows and there is a handy option to redefine the keys or use a joystick.
This is a welcome feature, considering that most people will not be playing this on original hardware and would be more comfortable using 'WASD' or arrow keys. As with many of the old Spectrum games the 'QAOP' keys are set as default and used for movement with space to fire. The playable screen of the game is quite small due to the same resolution being used as the original Gameboy version. At first glance this may seem disappointing but then the action starts and you soon become oblivious.
The rest of the screen is made up of a huge illustration of the antagonist Emperor Garuda on the right (bearing an uncanny resemblance to Shredder from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and the controllable character Ryu Hayabusa on the left of screen with the title of the game below. These are well-drawn and add to the aesthetics of the game.
The music in the game is exciting and matches the action perfectly as you are thrown directly into the action. If you have played any of the Ninja Gaiden series before the controls are immediately familiar. You run from left to right with up as jump, down as crouch and fire to use your sword.
The basic attack is short range so the timing and control of your jumps is vital if you want to avoid losing energy. Your energy bar, lives remaining and magic levels are all displayed at the bottom of the screen. There are several power ups to collect such as magic and additional health which can come in very handy as the game progresses. Each level features a variety of henchmen and machines to dispatch before you meet the end of level bosses. The Boss characters have their own attack patterns which will take some practice to memorise if you aim to beat the game.
The gameplay becomes more challenging and has a good learning curve but never reaches the levels of extreme difficulty that the NES games had. This is not a 'NES Hard' game which may come as a disappointment to you but will be a relief if you are one of us mere gaming mortals. Anyone familiar with this kind of action platformer will finish the game quite quickly and without a great deal of effort.
There are only five levels to beat but each one comes with different music, its own end of level boss and features a cut-scene showing their demise. There are also surprising moments of joy like when you think you are trapped only to discover you have a grappling hook which you can fire at the ceiling and climb up. The highest praise I can give any game is that the controls and design are fair, so if you die, it's your own fault.
Shadow Warriors features tight controls and good level design which makes it a joy to play.
After a few plays you become familiar with the levels and as with any game in this genre you fall into a rhythm and quickly become skilled in landing jumps perfectly and dispatching enemies with ease while feeling like a real 1980s Ninja Badass! The music is excellent throughout and adds to the atmosphere of the game building your adrenaline as you progress.
Although you quickly forget about it, the size of the playable area of the screen is a slight drawback. It's completely understandable why the decision to stick with the Gameboy resolution was made but it is a downside nonetheless.
There are times when the colours clash which could have been avoided. This doesn't hinder the gameplay in any way but is not pleasing to the eye. The game is quite short and skilled players will complete it in a day.
Ninja Gaiden: Shadow Warriors is an excellent addition to the Spectrum Library. It inspires a 'One more go' attitude in the player and you will find yourself revisiting it for a quick play through every now and again.
The game does not push the Spectrum to its limits or offer a great deal more than the original Gameboy title but it is fantastic fun while it lasts. It also comes with the bragging rights that you finished a Ninja Gaiden game!