Everybody loves games with ninjas in them, don't they? All that kicking and punching and leaping about and throwing stars and stuff... it's great fun. Tends to be a bit painful, though, so it's just as well that people make ninja videogames. We can all live out our black-clad stealth-killing fantasies from our own sofas. Great!
Ninja games have been commonplace for years now, and they still continue to be popular. In fact, they have legions of rabid fans (or fanboys) - just witness the howls of outrage at IGN's 3 out of 10 review of Ninja Gaiden 3 for instance. So Ninja games have moved on in the last thirty years or so, but sometimes simple is best. Let's take a trip back in time to a ninja game that was so simple, it was simply called... Ninja.
Do you know, it's only right now, just this minute, as I was editing this picture, that I realised that graphic is probably meant to be a defeated enemy lying on his back. I always thought they turned into pillows when you defeated them. Yes, I know that's stupid, but I did think that.
For some reason, Ninja was released using Mastertronic's Entertainment USA label. I never really thought of ninjas as being synonymous with America, but there you go. I guess they wanted to link it to American ninja movies, or something.
Your quest is to rescue Princess Di-Di (yes, really), who is held captive in the Palace of Pearls. you'd have thought she'd have liked it there, wouldn't you? Anyway whether it's against her wishes or not, you're there to go and drag her out. You have to collect idols to take to her on the way up, too. She sounds like more trouble than she's worth, this Di-Di.
Being that she's a princess and is held captive, the road to rescue is not an easy one. It's not enough that she's held in a tower (a tower without a single staircase, at that), each floor is populated with martial artists of various levels of ability. These range from thugs to karateka to evil ninja. You're going to have to dispatch pretty much all of them if you want to get the girl.
Come ooooon. Get yerself over here and get on the end of that!
Combat is fairly simple. The protagonists move towards each other, and then unleash a barrage of kicks and punches. The one that runs out of energy first falls to the floor. The other is victorious! The trouble is, any energy you've lost stays lost, until you find an idol. Better hope that watching Game of Death before setting off will hold you in good stead, then...
The martial artists in this temple are a messy bunch. As you wander around, shuriken and kunai litter the floors. You can pick these up and use them against their former owners, making life just that little bit easier. See, if they hadn't kept the princess holed up on the top floor, she'd probably have cleaned that lot up. That'll teach them.
It's all over for our ninja friend. Poor Princess Di-Di.
Ninja is a game that has many flaws. For instance, you might jump up a floor and land on one side of a hole with a number of enemies on the other side. They won't jump across the hole to get you, so you'll have to go after them yourself. And when you jump over, you'll probably die. Bit annoying, that.
For all that, and its atrocious reception in ZZAP! 64 (it managed a mighty 25% in its review), there's something endearing and quite addictive about Ninja. It might look rubbish and be nowhere near as ambitious as the likes of The Last Ninja, but it's always entertaining to put on for a quick blast. I've read that it's easy, but I've never completed it, not yet anyway. Maybe I'll have another go when all my writing is finished for the day, and see if I can finally crack it...