ST Format


Ninja Warriors
By Virgin Games
Atari ST

 
Published in ST Format #6

Ninja Warriors

A mere three years into the future, the evil President Bangler controls the army and police force, and is self-appointed leader of the underworld. With a stranglehold on the authorities, his reign of vice and terror knows no bounds.

To thwart the vile despot a group of revolutionaries, led by the dashingly-named Mulk, have designed and built a pair of robotic Ninjas, whose single intention in life is the assassination of said Bangler.

As if you hadn't guessed, your task is to guide these robots (either solo, or in conjunction with a friend) in an attempt to penetrate the six areas of Bangler's domain, shashing your way past his menageries of military and mutant henchmen on a mission to finally defeat the "President" himself.

Ninja Warriors

The background scrolls from right to left as the two robots walk and leap across the screen. Enemy characters approach from either side and shoot, throw grenades or simply wield knives in a menacing fashion and must be despatched with all due haste.

Your robot comes with a stash of 30 throwing stars, and can slash with his two blades or cross them in front as a defensive manoeuvre. To further evade attack, the robots can perform jumps and forward somersaults over the heads of the enemy, or crouch to attack low and avoid gunfire.

As hits are sustained, the human exterior of the robots is blown away to reveal the metallic skeleton beneath (a nice touch) until eventually the robot goes critical and explodes. Four lives are provided, but these are shared in two-player mode.

Ninja Warriors

Progress through the different stages sees the enemy become increasingly numerous and potent. Fire-breathing giants, a Ninja swordlady, some big dude with a ball and chain (who's very tough to beat) and laser-firing robots all join in the robot-kicking contest. And just to prove its arcade parentage, you also have to face and defeat end-of-level guardians in the shape of shuriken-throwing Ninja and huge tanks with a machine-gunning crew member.

Effects

Ninja Warriors really excels on the graphics front, with gorgeous backdrops, smooth animation and have enemy sprites - especially the tank, which is superb. The wide, three-screen layout of the original is represented by a long, narrow playing area and a unique load-while-you-play system has allowed the programming team, Random Access, to reproduce all of the arcade backdrops without interruption. The one fly in the visual soup is the jerky horizontal scrolling, which only serves to lessen the overall impact.

Sound too is used well with a pleasant soundtrack, supplemented by an array of sampled speech, screams, explosions, dog yelps and so on. This effect is unfortunately diminished by having only a few samples which are repeated over and over again.

Verdict

Ninja Warriors

Without doubt Virgin's latest Oriental beat-'em-up is graphically excellent, aurally sound (groan!) and technically excellent. But (there had to be a but, didn't there?) the look and feel of the game simply flatter to deceive, since the all-important gameplay is fairly medicocre stuff. Walk, slash, walk, slash, jump, walk a bit more... and on it goes. All the action takes place across a horizontally-scrolling path, with no obstructions to clear, and no other levels to jump up or down to.

Your range of attack and defnsive manoeuvres is pretty limited and so the strategic aspect is restricted to finding the best method of dealing with the more vicious opponents and end-of-level guardians. There are only half-a-dozen different enemies, which are mix 'n matched on the later levels to inject some variety to the proceedings.

A major plus point in its favour is the inclusion of a simultaneous two-player mode which considerably ups it appeal and makes the game slightly easier. Ultimately though, Ninja Warriors remains one of those annoying games which, while very slickly executed and presented, is limited by the quality of the original. Nice conversion - shame about the coin-op.

Steve Jarratt

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