Ninja Spirit


Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 8

Sound: 9

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

I never understood why some video game ninjas only enter into a fight with only one weapon. I mean, they are ninjas right? Masters of not only the various martial arts, but of weapons as well. Finally solving my quandary is "Ninja Spirit," a mish-mash of various actions games and one of the best to boot.

One or two players (either co-op or alternately) become the ninja(s) Moonlight. His goal is simple revenge. His father was murdered when he was very young and he has vowed to extract what he so rightfully deserves when the time comes. In case you haven't figured it out, that time begins when the power button slides over.

With the exception of the hideous box art, "Ninja Spirit" is about as perfect an action game as you'll find. It can be played in many different ways and it all depends on the player's style. Each of the four available weapons wildly changes the way to play the game and only a few small sections require a specific weapon.

A sword is the standard weapon, giving the game the same feel as "Ninja Gaiden" over on the NES. Throwing stars resemble "Shinobi," while the sickle and bombs are fairly unique. Each of the weapons can be powered up once and this will change both the range and power. When you die, you lose everything, which can really put players in a desperate situation.

Easily the most helpful power-up is the alter ego. Up to two Ninjas like yourself will follow closely behind, jumping and firing with you. This adds significant firepower and can take out some bosses in seconds if you play right. The other power-ups include a protective fire wheel and screen clearing blast.

This is a translation of an arcade game, a brutal one at that. Here at home, you can play it just like the cabinet which means one hit kills or you can select "PC-Engine" and take five hits (why it's not TurboGrafx mode since this is a US release is baffling). There are some enemies that will still kill you in one hit and it won't take long to figure out who they are. Things can get quite hectic, especially in stage 4 (out of 7) but developers where kind enough to add in unlimited continues.

This is a game much faster than those it is trying to emulate. It's non-stop action compared to the sometimes plodding pace of "Ninja Gaiden." Taking hold of the shurikens actually gives it a one-man-army "Contra" feel. Everything is exploding or moving in every screen and it just never loses momentum. Platforming is minimal, though a few sections will require some precise jumping. Only a deep fall in stage seven is poorly designed (and impossible to get past without some luck).

Surprisingly, not much has been lost from the arcade game aesthetically. Only some background detail and animation has been cut. When two players are fully powered up, it's an incredible sight that not only includes 6 sprites for the players, but a slew of enemies as well. The sprite count could easily surpass 15 in the later stages. There is some slowdown and nasty flicker, but neither of them really hinders gameplay. In fact, the slowdown can come in handy.

Music here is superb. It varies from being very subtle to incredibly fast paced to keep up with the action. Each track is matched up perfectly with the stages and it makes up for the rather standard sound effects. There is a little voice work including a scream when your ninja or a boss dies.

This is one of those truly addictive action titles, the type you'll spend an entire afternoon with just trying to beat that one section that is giving you trouble. This is easily one of the best of the hu-cards and a must play if you own the system. Just stick with it in level seven. You're almost there.


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Last updated: Sunday, October 31, 2004 08:49 AM