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Top 10: Best Ninjas
The start of the week is usually a sleepy
time for people, as they drag themselves out of bed to start the grind
once again. For many it's the farthest imaginable thing from enjoyable,
as they slowly learn to hate Mondays. This doesn't mean we can't have a
little bit of fun at the start of the work / school week. As such, The
Armchair Empire is getting into the habit of starting the week off with
a nice, light top ten list. It's fun, thought provoking, and helps us
to forget the other mumbo jumbo we're going to have to deal with in the
real world through the coming days.
This week, we'll be looking at a black
pajama wearing, killing machine favorite among gamers: Ninjas. For
almost as long as there have been games, there've been ninjas running
around in them stabbing people. Some have been villains, others heroes,
and many of them have permanently etched a place in gamers' psyches.
With that, lets look at the best of the bunch.
10: Hattori Hanzo (Samurai Spirits)
Emerging on the scene in SNK'sSamurai
ninja proved a hit for those who liked agile characters in their
fighting games, though he was also popular with those unfamiliar with
this series since they could say, "I've never played this, but I like
ninjas. Let's go!" His moves were accessible to beginners, yet
sophisticated enough that the more experienced could go to town on
opponents with interesting combos.
Adding to Hanzo's appeal was that he was based on areal
Feudal Japan, allowing those who are interested to delve a little
further into the history of the region.
Number 9: Kage-Maru (Virtua Fighter)
Perhaps another instance where the game's
developers said, "Our fighting game needs at least one ninja", Kage has
been an interesting choice for fans of the Virtua Fighter series. His
moves could be brutal when strung together correctly. It's hard to
forget Kage's flip attack on a downed opponent where he slams both feet
right down on his or her face. It's even harder to forget when he hits
them in the crotch.
Number 8: Gray Fox (Metal Gear
Sure we couldn't play as
him in the Metal Gear Solid series, but damn if he wasn't cool. Slowly
learning about him, why he gets himself involved in various acts of
espionage, and his overall persona are irresistible. Of the ninja NPCs
out there, few have been as popular as Gray Fox. If only we could play
Number 7: Shadow (Final Fantasy VI)
When Squaresoft released Final Fantasy VI
in North America, it was astounding just how many characters that they
crammed into the game. Of all the members of the cast, few stood out
like Shadow. He dripped of being a badass, and he was at the top of
many people's list to get back after the party disbands mid-game,
assuming they met the conditions to do so.
Number 6: Rikimaru / Ayame (Tenchu)
This pair of ninjas are
tied for sixth spot because they served to remind gamers that ninja were
originally intended to be sneaky, running around and slitting their
enemies' throats under the cloak of darkness. This was a stark contrast
to many ninja games that came before where players would stab first and
ask questions later.
While the Tenchu series has
deteriorated in recent years, Rikimaru and Ayame did what ninjas do best
in the series heyday, as players slowly learned what steal gaming was.
Number 5: Taki (Soul Calibur)
For all of the people running around with
massive swords and pole arms in the Soul Calibur series, Taki has always
served as a nice contrast to this with her tiny ninjatou. With her
darting around, jabbing opponents as openings appeared, it became
obvious just how fast she is compared to many of the other characters in
Not only does she have an interesting
repertoire of moves, but Taki also has one of the more involved
background stories in the Soul Calibur universe, which has helped her to
draw even more fans.
Number 4: Scorpion (Mortal Kombat)
Of the three original
ninjas in the Mortal Kombat series, Scorpion has done the best job of
bringing both cool moves andpersonality to the table. Sure Reptile was a cool,
unlockable character, and Sub-Zero was a favorite for the moves that he
had, but Scorpion had both a ton of cool moves, and a tough guy persona
to go along with it.
There was just something
about spearing opponents, then warping across the screen to punch him or
her in the head, all while Scorpion screamed, "Come here!" that was hard
to say no to.
Number 3: Goemon (Legend of the Mystical Ninja)
If there's one thing that can make ninjas
feel old hat in a videogame, it's the fact that so many of them are just
way too serious. If one is exposed to this in short, controlled bursts
it's tolerable, but seeing it all the time is grating to say the least.
This is what makes Goemon so damn appealing: he has a sense of humor.
The lighthearted, comical flavor of the
Mystical Ninja series is amazingly endearing. The only thing holding
Goemon back on this list is that despite the series' name, inreal
lifehe was more of a
bandit than a ninja.
Number 2: Joe Musashi (Shinobi)
Our runner for this list
goes to the ninja at the helm of one of Sega's most popular series.
What makes Joe Musashi so great is that he personifies the pop culture
ninja of the 1980s so well. Back then ninjas didn't need a very good
reason to seek justice. Kidnap the guy's girlfriend, or kill his
sensei, and he'd be off for revenge. Joe here did this on a number of
Helping to complete the
package, though, was some top-notch gameplay. There were plenty of
weapons, and magic to pick up, the bosses had personality, and the whole
time players had to work hard for a win.
It's just too bad that when
Sega revitalized the series on the PlayStation 2 a few years ago, they
deep sixed Joe in favor of a new hero...
Number 1: Ryu Hayabusa (Ninja Gaiden)
Of all the games to sport Ninjas over the
years, few have been able to do it nearly as well as Ninja Gaiden.
Combining great stories with consistently solid action, the series
carved itself a permanent place in the hearts and minds of gamers in the
late 1980s, when it first appeared on the Famicom / NES.
What was so interesting about Ryu was that
there was a lot more purpose behind what he was trying to do, unlike Joe
Musashi. There were relatively complex forces at work that Ryu
constantly had to compete with during the series. On top of this, he
had some of the coolest moves around as far as ninjas were concerned.
Not only could he run, jump, and blast magic, but he could even scale
walls, and hold onto them.
Unfortunately, Ryu and the Ninja Gaiden
series went on a bit of a hiatus during the 16-bit era, and he only
started to re-emerge as he appeared as a character in the Dead or Alive
series, and later was fully re-instated as Team Ninja brought the Ninja
Gaiden series out of the ashes with a new installment on the Xbox.
Of all the ninjas on our list, Ryu Hayabusa
brings the complete package, from having a cool repertoire of moves, to
giving players a good reason to save the world. It'll take quite a hero
to surpass the benchmark Ryu has set.