Although you may not remember the name, The Ninja Warriors probably caught your eye in the arcade due to its extremely wide screen. Instead of sticking to one monitor (a staple of the arcade scene in the 1980s); Taito's beat-em-up actually featured three televisions side by side (by side) giving off a faux-panorama sensation. This expanded display didn't change the game play, but it did allow you to see the enemies coming after you from further away. This was The Ninja Warriors' claim to fame, but outside of this simple gimmick chances are you wouldn't be able to tell this game apart from any other ninja game of the era.
Thanks to the mild success in the arcade, The Ninja Warriors managed to show up on a number of game systems. The Super NES version of the game was a huge update, featuring all new graphics and characters. Unfortunately the TurboDuo owners weren't so lucky, as their version of The Ninja Warriors played like a direct port of what can only be described as a mediocre action game. It features the same boring level design, the same villains, and the same frustrating game play. The only thing that is not the same is the perspective, when it came to this TurboDuo port the widescreen was cut down to fit on your television. This doesn't change the game play at all, but it does remind you just how boring this game was in the first place.
The Ninja Warriors allows you to choose between a male and female ninja, both with their own design. But these aren't your average everyday ninja; the protagonists in this game are actually robots that can withstand a superhuman amount of damage. If you get shot not only will your health go down, but a little part of your fake skin will peel off. Get a face shot and it will expose your robot head, get hit down low and you will see a pair of metal legs, and so on so forth. This is a pretty cool effect, but it certainly doesn't change the game in any way.
Your ninja has two main attacks, a dagger attack and throwing stars (of which you have a limited supply). This lack of variety ends of being one of the biggest problems with The Ninja Warriors. The dagger attack is effective, but the short range means that you will have to wait until the enemies are right next to you. The throwing stars are actually pretty useless; they take too little damage, requiring you use up your entire stock on just a few enemies. The game is designed to frustrate you with cheap hits due in large part to your crummy attacks. This makes sense in an environment where they want you to continue to add quarters to the machine, but on a console these cheap hits just feel unfair.
Sadly it's not just the attacks that miss the mark here; the level designs are also unbearably bad. The first two levels are really nothing more than you walking (slowly) from one side of the level to the other. You won't be jumping on buildings or going over hills, you're just walking on a flat surface with repeating backgrounds. You will run into the same enemies dozens (if not hundreds) of times and go up against terribly designed bosses. Eventually the game will give you stairs to walk up, but it's at the slowest speed possible and doesn't add anything to the level design. The entire game moves at a snail's pace, and the game play just proves to be too repetitive for its own good. If you've played the first three levels then you know what to expect in the rest of the game.
The graphics in this port aren't terrible, but they are a major step down from the arcade version. While it's probably true that the TurboGrafx-16 was unable to offer the graphics that were seen in the arcade game, the truth is that without the three TV's next to each other the cool effect is completely lost. When the game play and level designs are so bad it's hard to even care about the graphics, but for what it's worth the detail is pretty poor. There is nothing here that will keep you interested enough to finish the game.
The Ninja Warriors has a lot of potential; it's a good idea that is bogged down by some bad game play choices and levels that refuse to change. This isn't the worst game on the system, but with far better games like Ninja Spirit available it's hard to care about this sluggish arcade port. The Ninja Warriors wasn't a good arcade game to begin with, and this toned down port only accentuates the worst aspects of the experience. If you have fond memories of this arcade game then you might find something to enjoy here, but for the rest of us this game is not worth playing.