I remember reading my trusty "Commodore User" magazine over
& over again. Why ? Because it had a preview for "The Last
Ninja", a game that by just reading the preview and ogling the
screenshots had managed to put me into a Zen state of droolness. My heart
pumped faster every time I opened the magazine, as my anticipation for the
game had reached "Arkham Asylum" levels of madness. I wanted it
all, and I wanted it NOW.
Then it happened, the phone rang, and as I answered it I knew my game had
arrived. Within the hour I sat perched in front of my C64 with tape 1 (yes
my fellow gamers, many moons ago games came on audio tapes. SHOCK!
HORROR!) in my grubby hands. I slapped it in the tape deck and seconds
later (more like a bloody long time) the majestic Japanese theme music
filled my "Robotech"-infested room with its sonic delights. I
almost turned into a blob of ectoplasm even though the song blared on with
an uncanny resemblance to Duran Duran's "Save a Prayer".
A long time later.
The game had loaded. WHOA!!! Holy Don Johnson-doesn't-wear-socks, I
thought, as I gazed at the beautiful graphics. Jeeeesy M, this game is 3D
or something (3/4's view)! I could move around the whole screen like it
was real and even walk behind trees and stuff and still see myself through
the leaves! HOLY SNOT could games get any better?
In my opinion "The Last Ninja" is a pure classic in the truest
sense of the word, action adventure games up until that point hadn't been
done with such style and attention to detail than this one. Programmed by
those Brit geniuses at System 3 (Tusker, Last Ninja 1-3, Flimbo's Quest,
IK+ ,Myth, Vendetta, etc.) this game had it all.
Not only was Ninja a quest (you found items and used them to solve
puzzles) but it was a great fighting game to boot with intense and
challenging battles. It had balanced gameplay and managed to warp my
little 11 year old brain with it's clever puzzles.... brilliant. The Last
Ninja was a 3 quarter view perspective action adventure title, which may
seem pretty standard now, but then it was not. Imagine the countless
shoot em ups and bad platform games that I had endured up until that
point, then the light at the end of the gaming tunnel came with its
flashing neon sign saying "Last Ninja Or Bust".
The gameplay involved you running around, finding objects (like the smoke
bombs to put a dragon to sleep so you can sneak past him) and mugging the
local bad ninjas. With groovy weapons like nunchuks, shurikens, swords,
poles and the good old "Fists of Fury", they had the ninja style
down. Every level I melted my way through was better than the last. I
remember playing the dungeon level late at night by myself and the music
was so haunting and scary that I wrapped a huge blanket over my wimpy body
as I played, taking quick glances over my shoulder to make sure no evil
Gremlin or vampire was gonna suck my blood. Every level had some mind
bending puzzle. These may seem simplistic now but they were tough then and
taught me that games could be clever and deeper than the old kill-em-all
gameplay of something like Green Beret/Rush 'n Attack, only the old
"typing" adventures (All the bandwagon "PlayStation is hip
to own" gamers scratch their heads in confusion at these) like The
Hobbit or Guild Of Thieves had shown any form of intelligence towards
gamers at this point in time (within the action adventure realm that is).
By the time I finished the game (many weeks later) I knew I had seen the
future of gaming, and it was gonna be SWEET.
All hail the Last Ninja... what a cool game!