The Ninja review
Some Nazi propaganda included
Who is the ninja?
The Ninja is one of the more well-known titles, scoring a Sega Classics logo in Australia. You know why that is? Because it's a classic! No, not in the same was as, say, Super Mario Brothers 3 or Contra, but more because it was a fun as hell title to play through. Granted, there are far better ninja games out there like Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden, The Ninja at least provided some dumb fun for a good half hour or so, and that's pretty much what you should expect to get out of games. Well deserving of that Sega Classics logo.
Japan after being poverty-stricken.
Peace in a province in Japan known as Ohkami in 1630 was brought to a halt by an evil Vassel named Gyokuro. When the feudal lord passed away, he took the throne, and his oppressive rule then brought many hardships to the people of Japan, lest they want to be slammed into the dungeon alongside the princess. It's not explained what happened during this time; all I can guess is that he was like Hitler, racist and a born dictator, but instead of Nazis, we have the Ohkami Ninja clan, and obviously, there wouldn't be guns; just ninja stars, knives and other ninja artillery. It's up to Kazamarui to restore peace and rescue the princess, putting together two fairly cliche plotlines - even for the time of the late-80's - together.
A long journey awaits - take the stars with you.
The Ninja plays like Ikari Warriors - that is, it's an overhead view, and you shoot down executioner-looking guys... Wait, those bastards are ninjas? I could've sworn they looked more like dungeon torturers or executioners or something... Whatever, like I said, shoot down bad guys with your stars, and if you get hit even once, you're dead. The concept works well, and you move at a good pace, so unlike Ikari Warriors (or at least the NES ports), it's not totally impossible to dodge enemy fire when there are a few on screen at once.
Damn, dead already?
One thing that will stump you immediately is the difficulty. Even though you're given more of a chance than in Ikari Warriors, the game still proves to be a worthy adversary. It's not because of the boss fights; it's actually because of the enemies. They come in different varieties, like star throwers, pick-axe throwers and fire breathers (and others), all of which come in droves to whomp your ass, and all it takes is one hit to die, and three lost lives to send your carpenter ass back to the title screen (no continues, in other words). Let's add the fact that you don't get any breaks throughout the game, unless you pause the game. Ninjas will keep coming at you, so the action is non-stop basically. All you have to help you is a stronger set of stars when you pick up the red scroll, faster movement when you pick up a blue scroll, and temporary invisibility when you press both 1 and 2 (like 2 seconds), and the power ups are not relative, meaning you don't get faster and faster or stronger and stronger; only 2 levels of speed and strength... and that is what makes the game so fun! The game keeps you occupied with ninjas, and what it equates to in the end is some dumb, fast paced fun!
Long looking journey.
The game hosts 13 levels, but only really lasts a half hour to about 40 minutes, meaning that while the levels are difficult, they're not all that long. The real kicker is the last level. Not because it's super duper hard or anything (although it actually is pretty hard), but because of pre-level 13 requirements - you need 5 green scrolls, or you'll be sent back a couple of levels to find them.
When I first played through this game, I didn't think too highly of the green scrolls. But then once I finally hit the end of level 12, I finally saw the reason why they're so important; to finish the game. Now, the first one is easy to find, but the rest... Not so easy. The other 4 require hitting everything in sight, which can get annoying, especially during a ninja onslaught, but partially because it just distracts you from the main point - to kill ninjas. Some of these scrolls can be a major pain in the ass to find when you're about to be molested by enemies. But in the end, it's all worth it, just to finish this game.
I didn't know Japan was so... colorful!
The graphics for The Ninja are pretty good overall. The amount of colors used for the levels is fairly vibrant, yet they fit the game pretty well. Not too realistic, but still fairly nice to look at. The detail in the sprites is well and good, though the backgrounds are simplistic looking, with only bits of detail here and there, but the variety of backgrounds makes up for that, since there are about 10 different sorts (2 are reused once). Animation for the enemies is a bit limited, but what you see is still admirable. For the carpenter (or is he a ninja?) known as Kazamarui, there's more animation for him since it actually shows him moving diagonally (and not the enemies), and feels natural too. Overall, the graphics are pretty impressive.
Just sounds so... I don't know, mediocre?
When it all comes right down to it, the soundtrack is often the one that captivates you. Unfortunately for this game, I'm glad it's the gameplay that maintains your interest, because the soundtrack is so mediocre, it's laughable. I mean the song that plays during the scrolling story segment and the level songs at first - they're pretty good, but if you listen to the title song, you'll probably go crazy. Not that bad, though, right? Well, just pick up the red scroll, and that tune will come back! WHY!? Okay, we power up, so bring in the disgustingly upbeat yet unfitting tune? The tune doesn't sound any good! I feel much better when the boss comes along, because the tune changes to a good tune until he dies, then it's back to the annoying tune! Honestly, you're better off muting the TV while playing this game - don't worry, you're not missing much.
The journey is long and arduous - are you ready?
If difficulty is the name of the game, The Ninja would definitely satisfy you. It's far from the most difficult game on the Master System, but it'll give you a run for your money if you're not too careful. Everything holds up pretty finely. The game is nice to look at, it controls finely and is a pretty fun game to play through. Maybe if a certain song wasn't the way it was, and if there were more tunes, the game would be one of the best Master System titles ever, but as it is now, it still comes as recommended, though it's far from the best you can do.
Statistic scroll, activate!
Simple, easy and doesn't get in the way. The whole Hitler-esque kind of rule the bad guy has is a nice touch, especially when you look at the ninja stars when you die.
The explorative touch is nice, though with some of the green scrolls, you wouldn't even think to look there. Bit of a pain to hit everything you see, though. Other than that, it's your fun and basic "kill all the enemies from an overhead perspective" sort of game, and a difficult one at that.
Scheme is simple enough, though I wouldn't have minded button 2 being used for scrolls, as opposed to both being attack buttons. But everything else checks out fine, and responds well to commands.
The ninjas look more like executioners and the ninja stars look more like swastikas. Okay, nitpicking over. Graphics are good, colors are nice, animation - however limited - is all good and some nice variety in surroundings. Simple details in the backgrounds, but nothing wrong with that, hey?
Not many tunes, but what we have is mostly acceptable. The tune for the title screen and when you get the red scroll isn't that good. Nothing blood-pumping or anything, and very, very irritating after a while. This is one of those games you're better off turning the volume to mute for. Seriously, the tune when you don't have the red scroll is what it should've been the whole time, because THAT sounds good.