A rivalry put to rest.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Last week I beat Ninja Gaiden: Black. I downloaded the game from Xbox Live in a moment of weakness. I know, I vowed never to lay hands on the game again, but after all this time and all that hatred, I felt the game owed me something. It owed me a resolution to all the pain it put me through. Ninja Gaiden was the abusive parent of my gaming youth.

Morbid analogies aside, I really believed I had the stuff to conquer this game once and for all. I spent the 15 bucks or so, waited for the download to trickle onto my console and away I went. I set myself up in a comfortable position and prepared myself for torment.

The first thing I noticed was how familiar everything still felt. The button layout was identical to the original, all the moves were the same, the timing for each move was still exactly as I remembered it. Something told me I was in for more disappointment. I could feel the game laughing at me as it drew me in further, tantalizing me with new weapons.

Some ten odd hours later, the game was finished. I had finally beaten the game that had defined my early college experience. Achievement unlocked "dignity restored"-10GP clicked in my head. The ghost fish that had destroyed my being so long ago could not hinder my progress any longer. After all this time I could finally say I won.

Will I be buying Ninja Gaiden 2 now that I've erased the shame of the previous game? No. God, no. Even though I've put my old demon to rest I have no desire to explore any new entries in the series. Despite the ultimate victory, my progress through the game felt more like a chore than entertainment. This wasn't something I wanted to do, I had to do it. Like raking a yard seemingly devoid of leaves, I learned no greater lesson, I regained no faith in the genre. I am emotionally detached from the joy felt by so many fans of the series. I think with time, this apathy may turn to hate.

I didn't breeze through the game, I struggled the whole way. The problem was that I wasn't struggling in different ways, I was struggling with the same things I had trouble with the last time I played this thing. Those damned undead archers, slowly notching their arrows and nearly oblivious to the vicious attacks I threw at them. If you were lining up a shot and someone hit you in the face with an arrow, would you keep going like nothing happened, or would you stop, if only to say "ow"?

I don't know who thought they needed to put a new weapon in Ninja Gaiden Black. The Lunar, a staff you find discarded in an urn (probably containing the ashes of it's previous owner) was next to useless for me. The whole game I was using the Dragon Sword, the Flail or the Kitetsu, just like the original. the few times I tried to use it, I was killed so quickly that I could barely get out a "hey, cut it out." Some people have found it to be a great help, I'm sure, but I am not one of those people. The most agravating thing about the staff was that I was even excited to get it. The game tricked me into caring for a useless stick. No other game has done that to me, because no other game is as baseless, cruel and sadistic as Ninja Gaiden.

My worst bout with humiliation came at the end of the game. I was tasked with escaping from a collapsing pit. Okay, fine. The ledges I had to move between were impossibly small and I fell off them into burning lava more times than I care to remember. The thing with lava in this world is that it will not kill you immediately if you walk through it. So, after I've fallen from the highest reaches of the cavern, I'm given the choice to run back to the start with my health slowly ticking away, or stand there and let myself die. I watched my character slowly burn to death over a delicious sandwich.

I cannot, after all that I have been through and accomplished, forgive Ninja Gaiden. I cannot feel anything but spite for the series I once loved. It's too bad really. I could have made a great ninja.