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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by prfsnl_gmr Wed Sep 08, 2021 11:08 pm

Awesome posts, guys. This is a really fun topic, and I’m glad others are participating too.

…..

I’m playing through all ports of the NES Ninja Gaiden games. Interestingly, each game in the original Ninja Gaiden trilogy received exactly one port to a non-Nintendo system, and all three of the games were ported to the SNES in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy. So far, I’ve beaten the TG-16 port of Ninja Gaiden and the DOS port of Ninja Gaiden II, and I plan on beating the Lynx version of Ninja Gaiden III and Ninja Gaiden Trilogy. I would save all my thoughts for one post, but I want to get a few of them down while they’re still fresh.

The TG-16 port of Ninja Gaiden was ostensibly developed by Hudson, but it appears from the credits that development was actually farmed out to an anonymous Chinese development team. (The game also contains a Chinese language option, bolstering my conclusion that the game was actually developed outside of Japan.) Whoever actually developed it, however, did a pretty great job, and the game improves upon the NES original in a lot of ways. First, the game is much more colorful, and the cutscenes feature better animation. Moreover, the game’s great level design remains intact, and the TG-16 version controls almost identically to the NES original (which means that it plays wonderfully). Still, there are a few differences. The music isn’t as varied or as moody as the NES chip tunes. Moreover, the more colorful graphics sometimes detract from the original’s gritty atmosphere. The bosses are also way harder than in the NES original, and the last two bosses (i.e., Jaquio and the demon) are insanely hard. (The one exception is the fifth boss, who is a complete pushover in this version.) Finally, whoever developed this game didn’t really understand parallax scrolling, and objects in the background scroll faster than objects in the foreground, which is a bit off-putting. Otherwise, though, the game is fine, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of the NES original. (It’s included with the other Japanese games in the TG-16 mini, and if, on the title screen, you hold the I and II buttons and press the Select button on the title screen, you can change the game’s language setting to English.)

I cannot so heartily recommend the DOS port of Ninja Gaiden II. Developed in England by by Manley & Associates, the game mostly copies the NES original. It has the same great level design, features the same power-ups, and has the same great cinematics. Moreover, the graphics are more colorful, and the game looks really great when it’s paused. Unfortunately, however, the gameplay is pretty bad. First, the animation and scrolling are really, really choppy, making it hard to see anything or control your character. Moreover, the controls are really unpredictable, and Ryu Hayabusa may randomly refrain from clinging to a wall. He might also stop in mid-air, as if hitting an invisible barrier, and plummet to his doom. (He does this a lot.) The unpredictable controls make the platforming really frustrating and drag the game down further. There are also some other strange changes to the original game: Ryu wears orange, while his clones wear blue, the music is remixed via a MIDI synthesizer, and in stark contrast to the TG-16 port of Ninja Gaiden, all of the bosses are insanely easy. (You can beat Ashtar by simply pressing the attack button rapidly. You don’t even have to move!) The game’s best feature is its save feature, which lets you save anywhere, like a save state. This makes the platforming slightly less annoying, and it makes the game beatable without too much effort or frustration. Still, I have a tough time recommending this port to anyone as l9mg as the NES original exists.

Next up…the Atari Lynx port of Ninja Gaiden III and Ninja Gaiden Trilogy!
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by BoneSnapDeez Thu Sep 09, 2021 10:49 am

Great post! It's funny...... the Lynx "Ninja Gaiden" appears to be a port of the arcade game, though it uses the same box art as the NES game!

Bosses are harder in the PCE game??? I'd be doomed.
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by extrarice Thu Sep 09, 2021 12:04 pm

R-Type 3 for GBA was simultaneously an inferior port of the SNES original and a technological feat. From what I recall, Raylight, the company tasked with porting the game to GBA, did not have access to many (if not all) of the original assets from Irem, resulting in a buggy mess with horrible hit detection and inferior music. But the fact that Raylight was able to produce anything even remotely close to the original is pretty amazing!
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by marurun Thu Sep 09, 2021 12:07 pm

I had heard bad stuff about GBA R-Type 3, but porting a games from scratch without internal code or assets or documentation is a real bitch.
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by prfsnl_gmr Mon Sep 13, 2021 9:34 am

So…I finished up the Lynx version of Ninja Gaiden III, and I also played through Ninja Gaiden Trilogy. This means that, for the month’s TR, I can compare every port of every NES Ninja Gaiden game!

Ninja Gaiden - The NES version is the best version of this game. Overall, it is a very solid action-platformer, with great graphics, great level-design, stunning cutscenes, and moody music. The SNES version is, basically, the NES game with modestly improved graphics and drastically worse music and sound effects. The modestly retouched graphics don’t make up for the massive degradation in sound quality, making the NES version superior, in my opinion. The PC Engine version of the game has much more colorful graphics, and it still sounds good (not as good as the NES original, but better than the SNES version). Moreover, the redrawn cutscenes look stupendous. The brighter graphics aren’t always better, though, and the game has really awkward parallax scrolling, as described in my last post. Worse, the PC Engine version doubles down of the game’s worst design decision. That is, the final boss gauntlet is much harder and more frustrating. Losing a life to any of the last three bosses sends you all the way back to the beginning of the seventh level; all three bosses are harder than in the NES version, and in the PC Engine version, you always have to take on all three bosses in a row. This means that there is no reward for defeating one of the bosses, and you have to take on Jaquio and the Demon with no special weapons, no matter how many times you’ve run through level seven. If the PC Engine version had fixed this issue, I think there’d be a strong argument that it is the best version of Ninja Gaiden, but doubling down on the boss gauntlet makes it clearly the worst.

Ninja Gaiden II - Ninja Gaiden II is a stone-cold classic, improving upon the original game is almost every way, and once again, the NES version is the best version of the game. The SNES version has slightly more colorful graphics, at time, but again it sounds much, much worse than the NES original. Moreover, some of the original’s graphical flourishes, such as the lightning on Stage 3-1, are inexplicably absent, meaning that the 16-bit version of the game frequently looks worse than its 8-bit counterpart. Finally, the hit detection is just slightly off, and the SNES version doesn’t control quite as well. The DOS version of the game, as described in m6 previous post, gets a lot wrong (mostly the controls), but looks and sounds OK, even if the whole experience is a little off-brand.

Ninja Gaiden III - Surprisingly, the SNES version of this game is the best version! The Famicom version, Ninja Ryukenden III, is a bit too forgiving, and to compensate, Tecmo made the NES version too hard. That is, it re-arranged the item drops, removed the password system, limited continues, and trebled the damage inflicted by all enemies. Artificially inflating the difficulty in this manner makes the game unnecessarily frustrating, and really drags down the NES version to the point where it is often cited as the weakest game in the original Ninja Gaide trilogy. (The Lynx version, by the way, is just the NES version with downgraded graphics, and absolutely horrendous sound. Seriously, the game sounds like a modem from the ‘90s trying to connect to AOL, and the music is such an abomination, it makes you wonder whether anyone actually played the game before release.) The SNES version undoes the most frustrating aspects of the NES game, adding back a password system, allowing unlimited continues, and toning down the enemy damage. Nonetheless, it keeps the North American item placement, making for a game that’s more challenging than the Famicom version. I felt the challenge was perfectly tuned in the SNES version, and the graphics are slightly better (even if the game is missing some of the NES version’s impressive parallax scrolling), and the music, while not as good as the NES original, isn’t as degraded as the SNES versions of Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II.

With there games under my belt, I’ve now played through every 2D action platformer in the Ninja Gaiden series, and I am happy to share my ranking:

Ninja Gaiden II (NES)
Ninja Gaiden III (SNES)
Ninja Gaiden II (SNES)
Ninja Ryukenden III (Famicom)
Ninja Gaiden (Sega Master System)
Ninja Gaiden (NES)
Ninja Gaiden (SNES)
Ninja Gaiden Shadow (GameBoy)
Ninja Gaiden III (NES)
Ninja Gaiden (PC Engine)
Ninja Gaiden II (DOS)
Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)
Ninja Gaiden III (Lynx)
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by o.pwuaioc Mon Sep 13, 2021 11:29 am

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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by marurun Mon Sep 13, 2021 11:29 am

A simple ROM hack could probably do wonders for that PC Engine version, too, including fixing the scrolling jitters.
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by prfsnl_gmr Mon Sep 13, 2021 11:41 am

marurun wrote:A simple ROM hack could probably do wonders for that PC Engine version, too, including fixing the scrolling jitters.


Yes. This 100%. It is so close to being really good.

This is true of the other versions too. Just changing the fact that losing to a boss at the end of the game sends you back so far would help all versions of the game immensely.
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by prfsnl_gmr Wed Sep 15, 2021 10:57 pm

For this month’s TR, I also played though all console ports of Irem’s Kung Fu Master and it’s spiritual successor, Vigilante. Here are my impressions of each game:

Kung Fu Master (Arcade) - Irem’s Kung Fu Master is sometimes described as the first beat ‘em up, despite the fact that it bears only a passing resemblance to modern belt scrollers. Still, it does involve you beating up lots of dudes. Inspired in equal parts by Bruce Lee’s The Game of Death and Jackie Chan’s Wheels on Meals, you play as Thomas attempting to rescue his girlfriend Sylvia from Mr. X. To reach Mr. X, you must ascend The Devil’s Temple where four “sons of the devil” (i.e., bosses) are waiting for you. This task would be impossible for an ordinary man, but the Thomas is the titular Kung Fu Master, who can attack very quickly with a variety of moves, including a kick, a punch, a jump kick, a jumping punch, a crouching punch, and a leg sweep. This many options for dispatching your enemies, was unprecedented in 1984, and the game’s side-scrolling action and varied boss battles inspired both the Super Mario Bros. and Street Fighter series. This fast-paced, innovative and varied gameplay holds up remarkably well, and the game is still tremendous fun. To this day, very few games match Kung Fu Master’s most frantic moments, which will see you dodging knives while quickly dispatching dozens of murderous thugs with lightning-fast kicks. The game controls very well; the hit detection is spot-on; and every hit lands with a satisfying snap. The game’s primary issue is that the last level of the temple is insanely hard. So hard, in fact, that it’s sometimes impossible not take significant damage, and beating the last level feels more like a matter of luck than skill.

Kung Fu Master (2600) - The Atari 2600 port of Kung Fu Master, while clearly downgraded from the arcade version, is still a stunning achievement for the system. It features the same quick gameplay, all five levels, and amazingly, all five bosses. It feels remarkably modern for an Atari 2600 game, and perhaps due to the system’s limitations, never becomes overwhelmingly difficult like the arcade original.

Kung Fu Master (7800) - The Atari 7800 port of Kung Fu Master looks pretty solid, and despite the hardware, it is the only port to feature the arcade game’s background graphics. (Like the Atari 2600 version, the NES port features only a blue background.) The gameplay is similar to the Atari 2600 version, but more hectic and unpredictable. The worst part is that the enemies’ movement speed changes dramatically from time-to-time, making it too difficult to time your attacks or dodge throwing knives. This is unacceptable in a game so dependent on timing, and the Atari 7800 version is probably my least favorite port.

Kung Fu (NES) - This port, developed by Shigeru Miyamoto (and, allegedly, influencing some of his design decisions for Super Mario Bros.), actually improves somewhat upon the arcade original. The graphics are somewhat downgraded, but Thomas’s movements are even more fluid and responsive. The game also sounds great, unlike the 2600 and 7800 ports, and each hit lands with a satisfying crack. Best of all, the difficulty scales smoothly, and while the game is certainly challenging, it never feels unfair (unlike the arcade original or the 7800 port).

Vigilante (Arcade) - Vigilante is Irem’s successor to Kung Fu Master, but it lacks almost everything that made its predecessor so great. Vigilante retains Kung Fu Master’s core gameplay, and it follows a similar plot. (This time, however, your girlfriend’s name is Madonna.) The setting is also an urban wasteland, rather than a Chinese temple, and your enemies are a street gang, rather than a Kung Fu gang. Released in 1988 (i.e., one year after Double Dragon and one year before Final Fight), Vigilante’s derivative mechanics were a bit dated at the time of its release, and the new setting wasn’t particularly interesting either. Worse, the gameplay is less fluid and satisfying than its predecessor, and the game’s hit detection is absolutely atrocious. It is nearly impossible to predict which of your attacks will hit the game’s remarkably unvaried bosses, and too many of the normal enemies can take far too many of your weak attacks. This makes the core gameplay unsatisfying, and seeing the game through to its ending is an exercise in frustration.

Vigilante (Master System) - This version of the game looks fantastic for the hardware, and the game’s hit detection is actually improved a bit from the arcade original. Moreover, the game’s bosses are more predictable and easier to defeat. (PRO-TIP: Punch them in the groin. Repeatedly.) This makes completing the game less of a slog. The gameplay still lacks Kung Fu Master’s satisfying crack, however, and while this is a good port, the game it’s based on just isn’t that good.

Vigilante (TG16) - This is a really stupendous port, that is almost indistinguishable from the arcade original. As noted above, however, the arcade game isn’t that great, and the TG16 port doesn’t really do anything to improve upon it. Accordingly, and while it’s easily the game’s best port, it still isn’t that much fun.
…..

With these games under my belt, I’ve now played through all the arcade and console games in the Kung Fu Master series, and here’s my ranking:

Spartan X2 (Famicom)
Kung Fu Master (GameBoy)
Kung Fu (NES)
Kung Fu Master (Arcade)
Kung Fu Master (2600)
Vigilante (Arcade)
Vigilante (TG16)
Vigilante (Master System)
Kung Fu Master (7800)
Last edited by prfsnl_gmr on Wed Sep 15, 2021 11:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Together Retro September 2021: "Inferior" Ports

by BoneSnapDeez Wed Sep 15, 2021 11:04 pm

Now that is some serious commitment! Poor 7800. :cry:
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