|Title: Ninja Spirit
Rom Player: Magic Engine 0.98
Synopsis: I remember Ninja Spirit as one of my most favorite TG-16 games, and one of the best ones ever made for the system. And not just because it's about ninjas!
In case you don't remember, Irem (yes, the dudes who made R-Type) was one of the few 3rd-party developers NEC managed to recruit that was actually worth something. They only made a few games for the Turbo, but what they did release were amazingly accurate (for the time) translations of their arcade games. Ninja Spirit was one of these. Ninja Spirit isn't widely remembered as an arcade game, largely because it came out at a time when the market was flooded with similarly-styled action games and few arcade owners were willing to make room for 'more of the same', but amidst the sea of crap that was the TG-16's library, this game's true beauty was able to finally shine.
The story, as I vaguely remember from the manual which I no longer have, centers on, of course, a ninja. Let's call him 'Kenji', because 'Your Guy' makes it sound like I didn't put any research into this review at all. I didn't, but that's beside the point.
Anyway, poor Kenji was betrayed by his ninja clan and killed by evil magic, but three days later, just like Jesus, he rose from the grave to seek vengeance upon his killers!
Kenji has four of the ninja's traditional weapons available to him: the Katana, Shuriken, the Kusari-Gama and some kind of hand grenade, but unlike most games of this type, all four weapons are available from the start (you can change from one to the other by pressing Select). Of course this makes the powerup system pretty basic, but it still manages to be for the most part useful. As in most shooters, there's a designated enemy, in this case, the orange ninja, who carries color-coded orbs that'll allow Kenji to power-up each weapon once, make up to two clones of himself that follow him and mimic his attacks, destroy all the on-screen enemies, at once, and create a flame-shield around himself.
The arcade version of Ninja Spirit was a very difficult game, largely because of the sheer number of enemies that would pile themselves onto poor Kenji en masse. The TG-16 couldn't handle quite so many sprites on the screen at once, and in this case, it's a good thing, as this limitation tones down the difficulty to something more reasonably human. But even in PC-Engine Mode, where Kenji can take five hits before dying (as opposed to Arcade Mode where he dies instantly with one hit), Ninja Spirit is still not an easy game, yet it doesn't reach that overwhelming level of difficulty where you want to throw down your controller in disgust and scream, "This is impossible!" Even though the system keeps throwing enemies at you as fast as it can, there are very few that take more than one hit to kill and powerups aren't too scarce. As for the bosses: the first one's a complete pushover, but after that, you'll have to be a bit creative to defeat the rest.
The graphics are good, though rather subdued, reproducing the original game's as faithfully as possible. They get the job done, but there’s really nothing too fancy or flashy going on, even by the standards of the time. The music, alone was worth the $60 I paid for the original HuCard when it was new, and is among some of the best that the Turbo's pathetic little soundchip ever produced. Dark and haunting, and distinctly Japanese. There's even a Sound Test mode right in the main menu, an unheard of thing among TG-16 games, so you can sit back and listen without the game's sound effects interrupting. There's even a few grainy little voice samples, most of various grunts and whatnot, but still, managing to squeeze all this onto a 512KB HuCard (the biggest ever produced) was pretty remarkable.
Overall, this is still one of my favorite TG-16 titles, and an essential addition to the collector's library. Plus, it's an old game about ninjas. How could it NOT be good?
Best Cheats: Level Select:
At the title screen, press II, I, II, II, I, II. Hold Select while pressing Run, then move your cursor to the "Stage Select" icon.
At the title screen, hold Select and press Start.
Game Play: 8
Overall Rating: 9
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