Hi folks, I'm new here but I've learned tons from browsing this great thread. A huge influence on my gaming tastes.
After a months-long campaign, I managed a 1LC of Ninja Gaiden this morning.
Fun every step of the way and well worth the effort to conquer. I think of myself as a fairly mediocre gamer (with no previous 1LCs and only a few recent 1CCs), and this was definitely a product of long practice not raw talent. To embolden others to try, I want to describe my experience (this will be a bit long).
To train, I allowed myself continues but not save-state abuse. I say this because I think save states, even for practice, completely change the essence of this game. (Not to say they'd ruin it. I also mostly avoided watching videos, but this was just a little extra masochism.)
To review, the main defining feature of NG's challenge is a very hard three-stage Act VI, where continues are allowed within each stage, but with a triple final boss battle that hatefully tosses you back to stage 6-1 if you fail (although dead bosses stay dead). So, as BIL and others have suggested, to even learn the ropes with the bosses, you need serious skill on Act VI.
That's THE main thing. And it took me a lamentably long time. My skill improved in discrete phases:
-First, after many struggles, I managed to simply get to the boss rush, only to get destroyed by Jaquio.
-Then I got sufficiently better to arrive at the boss holding the spin-slash subweapon, whose deadly touch allowed me to actually clear the game. This meant plenty of shameful re-encounters of the bosses to regain the spin-slash---since your subweapon is taken away after each boss fight, win or lose! Of course the spin-slash also felt totally cheap.
-Then I learned the rudiments of Jaquio and Demon well enough to take them down with the fire-blast sub (when holding enough ammo, which required still more skill at Act VI). OK, a legit victory, but still with dozens of continues. And again, the necessary defeat and re-encounter with Demon rankled.
Even after winning this way a half-dozen times, I still didn't dare to aspire to a 1CC. I was OK at Act VI, but looking back I still didn't have my stuff together. I really needed to master every encounter, with a clear-cut plan. Unless you are quite good, this is not a game that rewards improvisation. The frequent pit-traps, combined with enemies that can respawn if you move even slightly in the wrong direction, and the general quick pace make it a losing bet.
-So without a clear end-goal in mind, I set out to master Act VI. I would like to say I succeeded, and I almost have, although flying-ninja chaos still erupts sometimes on 6-2. But OK, good enough---now I can actually practice reliably on that Jaquio fucker! So why not try and beat him without subweapons? Within a few play sessions I was able to beat him the majority of times, and it's gotten quite reliable.
Let me say that learning to take Jaquio on with sword alone was one of the most fun
experiences I've had in any side-scroller. The surface simplicity of his pattern (sweep L/R and shoot) hides a subtle phase difference between his two repeated behaviors, which frustrates rote player patterns. You have to develop a good sense of timing and anticipation, and it helps to actively visualize whether your attack will succeed or be punished. The shots' homing behavior adds another layer of subtlety as you must learn where to draw the fire and how to evade it.
By the way, there is a key general point here: with an enemy like Jaquio (or Demon) for which attacking and defending/evading are each difficult, it is really helpful to first simply learn to evade
. Just getting to Jaquio and running down the timer without being killed is a worthy milestone. Then, you can slowly start to splice attacks into your evasion pattern. Progress should be measured by number of successful (unpunished) hits on the boss, not total damage.
-Now I had a reasonable handle on Act VI and on Jaquio. As soon as I saw him die by the sword, the dream of a 1CC started growing in me. There was no essential difficulty remaining. OK, I was still sadly inconsistent on Acts III thru V. But I had conquered Act VI, so that should be no problem.
In fact, I now think the main obstacle to mastering the earlier Acts is that they are not hard enough! They don't force you through sheer trauma and repetition to memorize every step along the way. But I got myself to draw a few maps, and make notes about the difficult spots, and the rest of the game fell into place relatively quickly.
NG has immense replay value, and it gets much more fun with knowledge and skill. My first half-dozen wins with continues were graceless mockeries of ninja-hood. I'm still not where I want to be. But I'm good enough to have the kind of experience I think the designers would've hoped for me to have.