Ninja Gaiden is the franchise that never was, a famous videogame brand that has clocked up over ten titles without ever adhering to any consistent continuity. These are games that play almost identically, yet often have little in common beyond the name of the lead character and a propensity for fiendish difficulty levels. But still they endure, most recently revived and resuscitated by the mercurial talents of Tomonobu Itagaki and Team Ninja. Today gamers fidget in anticipation to see what the outspoken development wizard has come up with. Two decades ago, however, Ninja Gaiden was just getting started, launching in the arcades and on the NES in a peculiar criss-cross release pattern.