Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Obscure Retro Gems - Ninja Warriors Again (Super Nintendo)

Ninja Warriors Again (or just Ninja Warriors, as it was known in the West) is a fantastic side-scrolling 2D beat-em-up game for the Super Nintendo. Released in 1994, it is a re-imagining of the original 1988 Arcade game, The Ninja Warriors. While published by Taito – who made the first game in the series – the SNES version was developed by Natsume, known for other brilliant SNES games such as Wild Guns, Pocky & Rocky 2 and Harvest Moon.

This time around the game is set is a bleak version of the future (aren't they all?) where the people are oppressed and ruled by the military, under the control of a maniac named Banglar. Thankfully, a small underground resistance formulate the genius plan to send in 3 ninja androids to kick ass and assassinate the tyrant. Unfortunately, they were pressed for time and deployed the trio of biomechanical ninjas in an untested state. What could possibly go wrong?

Now that's just not cricket. Grabbing a man by the danglies 
is never part of a fair fight. Shame on you Ninja.

Ninja Warriors plays very much like the usual assortment of scrolling fighters from the 1990's – games such as Final Fight, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Streets of Rage etc. – but the main difference is that, here you are stuck on a 2D plane (think, Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja in widescreen and you are on the right track). While this seems extremely limiting at first, you soon realise it was the right direction to go with - after all, how many more Final Fight clones do we need? You begin by choosing your preferred ninja from the 3 available; Ninja, an incredibly slow behemoth armed with metal nunchucks; Kunoichi, a female all-rounder with a sword; or Kamaitachi, an extremely rapid, scythe wielding character. Kamaitachi is my favourite by far as, not only is he the only one who moves faster than a snail on Valium, but he is also the only one who couldn't be bothered to disguise himself with a human appearance, opting for the skinny exoskeleton look instead.

Kunoichi faces off against one of the games many large bosses

The graphics are very impressive, with large, well animated character sprites and detailed and varied backdrops. Sound effects are suitably beefy, with weapon contact sounding satisfying. The music is also of a high standard – nothing particularly memorable, but it has a great action-music quality to it that suits the game to a tee. The stages you progress through consist of warehouses, a tube station, a plaza building, a military base, a traditional Japanese stage and many more. Each is awash with detail and lends the game a much need sense of variety. There is also the compulsory elevator stage that every beat-em-up since the beginning of time has to include by law.

Kamaitachi likes to be himself, choosing not to wear the fake 
human skin that his comrades  have opted for.

Combat, the main selling point of any beat-em-up is, thankfully, excellent. Each character has a large selection of unique moves that are immensely satisfying to pull off, with cool spinning throws, dash attacks, and air attacks at your disposal. While fighting, a bar at the bottom of the screen slowly builds up which, when filled, allows you to unleash a special move that damages everything on screen - a very helpful aid when you are getting overwhelmed by ninjas, soldiers, robots and midgets with Wolverine-style claws. Certain parts of the environment can also be destroyed, often by hurling enemies into them, and there are crates and other objects (even a motorcycle) that can be lifted and hurled at your attackers in order to do some extra damage.

Ninja demonstrates the success of his 'get ripped in 4 weeks' 
program by lifting a guard's motorcycle above his head. 

Ninja Warriors is bloody (literally) good fun, and manages to exceed expectations. I was concerned that a 2D scrolling beat-em-up would be boring, but I was wrong. It is an action-packed festival of ass kicking that is on a par, if not better than, the excellent Final Fight SNES games (Final Fight 2 and 3 were Super Nintendo exclusives). The only thing that could have improved the game would have been the inclusion of a 2 player co-op mode, and maybe some more stages. But what is here is exciting, gripping, and great fun while it lasts.

Kunoichi shows she can lift weights just as well as 
her male counterparts

* An important thing to note is that Americans and Europeans got a slightly altered version from the Japanese original. As usual, some gimp decided that we were unable to cope with seeing blood in a video game, so it was switched to ridiculous green blood (we are not fighting fucking zombies here!). Also the female enemy ninjas were removed, as apparently people from the West are not capable of seeing a pixelated ninja woman get punched in the face. The European version – due to the shitty 50Hz PAL debacle – seems very slow compared to the NTSC versions and was noticably easier than the other versions. Stick to the Japanese original and you can't go wrong.

The Ninja Warriors Again

Super Nintendo