Blog - Opinion
Written by Jayce Diaz Saturday, February 18 2012 11:33
Ninjas hold a very respectable place within the video game industry. The mysterious lore, the awesome weaponry, and the big demonic foes that typically reside within their universe make ninjas a staple for game design. But for every great shuriken slinger and wall runner, there is a useless shadow stumbler just itching to be forgotten by time.
So I went ahead and gathered a list of 10 awesome video game ninjas, and their not-so-awesome counterparts.
Awesome Ninja: Rikimaru (Tenchu series)
When the Tenchu series first graced the PS1 back in 1998, it helped rekindle the dormant flames of consumer interest in Ninja titles. The great thing about this series was that unlike the majority of its opposition at the time, Tenchu: Stealth Assassins required players to avoid confrontations and instead opt for quick kills and trap settings. This is what made Rikimaru (and his female counterpart Ayane) such an awesome character; He was ruthless, but efficient. He didn't need to be covered in blood to take out an entire village worth of enemies. Much like the beloved Hitman series, it became a game in itself in regards to figuring out how to approach each situation and enemy. The context-sensitive assassinations and intriguing story only confirmed Rikimaru's status even more. The series has since fallen by the wayside, but it would be amazing to see a reboot in the near future.
Awful Ninja: Kurenai (Red Ninja: End of Honor series)
I remember when this game was coming out, and a lot of people I talked to said it was going to completely suck.
They were absolutely right.
I'm not sure how anyone would think this game could have been fun. A blocky ninja chick obsessed with strings and the color red, combined with terrible graphics and awful controls result in a such a convoluted mess that the only reason no one saw it as a disappointment was because nobody had any expectations for it in the first place. Kurenai was the main protagonist who tried her hardest not to be a ninja, and seemed to revel in reminding the players that she had a vagina. We get it, you're "seductive" and want to kill us. Bleh bleh bleh.
Awesome Ninja: Strider Hiryu (Strider series)
Back before Capcom started trolling Megaman fans, they were plenty busy not giving a shit about Strider Hiryu. Main protagonist of the classic side-scrolling Strider games of generations past, the series was given a nod in the popular "[blank] VS [blank]" crossover series before getting a full-blown sequel on the PS1 back in 1999. Named Strider 2, the game completely ignored the sequel that already existed (Strider Returns, which was only released in the west), and took place 2,000 years after the original. What makes Strider Hiryu kick so much ass is that despite the twenty centruries spanning the two games, it's still the same Strider, and he beats the mess out of the same antagonist. Imagine that? You get bested by some jerk, then find a way to try it again literally thousands of years later, only to have the same jerk inexplicably knock you down again. Strider's love of technology and mechanical companions help him stand out from the rest, and his games are still enjoyable. Here's hoping for a Strider 3, though I'm betting Capcom would rather put out another money drain like Lost Planet or something.
Awful Ninja: Shiva (Streets of Rage series)
I friggin' hate this guy. He and his stupid-ass crescent kicks can fall into the same pit that Streets of Rage 3's plot did and die. Shiva was the errand boy of series baddie Mr. X, until his second defeat in SOR2. Then he was a recurring bad guy in SOR3, but by that point most gamers had stopped playing because Max and Adam still weren't playable. Shiva was cheap and soaked up precious player lives before Mr. X cleaned house with his machine gun. Stupid crime syndicate ninjas.
Awesome Ninja: Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden / Dead or Alive series)
If Tenchu's Rikimaru can be compared to an efficient electric car, than Ninja Gaiden's Ryu Hayabusa is his fuel-consuming monster truck counterpart. As frustrating as the NG series can be at times, it really is exhilarating to slash through countless enemies and spread their bloody entrails about.
What the hell did I just type? I need to go to therapy.
Hayabusa is also a mainstay in the Dead or Alive series, which is a counter-heavy fighting game that is arguably more known for it's female "jiggle physics" than it is for it's fighting prowess. Still, the game is visually beautiful and addicting once you get the mechanics down.
Awful Ninja: Ken Ogawa (Ninja Blade series)
I totally get that Ninja Gaiden's difficulty can keep some gamers from wanting to finish it (myself included), so the idea of a strikingly similar title that is actually playable sounds great, right? And it turns out, Ninja Blade is actually not a bad game at all. However, Ken Ogawa has to be the most unintentionally goofy ninja ever made. When he isn't awkward, he's boring. When he isn't boring, he's completely uninteresting. If it wasn't for the passable, albeit slower paced hack 'n' slash gameplay, this game would be completely forgettable.
Awesome Ninja: Joe Musashi/Hotsuma (Shinobi series)
Shinobi is a series that, despite being a classic game, isn't looked at with the same rose-tinted glasses that other "old-school" games seem to have. I know quite a few people who refer to the original game as, "shit". However, that's more because of the difficulty than anything else.
But even they can't deny the appeal of Joe Musashi and his epic tale of kidnapped students or whatever. The series continued on with numerous sequels before taking a break that would last more than half a decade. The series re-emerged in 2002, entering the realm of 3D and bringing with it a new hero by the name of Hotsuma. While the series still retained some frustrating elements, it was overall a little easier to get into and was mostly well-received. While Hotsuma wasn't a stealth killer like Rikimaru or a bloodloving pretty boy like Hayabusa, he wasn't nearly as boring as his replacement...
Awful Ninja: Hibana (Nightshade/ Kunoichi series)
So with the Shinobi series having a successful return, SEGA did the most logical thing; It created a spinoff series with a different name and then forgot about the whole thing. Enter femme fatale Hibana, and her game Nightshade (known as Kunoichi in Japan, which is a title on par with Shinobi, but for women). Nightshade played almost exactly like Shinobi, but was somehow more frustrating and unimaginitive. Hibana just wasn't anything special, and neither was Nightshade.
Awesome Ninja: Taki (Soul Blade / Soul Calibur series)
When it came to 3D fighting games, you couldn't find a more badass female character than Taki. She was fast, deadly, and her skin-tight suit had individual breast slots which came in handy for the sequels and her inevitable implants. However, she was soon out-tittied by Soul Calibur bombshell Ivy, and even managed to miss out on the latest iteration of the game. But even when her assets were at their most ridiculous, she still kicked a ton of competitor ass. It is, then, quite the shame that she was replaced with Natsu.
Awful Ninja: Natsu (Soul Calibur series)
Look, I'm all for fighting games getting off of their admittedly lazy asses and refreshing their rosters, instead of adding one character and calling it a day. However, clone characters annoy me to no end. Natsu is a near-exact clone of Taki, but also manages to be all cutesy and lame at the same time. I guess when it comes down to it, Natsu isn't exactly an awful ninja, but that's because of her inheritance. That makes her a trust fund baby, and being a trust fund baby just makes her all the more difficult to like.
Awsome Ninja: Raiden (Metal Gear Solid series)
The thing that makes Raiden such a cool ninja is that he was the complete opposite of cool the first time you met him. Raiden, otherwise known as Jack, was Solid Snake's would-be replacement on Metal Gear Solid 2. He was this whiny albino soldier who managed to get peed on, groped by the president, and slip in bird poop all in one mission. Oh, and his girlfriend dumped him mid-game as well.
Flash forward to Metal Gear Solid 4, and HOLY CRAP has things changed. Raiden is now a deadly ninja capable of breakdance fighting while cutting up enemies and robots with a sword he holds with his foot. He stops navy ships with his body, and didn't even mind when his... you know what, I'm not going to spoil it for you. Play the game and find out.
His humble beginnings are what make me choose him over the other MGS ninja, Gray Fox. However, I'll be the first to admit that the upcoming Revengance may result in Raiden having his cool ninja license revoked.
Awful Ninja: Hayate/Ein (Dead or Alive series)
Hayate is a ninja who suffered from amnesia for whatever reason. While trying to figure out who he was, he adopted the name Ein, and learned a new fighting style. Then he remembered he was a lame ninja that looked like he belonged on Dawson's Creek, and went back to being Hayate. No one ever picks him, because there are better characters in Dead or Alive, and most of them don't wear fishnet shirts like he does.
Awesome Ninja: Sub Zero (Mortal Kombat series)
Sub Zero is one of the most iconic ninja characters in all of gaming history. His mastery over ice allows him to freeze opponents with touch or even projectile, and he can rip your spinal cord out through your neck. The original Sub-Zero was so tough that when he died at the hands of Scorpion, he simply shrugged it off and returned to life as an evil entity named Noob Saibot. His younger brother took the mantle of Sub Zero afterwards, and proved he was just as awesome by morphing into a polar bear in MK3.
Awful Ninja: Rain (Mortal Kombat series)
Rain was made as a joke. His purple attire and name derive from Prince's smash hit song/movie "Purple Rain". Get it? Back when he first appeared, however, he was actually a decent fighter. His attacks allowed for a few free hits on your opponent, and he seemed to fit in with the rest of the characters despite his humorous origins. We wouldn't see Rain again until Mortal Kombat Armageddon, where he sported a bizarre hairstyle and a veil. His moves sucked, but then again so did that entire game. Rain returned as a DLC character in the recent series reboot, though he still kind of sucked. At least he looked cool.
Awesome Ninja: Scorpion (Mortal Kombat series)
Much like Sub-Zero, Scorpion is a well known figure in gaming culture. He was killed by series baddie Quan Chi, and led to believe that Sub-Zero was actually responsible for it. His spirit returned to the mortal realm as a spectre, vowing unending revenge on the ice master and his kin. He uses a sword, a spearhead attached to a chain, and fire to decimate his foes, and outdoes Sub-zero by having a flaming skull for a head, and by not having a Mythologies game based on him.
Awful Ninja: Kage Maru (Virtua Fighter series)
The Virtua Fighter series has the honor of being the first fully 3D fighting game. It also has the amazing distinction of becoming mostly irrelevant as a household name in an astonishingly short amount of time. Kage Maru was the ninja character who liked to do kamikaze-style diving headbutts on downed opponents, and was as agile as a pile of wood. The "story" of VF would reveal that his mother had been transformed into the series end boss Dural, who is a Silver Surfer-like chrome person. Kage would eventually grow as a fighter, but by then only the tournament fighter crowd would notice.
Awesome Ninja: Ninja (i-Ninja series)
i-Ninja is one of those games that most people never played, but the ones who did love it to this day. The game's main protagonist, a small ninja named... Ninja, is so awesome that he accidentally kills his Sensei (named... Sensei) after rescuing him, and the guy still hangs around and helps him out. The game sold well enough for the developer to begin work on a sequel, though it was scrapped shortly after.
Awful Ninja: Hiro (Mini Ninjas)
So I'll be the first to admit that I'm a big fan of platformers. When Mini-Ninjas came out, I decided I was going to play it based on the fact that I hadn't played one in some time. Hiro, the main playable character in the game, was also the least interesting. He had a few novel mechanics like the ability to use his hat as a water raft, but he lacked any charm or character overall.
Awesome Ninja: Ninja Fu Hiya (Kung Fu Chaos series)
To this day, Kung Fu Chaos is one of my all-time favorite Xbox titles. It was a fun four player arena fighting game themed after stereotypical martial arts films. The locations and levels were typically of the side-scrolling variety, and the stage deaths were just as much of an opponent as the other characters onscreen. Ninja Fu Hiya weilded two small blades, and said ridiculous one-liners at his opponents when they were down. The developers would close up shop soon after and be reborn as Ninja Theory, the team responsible for yet another under-appreciated game called Enslaved.
Awful Ninja: Ninjabread Man (Ninjabread Man series)
I once bought Ninjabread Man for a friend. It wasn't that I didn't know any better; in fact, I knew full well that the game was a mess, and topped the list of unbearable Wii shovelware. I got it as a gag gift, and it even came bundled with some crappy miniature car racing game for like 10 dollars all together. If Ninjabread Man's floaty, unresponsive controls and completely unfitting soundtrack don't drive you crazy, his infant-being-shaken "voice" (his jumping uppercut seriously sounds like an infant dying) will.
My friend actually played Ninjabread Man, though, and I was arrested for manslaughter soon after. Apparently the game makes this happen to people:
FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS PLAY NINJABREAD MAN.