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Shadow of the Ninja on the NES

YEAR: 1990
SYSTEM: Nintendo Entertainment System

This game rocks. I love this game. Next to Cannon-Dancer, this is my all-time favorite Strider clone. It's two-player, it's got a kick-ass story, and it takes place in 2029 AD, which allows it to slot nicely into the Strider series.

But I'll get to that in a minute, after I tell you more about the game itself. To begin with, Shadow Of The Ninja's gameplay is rock solid. The controls are tight, the animation is fluid, and they did some pretty cool things in 8-bit, such as animating the raindrops from the game's stormy first level actually hitting the ship's deck.

The main thing that gives SOTN an edge over other Strider clones (or "Decoys", as we call them here at LSCM) is the weapon switching. Yeah, the NES version has tricks you can learn, but Shadow of the Ninja lets you swap your weapon out for an entirely different one.

You start out with a standard katana, but you can pick up a kusarigama (sickle-and-chain), shuriken (throwing stars), or bombs along the way. Each can be upgraded to a more powerful level by collecting additional weapon power-ups. The kusarigama becomes faster to draw, the shuriken transform into knives, and your katana increases its range!

Here's the plot:

It's the year 2029 A.D. and a madman controls the largest city in America. The Emperor Garuda and his followers have built an impregnable stronghold as a monument to his evil. Conventional forces have been unable to stop his malevolent plans for total control. But Garuda is worried...

Reports have reached him that two figures have breached the outskirts of his city's defenses. For the first time he feels an inner chill, for he knows the invaders are Ninjas.

Hayate and Lady Kaede are ninjas of the Iga clan. Their mission is to infiltrate the fortresses of Garuda and destroy his wicked empire. They are armed with the weapons of Ninjitsu... Together, they may have the strength to topple the empire.

Standard fare. The usual. But, the interesting thing is that if you subtract 2029 A.D. from 2048 A.D., you get a span of 19 years. So I was thinking... what if Hayate and Kaede were no mere ninjas? What if they were the first Striders?

Beyond that, what if they were Hiryu's parents?

That would make Hiryu eighteen years old, at the beginning of the first Strider game. It could work. It does work. It slots perfectly into the timeline, as a sort of Strider prequel. That's why I allude to it in my fanfiction. And that's also why it kicks ass.

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