This was a huge game in the arcade in ’88 (thanks to Romstar bringing it over from Japan). Physically huge, that is.
I remember seeing this for the first time and staring into the cabinet where the single monitor screen would be, only to see THREE screens side-by-side in a widescreen rendition of the side scrolling playing field. It was like staring into the interior of a small, scaled down theater, only it was an arcade cabinet doing something that I hadn’t seen any others do before.
And a buddy could play as ninjas. There was a guy ninja in blue and a girl ninja in red with a blonde ponytail, both on a mission to take down some fascist troll guy in a business suit that took over the nation with red eyed troopers. Yeah! Interestingly, the arcade flyer for the game filled in the backstory with the kind of fiction one would see in game manuals.
Did I forget to mention that both ninjas were ninja terminators?
It didn’t tell you this up front. I found out while playing the game and it made the action all that much cooler.
Every time they’d get hit, depending on what part of their body was damaged, the clothing would explode revealing the metal chassis. The bodies were also segmented to give the characters something of a more realistic level of animation, though onscreen they almost had a kind of marionette sort of look to them along with some of the enemies. But the graphics were sharp, the widescreen was awesome, and the music was incredible. And I still hated that tank boss. More tokens were thrown at the game.
It was eventually ported all over the place and in ’94, ended up on the SNES. As with a number of arcade ports, the console versions tended to embellish them with additional content which was a great idea. The SNES one roughly followed the story of the arcade version, but filled it up with redesigned stages, plenty of action, and gave players the ability to choose which ninja they wanted to play as.
The ninja in the arcade version played the same, but the SNES version made it so that each of the three different ninja were good at something whether it was being more agile and quick, dealing more damage, or being a bit tougher. The distinctive sprites for each also had their own sets of animations and appearance, such as Kunoichi’s perpetually angry face and blonde pony tail or Kamaitachi’s sharp edged robotness.
The action was also just a bit more exciting than the arcade version thanks to the console-specific changes that gave it more game for players to immerse themselves in, especially with the different ninja and the new bosses. As a beat ’em up, it’s definitely one of the best from the old-school. Short, but well worth multiple playthroughs just because it was that fun.
To show off the changes, Taito’s ad had all three ninja front and center along with a host of screenshots to show what the SNES could do. Great game!