Ninja Gaiden (book)

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First edition, US paperback.

Ninja Gaiden is a young adult novelization of the NES video game Ninja Gaiden published by Scholastic in July of 1990. It is the third book in the Worlds of Power series, and, like all books in the series, it is attributed to "F. X. Nine." The internal text lists the author as "A. L. Singer," which is a pen name for Peter Lerangis.

In the book, Ryu Hayabusa is a young gifted ninja who, on the day of receiving his black belt from his ninja teachers, also learns about his father's death. His father, a black belt ninja, but also a doctor of archeology, discovered ancient Japanese statues in the jungles of Peru left there 700 years ago by the legendary ninja Shinobi. A tablet at the site warns that if the statues are ever brought together in a distant temple at specific time that only happens once every 700 years, the great evil defeated by Shinobi will be resurrected. Ryu's father was killed trying to recover the statues, and now Ryu must find them and prevent the great evil from being brought back into this world.

Personal

As a child, the only Worlds of Power book I owned was Blaster Master. However, as an adult, I wanted to read more of these extremely hokey video game books, so I bought several others online in 2007. Since I bought several at once, I'm not sure if I read at the time. If I did, I had no memory of it when I read it later and finished it on 2020-08-10. I found this book to be just as ridiculous.

Status

I own the second edition book and have read it.

Review

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • All the major plot points from the game's story are in tact in the book. There are some additional characters, dialogue, and scenes, and things are a little out of chronology, but all the main points remain. This was probably due to the game having a pretty complete built-in story.
  • Despite the ridiculous subject matter, the book is competently written.
  • The book mentions various forms of Japanese terminology and culture, including tabi boots, straw mats, ginkgo trees, shurikens, etc.

Bad

  • Like much of children's media on the early 1990s, ninja are not described as being ruthless mercenaries practicing espionage, but rather openly-accepted martial arts students who go to ninja training camps and love their mommies.
  • Most of the violence of the game has been censored. Ryu never kills anyone, he destroys mechanical robots and slays phantoms which disappear when they're stabbed. Walter Smith is only injured, even Ryu's father somehow survives the entire temple collapsing around him.
  • The CIA is so inept that they accidentally give a random person an artifact that can destroy the world instead of the fake they were supposed to use. Seems legit, of course, I guess this is better than in the game's story line where they purposely give Ryu the real one to take with him to the temple!
  • The game mentions that Ken Hayabusa, Ryu's father, went along with Dr. Walter Smith on a archeological dig, but, in the book, Ken isn't just a black belt ninja, but also doctor of archeology himself! Talk about your Renaissance man!
  • The recreated cover art was mildly censored.
  • Ryu just walks around wherever he goes in full ninja costume with his sword on display, and wonders why security guards don't like him.
  • Ryu's ninja powers don't fit with how I envision them from the game. The author appears to have taken a line from the manual which describes the fire-wheel as being activated by Ryu's anger, and extrapolated that the other ninja arts are acts of pure will rather than devices. The fire wheel also also Ryu's energy, and a new art of invisibility, incorrectly described as chi was created. The book also include the time stop which doesn't fit.
  • The author mistranslates the Japanese word gaiden to describe a letter left to Ryu Hayabusa by his father. However, the real definition of gaiden is more akin to "side-story."

Ugly

  • The hints in the book are useless. They're about as helpful as, "Pro-Tip: Shoot at the cyberdemon with rockets until it dies."

Media

Although the cover art looks very similar to the video game, it was actually completely repainted for this book. Most likely, Scholastic couldn't secure the rights from Tecmo. The remake doesn't have as much detail as the original and removes Ryu's dagger from his hand.

Links

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