While a lot of series with roots in the 8-bit era have been around seemingly forever, updated gradually over time, Ninja Gaiden is unusual in that it’s the name of two radically different series separated by a roughly 13-year gap. (Or actually three series, but for the sake of discussion we’ll ignore the old arcade/Genesis versions, because nobody really cares about them except when they want to remember one of the best continue screens of all time.)
Above: Ooh, guess I probably should
When older gamers hear the words “Ninja Gaiden,” their first mental image is likely to be one of a side-scrolling, wall-hopping ninja with badass magic powers and one-hit-kill enemies, possibly clinging to a Coke sign.
Above: Or possibly also just kind of being a dick
Meanwhile, anyone who cut their teeth in the Xbox era is guaranteed to think of the series as the balls-hard, outrageously gory brainchild of the guy who pioneered videogame breast physics.
Now, probably none of the people who know about one Ninja Gaiden are going to be completely unaware of the other, but ask yourself: deep down, which do you think of as the REAL Ninja Gaiden? Do you want to see more of Ayame and Rachel? Or would you rather find out what happened to frequently imperiled CIA agent Irene Lew? Your age may be more of a determining factor in those answers than you’re ready to admit.
7. Prince of Persia
At the risk of turning this into an “if you like old games then you are old hurr hurr” feature, I’m also going to point out that Prince of Persia went through a complete, series-redefining transformation when it was rebooted in 2003. And while it might not have left its fanbase quite as fractured as Ninja Gaiden’s, it was no less significant in reshaping who gamers think the “real” Prince is.
When the series began, it was a brilliantly animated 2D adventure about a turbaned hero out to save his beloved princess from an evil vizier by climbing, running, jumping and accidentally getting gruesomely impaled on spike traps in a vast underground prison. It had one sequel that took the action into a larger outdoor world, and another one that attempted 3D graphics (there’s that phrase again) and proved awfully unpopular with fans.
The reboot had some themes in common with the original, but took what had once been about fighting the clock and solving simple puzzle rooms and turned it into an epic series about running up walls, reversing time and killing zombies. Again, it completely changed what people thought when they heard the phrase “Prince of Persia-style platforming.” (And while the second reboot attempted to do something similar, in the end it was hard not to see it as an offshoot.)
And yet for some, Prince of Persia will always be about ultra-fluid 2D sprites and carefully timed swordfights against prison guards. They’re both classics, but which one do you think is more classic? Come on, be honest.