Shadow of the Ninja by Natsume, released in 1990 (Japan) and 1991 (Western) for the NES.
Long ago, in the days before they were one of the reigning champs of the Farm Simulation RPG genre, Natsume were a fairly no-nonsense company when it came to releasing incredible action contests for the 8-bit systems. All of their games were dark, gritty, heavily action-oriented, challenging. Never particularly original, but always with wonderful execution.
Shadow of the Ninja was an early effort which obviously borrowed from more well-established properties such as Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden. Maybe not with as much credibility or character, Shadow was hardly a bad knock-off with different enough mechanics to hold its own.
This game pushed things by giving you an aggravating (though not unsurmountable) difficulty weapons, a choice of two characters (one stronger, the other faster), different weapons, the ability to cling to surfaces, and oh yes - 2-Player simultaneous play, which was actually a rare thing in those extremely sprite-display limited days.
Strangely, Shadow never got a lot of support (it might have showed up too late, the game might have been a bit too drab and gritty for it's own good, or maybe it just hit when a wave fo software was already drowing it out). For me, I always thought the boxart was a little amateurish compared to the contemporaries, and I don't deny that such superficialities can go a long way in affecting the fickle customer.
Whatever the case, Shadow of the Ninja is a fine effort from a young dedicated publisher, a classy game which is still fun and challenging today. It looks quite dated when held up against some of the 16-bit offerings also available at the time of its release, but it's a nice solid action-platformer which is worth any retro fan's attention.
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