Let’s Look at the Unlocalized Ninja Gaiden Prequel!

Zero-ELEC asked a question about the Ninja Gaiden games that I thought were interesting, so let’s have a look!

Being a big fan of Ninja Gaiden and recently being on a Ninja Gaiden kick I have two topics I’d like to ask you about:

1) What are the Fiends in the modern Ninja Gaiden games? Are they demons? What’s the word used for them in Japanese? Are they implied to be the same bad guys as in the originals (The Demon and all that)?

2) There’s one Ninja Gaiden game that was never translated, “Ninja Gaiden X”, a sidescroller game for cell phones. (Being released around the same time as the modern Ninja Gaiden games, it’s title is Ninja Gaiden even in Japanese.) The only piece of media I’ve ever found is this video and basically nothing else.

My doubts lie in: What is it even about? Who Ryu talking to? What is he doing? Who is he fighting? Does it have anything to do with _anything_?

I haven’t played ANY of the modern Ninja Gaiden games, but from a quick look it appears what are known as “Fiends” in English are called 魔神 in Japanese. This would be transcribed as “majin” and pronounced “mah-jeen”. This is a pretty common word to see in games and entertainment and has a bunch of different possible translations – it usually refers to a powerful supernatural being with god-like qualities. In fact, if you’re a regular Legends of Localization reader you might even recognize this term as what was used in the creepy Sonic CD secret screen!

As for the second question, rather than just put a basic text translation of Ninja Gaiden X here, I decided to subtitle the entire game here:

Just for quick reference, the game’s script goes something like:

Ryu: Dad!

Father: Ryu. As I stated before, it is now time for your final test!
You must overcome my illusions and successfully defeat me!

Ryu: But, Dad!

Father: Confusion will only dull your sword… Do not hesitate, Ryu!
Do you accept your final test?! …The Dragon God’s Mirror – the Illusory Tower of Death!

Ryu: I- I do!

(Note: the name of this tower could be translated dozens of different ways, or even not translated at all if one wanted.)

Then the title of the supposedly only act/chapter appears:

Chapter of the Test – The Battle with Father

(Although technically it’s more like a trial or ordeal than a “test”)

Once you’ve gone through the only stage in the game and reach the end, you face your father on the rooftop:

Father: You’ve done well to make it this far, Ryu. Now, show me your strength!

Ryu: Prepare yourself, Dad!

After winning the boss fight:

Father: Ugh… Well done, Ryu…

Ryu: Are you all right, Dad…?

Dad. I still don’t understand… Why have you trained me since childhood? For what purpose…?

Father: …I cannot yet tell you. But know this, Ryu. Someday, your ninjutsu WILL prove useful.

Ryu: Right!

Father: Now I have no regrets to hold me back…

I’ve only one task left…

Jaquio and the others! I’m coming for you!!

So there you go – that’s the story of Ninja Gaiden X, the Ninja Gaiden prequel that apparently only got a release on old Japanese phones!

It’s interesting that it’s literally called “Ninja Gaiden X” when the series is/was known as “Ninja Ryukenden” over there instead. I wonder how our localized title got reabsorbed and used in its own way.

I also wonder if some enterprising ROM hacker could recreate this entire game from the original NES ROM. I challenge someone to remake this!

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  1. The series started being called Ninja Gaiden in Japan with the first Itagaki game on the Xbox. If I recall correctly, he choose the overseas title to distance the newer series with the original Ryukenden trilogy on the Famicom and also to have the series under one brand worldwide.

      1. I call the XBox one Ninja Gaiden Black unless I’m specifically referring to the original non-Black release, precisely to avoid that confusion.
        Which causes it’s own set of issues, but it’s technically not wrong. And technically right is the best kind of right.

  2. Didn’t know about this game before, I’m assuming there’s some way to emulate it?

    Also, I always thought it was interesting that Ninja Ryuukenden was one of the few Famicom games that used 8×8 Kanji. Sometimes it’s pretty difficult to distinguish them at that size.

    1. I don’t really know how to emulate old Japanese cell phone games but I hope someone finds a way to – there are so many games and things I’m sure I know nothing about that would be amazing to look through. I also would like to see a lot of the old Square phone games someday.

      1. Agreed. I would love to be able to play the three original story Tales of games they released on mobile phones myself. Breaker, Commons and Wahrheit all had such great music for being on an older phone model and some original artes that haven’t been in any other title either.

      2. Ninokuni Hotroit Stories and the cell-phone Layton spin-off (not the travesty which is Layton 7) as well as Namco’s Tales of Mobile are definitely interesting.

        Someone did map rips of Seiken Densetsu (2006 mobile remake) with what could have been some sort of emulator : http://www5f.biglobe.ne.jp/~burabo-/index.htm
        It’s so sad Japanese romhacking scene isn’t as active as in the rest of the world.

        1. I think the title “Ninja Gaiden” was probably thought up for the arcade version original though, since Tecmo’s official description for the game on their Virtual Console website says it was based on American stereotypes and misconceptions of ninjas. What better name for a game based on foreign ninja stereotypes than a nonsensical Japanese name that doesn’t mean anything. The arcade version of Ninja Gaiden was pretty goofy compared to the darker NES version made at the same time.

          1. 忍者外伝 is a perfectly valid Japanese phrase, it just doesn’t have any context here. Or maybe it does?

            Such a phrase would imply the kind of stories even typical ninja clans don’t really know.

  3. wouldn’t Father be more accurate instead of dad since he uses -san?

    anyway, thanks a lot for all your work on LoL, you are awesome, Mato!!
    I really appreciate it!
    also I appreciate that you tried to translate that gba rpg from alpha dream, too bad it was too much


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