Ninja Gaiden, Sega Master System, 1992
Ninja Gaiden on the Master System is not the same game you remember from childhood spent with an NES. This version was only released in PAL territories as the Master System was still selling well there despite its death in both North America and Japan. The game plays similarly to the NES trilogy with marginal improvement in controls, a wall jump ability for example, and slight improvements in graphics. The story is all new with Ryu returning to Japan only to see it destroyed and the Shinobido Scroll stolen. The cinematics are on par with the NES version though a bit less impressive if you’ve seen them already. The real reason to play through this game if you never have is the chance to experience a refined version of a familiar game. This version really took the traditional Ninja Gaiden formula and dialed it in to (almost) perfection. Not without its flaws, this is arguably the best version on 8 bit Ninja Gaiden available.
A Touch of Zen, Union Film, 1971
A Touch of Zen is probably not one of the films that ever made heavy rotation as part of the weekend Kung Fu block. It’s a film that, once edited together to contain director King Hu’s original vision, clocks in at over three hours. It is an epic in every sense of the word. It took what had been done previously in the genre, amped it up, and refined it to the highest levels. This flick was awarded the Technical Grand Prize at the 1975 Cannes Film festival, an award it shares with flicks like Sin City, Mystic River, Tango, Fifth Element, and Cyrano de Bergerac. The story is a multilayered journey of discovery, regret, redemption, and ultimately acceptance. Honestly it is a film worthy of a much deeper dive than there is space for this week. Suffice it to say this film deserves a careful viewing and analysis. It is beautifully shot, acted, and choreographed. It will open your eyes to the potential of the genre as a whole and shatter any preconceptions one might enter with. It really is that good.