Here we have THE big NES release for Winter 1989: Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden.
Plenty has been made about how the revolutionary cinema scenes in Ninja Gaiden changed video games forever, which of course isn’t quite true; this was by no means the first game to include manga-style animations and illustrations to convey story details. However, the breadth, artistry, and frequency of the interstitial sequences seen here set Ninja Gaiden apart from its predecessors, and this cinematic format would become THE standard for console game narrative animations—and with Ninja Gaiden arriving at the cusp of the CD-ROM revolution, you’d continue to see its fingerprints on the medium for another decade or more.
However, I don’t think people give enough credit to just how well Ninja Gaiden played. Yes, it veers into the unreasonably difficult toward the end, but up until that point, Tecmo concocted a game that combined several influences (Castlevania, Ghosts ’N Goblins, etc.) and tumbled them around into something fresh and new. The emphasis on speed, movement, and maintaining pace here feel very much like the formula Sega would seize upon for Sonic the Hedgehog a couple of years later.
Anyway. It’s a pretty good game, all things considered.