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Ninja-Kun: Majou no Bouken (NES) artwork

Ninja-Kun: Majou no Bouken (NES) review

"If you like your ninja games slow and clunky and miserable, this is the game for you."

Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken is the first game in the long-running Ninja-kun/Ninja JaJaMaru-kun series. Presumably, it's also the worst game in the series. It's honestly a miracle that any franchise birthed by a game this bad could not end up stillborn.

Ninja-kun is a vertically scrolling platformer where the objective of each stage is to defeat all eight present enemies. Ninja-kun's move set is simple. He can throw a single shuriken with the B button to defeat enemies. The shuriken moves pretty slowly and doesn't travel very fast or very far. You'll have to get close to an enemy to defeat it, and the easiest way to do this is to jump on its head and stun it.

This brings us to Ninja-kun's major problem: the jumping. Your character cannot jump straight up. He can jump down through a platform or up and to the left or right. Tapping the A button will cause Ninja-kun to do a little hop, and holding it will allow him to jump high enough to reach the next platform. Unfortunately, the large leap has to be charged. Ninja-kun doesn't jump right away. The small hop is executed when you let go of the button and the large jump happens after holding the button for a moment. This puts jumping on a delay, which, combined with the fact that you have no control over Ninja-kun after he leaves the ground, makes reacting to enemy attacks a nightmare. Simply put, Ninja-kun is slow and clunky, possibly making him the worst ninja ever.

The core gameplay alone is poor enough to stop any recommendation of this game, but Ninja-kun's problems don't end there. Ninja-Kun features only three stages, one of which is a palette swap of another. The game cycles through a green mountain, an identical gray mountain, and a castle. A glowing orb appears in each stage, and if you collect three, you'll be taken to a bonus stage (which is a palette swap of the castle stage) where you can collect more orbs for bonus points. These levels simply repeat forever, adding stronger enemies as you go, until the 19th stage, where the game simply starts over from the beginning with the lowest-tier enemies.

Though you might expect all of the enemies in a game of Ninja-kun's calibre to be identical to each other, there is actually a total of five different enemies and (shockingly) they all behave differently. They all fire projectiles, such as bombs or arrows, which move in different patterns. For example, bombs will rise in an arc before falling through the floor for several levels, meaning they're only a threat when the enemy is on the same level as Ninja-kun, or above him. Fire attacks will chase Ninja-kun around the stage for a while before eventually dissipating. Unfortunately, this doesn't really lead to any interesting situations. Enemies all act independently and seem to be randomly placed. They're different enough to be unique from each other, but they're still boring, and they're not enough to keep the levels from getting repetitive. There's hardly any level design to speak of, and enemy placement isn't handled in an interesting enough way to make up for it.

Ninja-kun is simply a tiny little game. The entire thing basically consists of two levels, five enemies, and two collectible items (scrolls, for points, and orbs, to reach the bonus level, also for points). It's hard to decide if this is another of the game's many shortcomings, or a blessing. The less of Ninja-kun there is to suffer through, the better.

Ninja-kun doesn't look very good. Stage backgrounds have a surprising amount of detail (easy enough to do when you only have two of them, I guess), but they're not very interesting. Ninja-kun also doesn't sound very good, with its one annoying 30-second tune that repeats through the entire game. Even the sound effects are generic and unremarkable. What little joy this game could have brought into anyone's life is obliterated by the terrible controls and simple levels, leaving only a miserable experience that's best avoided by anyone but the most self-hating of masochists. Everyone else, stay far, far away.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (April 13, 2013)

Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.

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