8-Bit Mondays: Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos – “Chaosium Sword” (Ryuichi Nitta, Mayuko Okamura)May 10, 2010
Decided to give some more coverage of the Ninja Gaiden series this week. On December 5 (Ninja Day), I ran “Ninjascape“, a remix of “Parasprinter” from Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (1990), and today’s entry, “Chaosium Sword”, is another piece from this game. It is an excellent intro to ‘Ninja Gaiden Week’, as it features all the elements you’d expect from an intro video featuring a new bad guy: low strings that slowly build to menacing heights, drums of doom, and (in the video) blasts of lightning. It’s that slow build that creates a wonderful feeling of tension. The swirling clouds of chaos and plotting that brew over the countryside gradually gain power, first by adding a drum break (0:24), then by adding a second layer of strings (0:54) before finally reaching a crescendo. Just the kind of thing you’d want to listen to if you were an evil warlord looking out over the kingdom. The song is only about 1:25 in length, but it has an excellent cinematic build that is fairly unmatched for other NES titles. Here is the clip in context:
“Chaosium Sword” has been remixed a few times to varying effects. The official Ninja Gaiden II arrange album contained the first remix, “Herald“, using 90s synth rock and featuring thunder blasts that are so low-fi they sound they are coming from underwater. One of the most recent and best mixes is “Sinister Augury” by Ryan8Bit and Pingosimon from Dwelling of Duels (2004). That same year, there was also a remix album The Dark Sword of Chaos by Chromelodeon. I don’t have a copy of that one, but you can request it from that link to play on MagFest Radio. Most recently, there was a nice medley of Ninja Gaiden II music on Dwelling of Duels’ Ninja Gaiden Month (Part 2) by jaxx titled “I Am A Ninja” that ends with a nice rock rendition of “Chaosium Sword” beginning about 4:20. The recording is much higher quality than “Sinister Augury”, but doesn’t seem as well-balanced (probably why it got 3rd).
The Ninja Gaiden series that began in 1989 is a bit different from the modern Ninja Gaiden. While both games contain the same character and tough-as-nails action, as well as campy ninja vs. demon battles, the originals really set the stage for games in terms of production and presentation: they featured long cutscenes of the sort one might find in a Saturday morning anime, a well-crafted story, and top-notch music to orchestrate all this. These things were fairly unheard of at the time, particularly on the NES/Famicom. They really brought a sense of cinematics to games that has helped shape the games of today.
Interestingly, the three original Ninja Gaidens were re-released in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the SNES (1995). The game is inferior in production and audio, despite having superior technology to the originals, and many elements of the games were removed – most notably the animated cutscenes in the credits!