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The Legend of the Mystical Ninja series is a game series I’ve heard a fair amount about in the past. I’ve heard that it’s a good game series, and I’ve heard it’s got a tongue in cheek atmosphere. Despite all this, I’ve never taken the time to try any of the games in the series. Maybe it’s because many of the more lighthearted 16-bit games I’ve played haven’t been that good. Maybe it’s because of a certain degree of cognitive dissonance – for me the definitive ninja game series is the Ninja Gaiden series, and that definitely takes itself seriously. So, this last issue of Nintendo Power finally got me to knuckle down and try out the first Legend of the Mystical Ninja game.
You are Master Ninja thief Goemon (Kid Yang in the English version – I’m not sure why). After Princess Yuki is kidnapped by the mysterious Otafu army, Goemon and his perverted companion Ebisumaru set out to rescue her. How do I know Ebisumaru is a pervert? Well, he’s got a bandanna tied around his head the same way Happosai does when he’s going on a panty raid, so I figure it’s safe to assume that that particular bit of character design is visual shorthand for “pervert”.
So, one of my favorite NES games is River City Ransom. Part of this is because the game is an excellent combination of your Double Dragon-style side-scrolling beat-em-up and your semi-non-linear RPG. While Legend of the Mystical Ninja has a more linear structure to it, it does bring some of the RPG upgrade structure to the table.
No save system, instead you have to write down a password made up of not only letters & numbers, but also some punctuation marks and symbols. Look, just because there are hearts in the ASCII character list doesn’t mean you have to use them. Look, I do understand why you didn’t include a battery save option (cost), but there has to be a better way.
The password system in and of itself isn’t ugly – it’s just an annoyance, which is why it’s under “The Bad”. What is ugly though, is how you get your password – you have to go to a specific building in each level to get your password. The building isn’t labeled. It also isn’t at the beginning of the level – you have to look for it. If you can’t find it and aren’t playing on an emulator with save states, then you’re in trouble.
Additionally, each level has a time limit. It’s a generous one, 999 seconds, but as near as I can tell, the only reason it’s there is to keep you from just grinding repeatedly for cash until you hit the max. That’s not particularly a good enough reason. It’s better to take the River City Ransom route and not give a time limit at all.
I really had fun playing this game. While I said at the beginning that I’d heard a lot of good things about this game series, basically where I heard all this was from retro gaming sites and retro gaming magazines. Most people I’ve run into in the “real world” haven’t heard of it, or aren’t big “fans” of the series – not the same way River City Ransom has built up a following. I’d definitely recommend this game, especially for someone who liked River City Ransom, but thought it needed more direction. 9 out of 10.