If you’ve been around the block a few times or just a connoisseur of fine retro games, you may have come across a game called The Ninja Warriors. It was originally released in the late ’80s in the arcade, later porting over to the SNES in the mid ’90s and also on the Amiga. It was quite a weird setup in the arcade as the screen was ultra wide for the time and, as a result, stood out quite a bit in arcades that were swarming with these old school side-scrollers back in the day. The game was originally by Taito and was a traditional ’80s game. Like its counterparts, such as Narc, the characters were blue and red and moved from left to right in the style of Final Fight, taking on a series of enemies.
Ninja Warriors wasn’t massively popular at the time, but through the home releases it gained a cult following and arguably is one of the best ninja games out there – sharing company with titles such as Tenchu and Mark of the Ninja. A sequel followed in the mid-’90s, and after a bit of a hiatus, publishers ININ Games are releasing the third in the series – The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors.
Cyborg Ninjas Are Bona Fide Ninjas
Much like a Capcom game, this game is just slightly revised in comparison to its predecessors. You still play as robotic ninjas that go up against the evil president Banglar and take on a series of enemies, including soldiers, robots and other ninja types. There are seven stages, and each one follows the same formula: stroll through a few scenes killing enemies left and right and at the end take on a usually oversized or overpowered boss.
To begin with, there are three ninja to choose from – two of which bear resemblance in colour to the original warriors. First up is Ninja – the tank of the group. He’s slow but packs a punch. Next is Kunoichi – very much the same red ninja from the original series and is perhaps the best all rounder. Then there is Kamaitachi – the fastest of the initial three and sports blades on his arms.
I often go for the tank, so I thought I’d try something different and went for the girl. I died pretty quick, so I then switched to the fastest of the three. Again, I died, but I managed to get to the first boss. On my third attempt, I went for Ninja and more or less completed the game with him (though a couple of bosses benefited from his other teammates).
Each character has their own skills. Other than your health bar (your armour), you also have a battery that builds up over time or through attacking your enemies. Once you reach the maximum, you can unleash a series of bombs that usually wipes out all enemies on-screen. It’s the same effect for all characters, just a slightly different animation. If you push up and attack, you will perform their special attack. Ninja unleashes his nunchuks, Kunoichi throws some kunai knives and Kamaitachi fires needles out of his back.
Much like Mother Russia Bleeds, this is one for the nostalgia fans. In fact, it’s so much like the original games that you’d be forgiven for thinking this isn’t a new game. There are no cutscenes or valid story – it’s like Dragon Ninja in that you see a series of static images and text for what is about to happen. From my experience though, I enjoyed it as it took me back to the days of playing games like Shinobi.
The graphics are very much the same – a 16-bit style and perfectly replicated. There is even a scanline option. I may have mentioned this before, but I’m a fan and had them switched on. You have a scale up to nine. I did max it out to nine but found the images blurred slightly, so six was perfectly adequate.
Ninjas Don’t Listen to Music
Now, the promotional material boasted that the music was from the developer’s in-house band, but I have to say that this was a letdown. In fact, the music was quite irritating for me. It sounds like Japanese supermarket music. If you don’t know what that sounds like, think of elevator music fused with Kenny G, then repeat. It just didn’t suit the game at all.
It isn’t really a hard game – it’s just the right difficulty. However, there is a hard mode available, and once you complete each level, you unlock a time attack for them. These can be quite tricky as enemies keep respawning, and on some of the levels there are missiles that are fired at you and push you back. It’s frustrating if you want to set a decent time. There are also two other characters to unlock as well: Raiden, who makes Ninja look like a gnome, and Yaksha is the opposite – a small cyborg lady with telescopic arms. Raiden was fun to play with as he demolishes everything, and Yaksha is for the technical players.
I can confidently say that you will complete this in a first sitting. I more or less did on the first attempt, but the final boss was a nightmare. That was probably the closest to ’80s arcade gameplay for me. It was a little too ridiculous at times, but I know someone will do a speedrun in a quarter of the time it took me to do the whole game.
Developer: NatsumiAtari Inc, Tengo Project
Publisher: ININ Games, TAITO
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch
Release Date: 30th August 2019
Do you agree with our review of The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors? What are your thoughts on the game? Tell us in the comments below.