Written by  :  Vecster (24)
Written on  :  May 18, 2006
Platform  :  TurboGrafx-16
Rating  :  3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars3.8 Stars

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Excellent Action, Style and Control gone MAD!

The Good

Ninja Spirit without hesitation is one of the best arcade action ports to the PC engine / TG16. The 2D side scrolling game features an awesome assortment of weapons, power-ups and stylish gameplay. Music and sound are arcady, but do capture a feel to draw the player into the experience. You take on the role of a ninja set out to avenge your slain father, simple enough. This simplicity extends into intuitive and inventive control, making for an experience seldom seen from the 16-bit generation of games.
Equipped with various weaponry, a Sword, Chain & Sickle, Throwing Stars and Explosive Sticks. Through the various levels defeating hordes of leaping ninja, power-ups are dropped to enhance your fighting prowess. Weapons may be powered up to decimate your opponents. The Sword radiates a wide slashing arc which is ideal for defensive action. Powered, the Chain and Sickle become capable of a spinning 360 attack that has devastating capability. Throwing Stars when upped, are not very powerful, but the screen coverage is immense. Finally, the explosives are decidedly the most damaging weapon the player can utilize. They will take down bosses in seconds, and are highly recommended. Each of the weapons mechanics are very sound and well thought out. When either on the ground or in the air via jump, the weapons take on some interesting and effective attributes. A weapon function is greatly altered when a direction is pressed prior or during a weapon attack. This mostly dictates the direction of the weapon attack, but there are nuances for each weapon type. For example, the "Explosive Sticks" when on the ground pressing down and attack, the player leaves behind a time detonated mine for advancing enemies.
An additional power-up calling "Shadow Ninja" into existence is where the energy and fun of this game multiplies exponentially. Utilizing this power-up places a duplicate of yourself executing similar movements based on a time lag of about one second behind. This takes on an interesting effect, after the player executes a large jump and lands but does not move, the following Shadows will be suspended in mid-air. This allows the player to create formations with the "Shadows", and unleash awesome and lethal firing arcs. While movement of the Shadows is delayed, the attacks of the Shadows are instantaneous, covering a very generous area dependent on the weapon being used. The player may have up to two shadows operating at the same time, with the same power-upped weapon conditions as the player. This is where the intensity of the game truly excels, and puts Ninja Spirit in a class of its own.
Level design is creative, and captivating to experience. From immense woodlands, wastelands, swamps temples and cliffs, the game never gets old. Each level is decidedly different in its visual, AND its gameplay. (The latter being something that is sorely lacking in most of today's games.) Level gameplay is focused in such a way where the player must utilize their skills differently for every level encountered, making the game lively, and never dull or dragging.

The Bad

One thing that bothered me was in the "weapons" power-up system. If the player is using a powered weapon, and picks up another weapon power-up it is wasted. Meaning, in order to power-up a different weapon you have to switch to the weapon that is un-powered to power it. This can be very distracting. In an action game such as this, it can leave the player wide open to attack, condemning you to start the level over again. The uncool factor gets a little grating at times.
Accuracy in long jumps can be a bit frustrating. The character is affected by inertia based on how the jump was executed with or without direction. Trying to maneuver the character in the air feels sluggish and not quite as satisfying as it could have been with a little more tuning.

The Bottom Line

For 16-Bit side scrolling action this one is a winner. Every weapon has it's time and place. There are many different approaches to all situations encountered, and all of those approaches are fun to execute. For the gamer or designer who likes to experience good solid core mechanics, and a health dash of fun, I definitely recommend Ninja Spirit.