In 1988 Taito released the Ninja Warriors as an arcade game. To say the game intrigued me is an understatement. The game was unique in that it was a mixture of the beat-em up type games that were popular at the time along with the faster action style games such as Rushin' Attack. Great graphics and sound along with a three-screen wide display drew my attention. You were a ninja that was out against soldiers of various kinds, then when you take damage it's revealed you're some kind of robot. I didn't know anything about the story nor did I care - robot ninjas is all it took to make me a fan. I loved the game, even if I never really got anywhere in it.
Fast forward about eight years later and a sequel is finally released for the Super Nintendo. Although by this time I was a teenager and should have had a job, I was still pretty useless by this point and sadly never got to enjoy this particular game when it was new. Thanks now to teh intertubes I finally have the ability to play this game.
The game takes place in the near future where a tyrant named "Banglar" who looks like a little pudgy elf midget person has seized power over a military and economic superpower (which is inferred to be the United States) and has aims on conquering the world. A group of renegade scientists decide to fight back in the most awesome way they know how - by creating a trio of robot ninjas to go out and single handedly destroy the entire armed forces and assassinate Banglar. Who says science is boring.
You get a choice of three characters, first being the aptly named "Ninja," who is a slow, heavy type. He is really strong, and really, really slow. His attacks involve nunchucks which hit on both sides of him (when you can pull them off.) The middle balanced character is named "Kunoichi," (which is a generic term for a female ninja.) She uses short blades, kicks, and looks pretty close to her arcade predecessor. The last is a robot called "Kamaitachi," which is actually the name of a Japanese Yokai, in this case a "weasel ghost." He is the fastest (and weakest,) and attacks with bladed sickles. Each character has an auto combo and an assortment of other moves, including the usual screen clearing super attack. The difference here is the super attack has to charge up over time, and can disappear if you're hit or knocked down.
The game follows the same basic play mechanics from the arcade game, you walk left to right and kill people that come at you. Unlike other fighting games from this time you're restricted to a single plane, there is no walking up or down into the foreground. This makes the game somewhat faster and easier as all you need to is to keep all of the bad guys on one side of you and flail away. Later on they get really adept at surrounding and attacking before you get a chance to get up. Also unlike many comparable games you can block attacks (which is something I didn't find out until halfway through) which makes everything go much easier.
In fact the game is a bit too easy, even on the harder difficulty level. You don't encounter any significant resistance until almost the last level, and even then it's simply a matter of keeping all enemies on one side of the screen. The bosses are also a bit too easy, most of them can be defeated by simply crouching down and attacking. We could have used a bit more variation in this department.
My main problem with this game is a problem that seems to happen with every game of this type. The bad guys have the habit of standing outside of the edges of the screen. From here they can either surprise attack you when you had no idea of knowing they're there, or else just hang out and just wait, leaving you with nothing to do until they decide to grace the screen with their presence. I have yet to find a beat'em up game that does not have this flaw. The rest of the game is pretty standard left-to-right beat'em up fare. Most of the levels are pretty straightforward, although there is the occasional environmental hazard to deal with. One area is a parking garage with a helicopter flying around in the background firing at you, another has these falling bombs you can throw people into. Good ideas, and it would have been nice to see more of it.
Overall it's a worthy sequel to the arcade game, which in retrospect wasn't really that good (even though as a 12 year old I really dug it.) Good graphics, fast paced game play, great use of color and good animation in all of the sprites. The gameplay gets a bit shallow here and there but is fast enough to keep your interest. Definitely worth checking out for beat'em up fans.
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