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Ninja Gaiden Episode III: The Ancient Ship of Doom

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Title Screen

Ninja Gaiden Episode III: The Ancient Ship of Doom

Also known as: Ninja Ryukenden III: Yomi no Hakobune (JP)
Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Platform: NES
Released in JP: June 21, 1991
Released in US: August 1991

DebugIcon.png This game has debugging material.
SoundtestIcon.png This game has a hidden sound test.
LevelSelectIcon.png This game has a hidden level select.
RegionIcon.png This game has regional differences.

You got your rogue CIA agents in my ninja platformer!

Debug/Sample Mode

The value at address $FFF9 (ROM address 0x20009) has several functions: it enables/disables debug mode, sets the last stage that can be played, and enables/disables between-level cutscenes.

Debug Mode

No thrills.

Bit 6 controls debug mode: if set (1), it is disabled, and if clear (0), it is enabled (Game Genie code AUNNOYAY). When enabled, the game will boot directly into a combined level select and sound test, which works as follows:

  • Hold B and press Left or Right to change the first digit.
  • Hold A and press Left or Right to change the second digit.
  • Press Select to play the selected sound effect or music.
  • Press Start to go to the selected area.

Additionally, pausing the game and pressing Select will toggle invincibility on or off.

Stage Limit

Bits 0-5 set the last stage that can be played, presumably used in sample copies to prevent reviewers from spoiling later parts of the game. When the specified stage is reached, the stage number is reset to $00, returning the player to the first stage of the game. This is set to $30 in the final game, though this is not a valid stage number.

Cutscene Skip

Setting bit 7 (Game Genie code ENNNOYAY) will cause the game to skip between-level cutscenes.

(Source: CaH4e3, BMF54123)

Regional Differences


The game was made drastically harder for the US version, through various means to extend gameplay time:

  • Damage taken by the player from most sources is higher: all enemies that dealt 1 damage in the JP version deal 2 in the US version, and all enemies that dealt 2 damage deal 3. Likewise, hazards such as spikes and electric fences, which dealt 3 damage in the JP version, deal 6 damage in the US version. Enemies that dealt 3 damage remain unchanged.
  • Enemies have been rearranged in every stage, generally being harder to avoid.
  • The quicksand in Act 2-1 hurts Ryu when he's sunk from the waist down.
  • Sub-acts no longer have checkpoints for each letter-separated section, causing the player to go back to the start of the entire sub-act if they die. For example, in Act 2-2, which is split into sections from A to D, dying in Act 2-2D or 2-3A (the boss room) sends the player back to the start of Act 2-2D in the JP version, and the start of Act 2-2A in the US version.
  • The player can only continue up to 5 times after getting a Game Over, being forced to start the game from the beginning if they run out of continues. However, a cheat code has been implemented that gives the player 99 continues if they let the title screen play out 8 times, then hold Left, Up, A, B, and Select when pressing Start.
  • After using a continue, the player starts from the beginning of the entire act, rather than the current sub-act. Using the previous example, getting a Game Over anywhere in Act 2-2 has the player continue from Act 2-2A in the JP version, and Act 2-1 in the US version.
  • A password feature that was implemented in the Japanese version was removed, requiring the game to be beaten in one session like the previous Ninja Gaiden games. The Game Over screen shows the amount of continues left instead of the password the player would have gotten.

The version included in Ninja Gaiden Trilogy for the SNES reverted the difficulty back to the same level it was in the original Japanese version, except for the checkpoints.


USA Japan
Ninja Gaiden III (NES) unused ending.png NinjaGaidenIII-ToBeContinued-JP.png

In the Japanese version, a message saying "TO BE CONTINUED NINJA RYUKENDEN-II" appears after 18 minutes have passed on the ending screen. This is because Ninja Gaiden III was actually an interquel set between the events of the first and second NES games and the story continues with Ninja Gaiden II. This chronology of events was downplayed in the U.S. version (the English manual only makes a vague statement about "Ashtar (returning) to the bowels of darkness" after Ryu's duel with Jaquio, which is the only hint that Ninja Gaiden III is set before II, since Ashtar is killed off during the events of the second game (along with the fact that Ryu still possesses the Dragon Sword in the third game despite having lost it in the end of the second). As a result, this part of the script was removed in the U.S. version. It can be restored with the Game Genie code AENLSVNY.