The Ninja is a game - yeah, you guessed it right - about a ninja. This ninja even does what we've come to expect from ninjas, that is wander about "huge tracks of land" (to quote Monty Python) and throws knives and shurikens at other, more malicious ninjas. He's even called Kazamuru, which I presume is very ninja-like.
The story, which takes place around 1630, also contains those elements which are known to everyone who grew up with their mother reading fairy tales to them before bedtime (or with video games of the ?80s). The concerning ninja has to save a princess and to do so he first has to find some obscure scrolls in order to infiltrate a palace that has been taken by some other indistinct villains.
This action game is viewed from the above and besides throwing shurikens, your ninja can also become an invisible whirlwind for a few seconds by pressing both action buttons at once. The graphics are quite plain compared to Master System titles as Golden Axe or Ghouls 'N Ghosts, but overall they are also very clear and sharp. There's a nice diversion of areas - in the second stage you've to avoid boulders, in the fifth you've got to cross a river by walking over drifting logs -, and the control of your ninja feels excellent. Each stage has to be completed by beating an end boss, which is always the same guy with a head that looks like an onion. Also, the up-tempo background music works pretty well.
Every time I play an 8-bit game, whether it is on the NES or Master System, I'm remembered how unbelievable hard some of the games were back in the ?80s. For The Ninja goes exactly the same thing. There is no life meter, so if you take one hit you die. You only have a few lives, so it's obvious you shouldn't take too many hits. However, it's unbelievable easy to take cheap hits. The enemies have a tendency to surround our ninja and besiege him from several sides. They move rapidly and throw multiple shurikens and you, which makes it hard not to get hit. There are also enemy ninjas disguised as rocks, and those will only appear when you get close. Especially the bosses are a pain in the ass, since they move around even faster and throw multiple weapons at you. Luckily, there are some nice power-ups, but unfortunately they only work for a short time span. However, the biggest omission is the lack of a password system, which means you've to be a real gaming pro to actually finish the whole game. I didn't make it, because I suck at games as I told you before.
Overall, it's easy to get frustrated when playing 8-bit action games nowadays due to their occurring high difficulty settings. This is also true for The Ninja, but the game still has that mysterious element that makes you give it "just one more try", even if the same onion-looking guy killed you for the twentieth time in succession. For a game that's more than twenty years old, The Ninja is still quite fun. And it's about a ninja called Kazamuru. What more could you possibly ask for?