8 Bit Triumph

Yesterday will be a day long remembered for me, personally. Not only did I try sweetbreads for the first time (they’re delicious!), I also, for the very first time ever, beat Ninja Gaiden III for NES without the assistance of save states, and now I can finally proclaim to the universe that I can beat the entire Ninja Gaiden trilogy.

About a decade ago, I managed to build my skills at the first two games in the trilogy up to the point where I was consistently able to not only finish both, but to take a minimal amount of deaths while doing so. But Ninja Gaiden III broke me. Multiple factors conspire to make it the hardest game in the series. Damage values are increased, the jump physics have been altered from the previous two games and, most infuriatingly, continues are limited.

At their core, all of the Ninja Gaiden games are games of level memorization, pattern recognition, and timing. These are all skills that require lots and lots (and lots) of practice to develop. The only way to master any game in the series is through putting in the reps. While the first two Ninja Gaiden games are both total bastards, at least you can put in as many reps as you can stand without throwing your controller. But with the third game, once you run out of continues, you’re done, regardless of how far you got, or how close you were to making a major breakthrough.

So, while I did manage to complete a playthrough of the game without save states, save states were instrumental in getting me the practice I needed to finally take Ninja Gaiden II down. Should you choose to follow in my footsteps, I highly suggest using save states to assist in getting the necessary reps in. My method was pretty simple – I saved a state at the start of each level, then grinding out practice runs of the level until I was able to beat it consistently without dying.

For the final level, which has three substages and three boss fights (most of the rest of the game has only two substages and one boss per level), I broke this up even further, saving again at the start of the comically difficult third substage. It took a three hour, thumb-destroying grind, but using this method I was finally able to complete the last level. Once that was done, beating the whole game without any states was a relative snap. My triumph is complete. Feels good.

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