NINJA GAIDEN / Tecmo / Arcade
Ninja Gaiden has some nicely detailed artwork for the time, particularly in the cinematic opening and some of the level backgrounds, but the game itself just ends up being too goddamn hard to be really enjoyable. Poor Mr. "Ninja In U.S.A." is able to take only three hits before he dies, and he's got only two lives. Given these stringent limitations, you get surrounded and taken out by cheap hits just far too often. The game also doesn't pick up where you died, but kicks you back to a checkpoint earlier in the level, making it possible to be stuck on a certain sequence forever.
Those who got into the series thanks to the sublime NES games will also likely be disappointed that there's almost no continuity with those games. This one was the first of the whole bunch, and it shares Ryu's name and character design, but the story is some vague weirdness about Ryu's dad getting taken out by some hockey mask punk in a bizarre street duel, so Ryu hops a slow boat from Japan to beat down every street punk he sees. The gameplay style emulates Double Dragon more than the NES side-scrolling style.
This one can be a little fun if you're looking for 1980s ninja zeitgeist, but it'll likely frustrate you into submission pretty quickly.
* Gameplay Video