Throughout the 70s and 80s, the popularity of eastern martial arts rose dramatically in the west through Bruce Lee and The Karate Kid movies. Naturally, gamers are attracted to games where they can perform a flurry of punches, an array of agile kicks and jumps, and master hand to hand combat because, let’s face it, these things take years of training and dedication which many of us don’t have the inclination for.
Shadow Warriors is a side-scrolling action-platform game developed and published by Tecmo. It was released for the NES in Europe in 1991, having previously been released in Japan in 1988 as Ninja Ryūkenden, and in North America in 1989 as Ninja Gaiden. It was later ported to the SNES, PC and mobile phones. For this review, I chose to play the NES version.
You control Ryu Hayabusa who travels to America to avenge the murder of his father. He soon learns of a person known as “The Jaquio” who plans to take over the world with the help of an ancient demon whose power is contained within two statues. The game contains 20 levels broken down into six acts.
The gameplay mostly consists of running at and cutting down your enemies. Ryu’s main weapon is a sword but you are able to pick up and use limited numbers of shuriken. Ryu can also jump and cling onto the walls, but can only climb if he is on a ladder. If not, and a wall is opposite, he can spring himself up by jumping between walls.
How Does It Handle?
The controls are very responsive and the movement tight, allowing for close control. Annoyingly, and this is common amongst early games, if you progress to a higher screen and you fall back down the hole you just came from, you die as oppose to simply fall to the level below.
Graphics & Music
The graphics and music are standard for 8-bit home consoles in the 80s but with the introduction of 16-bit consoles, begin to look dated by the time of its release in Europe in 1991. The Ryu sprite has a reddish glow to him, which is strange. After each act, there is a beautifully illustrated anime-style cutscene furthering the storyline.
The levels are very difficult and unforgiving, but you do receive unlimited continues. Sadly, I was only able to get to Act Three as my version kept crashing. However, I really enjoyed playing this game and so will definitely return to it in the future.
Did I Complete The Game?
No, my game kept crashing on Act Three.
What The Critics Said:
Mean Machines: “A superb game, very similar to Shadow Warriors coin-op. Highly recommended top Nintendo beat ‘em up fans. Overall 88%”.
Mean Machines: “A superbly presented Ninja game which proves very playable. Overall 90%”.
Best Challenge 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989
Best Ending 1989 – Nintendo Power Awards 1989
Best Game of the Year – Electronic Gaming Best and Worst of 1989
“Tight controls, beautiful cut scenes but very difficult and unforgiving. A good edition to the ninja genre”
What are your memories of Shadow Warriors? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Instagram: @nicklovestogame.
 ‘Nintendo Review – Ninja Gaiden’. Mean Machines. (July 1990). Issue 06:12-4.
 ‘Nintendo Review – Shadow Warrior’. Mean Machines. (July 1991). Issue 10:66-8.
 ‘Nintendo Power Awards ‘89’. Nintendo Power. (May/June 1990). Issue 12:27.
 ‘Nintendo Power Awards ‘89’. Nintendo Power. (May/June 1990). Issue 12:28.
 ‘Best and Worst of 1989’. Electronic Gaming Monthly – 1990Video Game Buyer’s guide. 5:17.