End Boss Month #21: Ninja Gaiden & Ninja Gaiden II (NES)

Long before Ryu Hayabusa was known for starring in balls-hard action games pitting him against such foes as the Holy Vigoor Emperor and teaming up with scantily clad women like Rachel, he was known for starring in balls-hard action games pitting him against an evil sorcerer and teaming up with a professionally dressed women like Irene. (OK, she's less professionally dressed in Dead or Alive: Dimensions, but that's beside the point.) But heroes and sidekicks aside, that sorcerer that Ryu faced in the first two games in the NES Ninja Gaiden trilogy, Jaquio, was a monster.

He's also a fan of purple.
He's also a fan of purple.

Actually, he was a monster just to get to fight. Between the sadistically placed enemies, the platform hopping, wall climbing, and bird dodging, it’s a triumph in and of itself just to look the guy in the face at the end of both games. The last time I tried playing the original game no more than a year or two ago, my withered NES skills failed me utterly and I was left battered and bruised, weeping softly in the corner as my Wii looked down on me in disgust.

But enough about my failings as a human being and the anthropomorphizing of my consoles. As tough as it is just to get to Jaquio, actually beating him is an even greater challenge. In the original game, losing to him would force you to restart at the very beginning of the final stage.

Did you see that? That is not easy to learn when failure leaves you running back through a gauntlet of bad guys, sadistic jumps, and asshole birds that all want to kill you just as much as Jaquio. Of course, facing him in Ninja Gaiden II isn’t much better. It is in fact the opposite of better. Not only does he gain more maneuverability and throw fireballs in more difficult patterns, he has two more forms to share with you after that.

For his second form, Jaquio takes on the form of a giant head stuck in the wall as death rains from above. And if you can beat that form, you have to fight his head again, which is now attached to a grotesque, monstrous body with a giant pulsating heart. Sort of like the final boss of Contra, only more painful for the fact that you’re equipped with a sword and some ninja magic rather than a machine gun with infinite bullets and the Konami Code.

Amazingly, Jaquio stayed dead for Ninja Gaiden III. Although even if he did come back for that one, I’m not sure it would have mattered too much. Unlike the first two games and their unlimited continues, Ninja Gaiden III grants a total of five.

Yeah, good luck getting to the end of that one.