Psst. There's a ninja behind you! Of course you didn't hear him sneak in, because he's a ninja. He's a silent killer, and you're his next victim. SO TURN AROUND! Oh, phew, there wasn't actually a ninja there. Instead it was just a list of the ninja games we'll be reviewing this week. That's right; this week we're picking up the throwing stars and meditating on inner peace. Below are five very different ninja games, each taking place in a drastically different time period. So ignore the silent killer that is probably hiding behind your couch right now and read Wrath of the Ninja Week!
CONTEST: Can you guess what games I'm reviewing? Below you will find clues for to all five games I'm reviewing. Tweet me @DefunctGames with your guesses for a chance to win a download codes and other valuable prizes. The person that gets the most right before Friday wins!
As a kid I got Shadow Dancer for Christmas, and considering I'd mostly played Alex Kidd games in the previous winter months, the game came as quite a shock. I wanted it mainly for the graphics, which had an almost 16-bit quality (or so the back of the box suggested). Seriously, the characters looked detailed and HUGE! Many Master System arcade conversions had compromised characters, so this was a minor revelation to my younger and far more superficial self. The 'real arcade game in my house' bells started ringing. (They only rang out properly when that incredible arcade mimic known as Street Fighter II on the Super NES waltzed into my life a year later).
Maybe it's because I've seen Sigourney Weaver transform into a demon dog at the Temple of Gozar, but Zool has always been associated with the evil forces. So imagine my surprise when Zool, who we're told is the Ninja of the "Nth" Dimension, crash lands on a planet filled with candy canes, sugar plumbs and frosting. Talk about lost in translation.
Despite being popular in Europe, Zool: Ninja of the "Nth" Dimension never made much of a dent in the United States. He was supposed to be the next Sonic the Hedgehog, but instead comes off as a cheap Aero the Acro-Bat clone. With a fidgety control scheme, questionable level designs and a nonsensical storyline, Zool left me scratching my head wondering if I missed something.
Poor Natsume. This controversial tale of two game franchises is well-documented in a revealing article posted by Cyril a few months back: Shadow of the Ninja: Hayate Got a Raw Deal.
It certainly is a crudely stuck-together hybrid of the two games which, in truth, were already very similar. I was unaware of this fact as a kid, but I can just about accept most of the hacked-on Gaiden parts of the game. It still works as a whole ... for the most part.
Ninjas and video games go together like syrup and pancakes. With their stealthy maneuvers, deadly weapons and foreign mystique, ninjas are a perfect fit on a game system. And thanks to decades of lazy and unimaginative game developers, we've seen way too many ninja incarnations. Gamers have taken control of space ninjas, animal ninjas, undead ninjas and even alien ninjas. With so many silly variations, I don't know why I'm having a hard time getting my mind around Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja.
Based on a 1991 arcade game from Data East, Joe & Mac tells the story of two average Neanderthals on a mission to rescue their tribe's kidnapped women. Using the most ancient form of ninja arts, our heroes are forced to battle more dinosaurs than Jurassic Park. This Genesis port features simultaneous two-player gameplay, some truly inspired levels and a whole lot of fun. Too bad the whole thing is over in less than a half hour.
You have to hand it to Joe Musashi. While most men get slower as they near their golden years, Joe only seems to be getting faster. In the 1987 original he was slow and methodical, creeping along and never rushing into risky situations. The same goes for Revenge of Shinobi and Sega's two Game Gear chapters. And yet here he is taking a page out of Sonic the Hedgehog's playbook. He speeds across the screen at alarming rate, killing a half dozen bad guys in a blink of an eye. There's no doubt about it, Joe is definitely on something.
Regardless of whether he's illegally juicing or simply getting better with age, Shinobi III is one of Sega's strongest arguments for their 16-bit Genesis. While the speedy gameplay may seem out of step for this long-running franchise, there are enough throwbacks to the classics to make it feel like a true Shinobi sequel. This is a spectacular return for one of Sega's best characters, and a fitting end for Joe Musashi.