Ninja Spirit by Irem for the TurboGrafx-16, released in the arcade in 1988 and a year later to the console.
Ninja Spirit was an early TG-16 title, part of a very aggressive campaign to show the world what the next-generation systems were capable of. Another ninja platformer, of course, but this one was so well put-together and so fluidly executed, that it was hard to defend against their argument.
Very clearly designed to take on the likes of Sega's Revenge of Shinobi and Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden series, this game pulled no punches in its hardcore presentation and slick play control. The game wasn't perfect, but the aesthetic was spot-on and the powerful feeling you got from hacking, jumping, and slashing was unlike anything else available at the time. Ninja Spirit was a keeper.
The game deviated from it's rivals with a limited amount of powerups, small characters, and Feudal presentation (the other games tended to bleed more towards the sci-fi/fantastic). Ninja Spirit was by no means realistic, but it's world was a lot more "sepia-toned" and moody than its rivals.
The game scored quite well with critics and was a favorite for most players who got their hands on it - unfortunately, it came and went with little marketing fanfare (on an unsuccessful console, to boot) and the franchise was never given more of a chance to be flushed out. True to its source material, Ninja Spirit attacked stealthily and skillfully, leaving a dramatic impression but retreating silently into the night, no trace left behind.
The game is still challenging and remarkable to behold. It may be a shame that it has been lost to history, but that doesn't mean the game can't hold up to the best of today's side-scrolling action fare. Give this game a second look, you won't regret it!