The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for…
Great gamesplay; gorgeous graphics; wonderful soundtrack
Poison Mushroom for…
Not a ton of content; can be wrapped up in a few hours; characters are a bit slow
Once a staple of the video game industry, the arcade has all but disappeared over the years. Fortunately, the spirit of the arcade lives on thanks to a number of options on eShop, including NatsumeAtari’s The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors. The title is an old-school experience that captures the heart of the arcade experience, with some modern trappings to make the experience more palatable for gamers old and new.
A remake of Taito’s 1994 Super NES game The Ninja Warriors (itself a follow-up to an arcade game of the same name), The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is a sidescrolling beat ’em up. As in the original game, players choose between one of three different ninja androids, each with their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Ninja is bulky and strong, but has very limited ability to jump, Kunoichi is smaller and slightly faster while Kamaitachi is the most lithe of the group. The game also boasts two brand-new, unlockable characters, as well. No matter which android you choose, all of the characters move at a fairly slow clip. While this was typical for most arcade beat ’em ups, some younger players may find it takes some getting used to.
In true arcade fashion, the story is fairly limited; the Warriors were created as part of a last-ditch attempt to overthrow a cruel dictator named Banglar, though that isn’t really addressed until the end of the game. The Ninja Saviors wraps up with a fairly melodramatic cutscene, but the bare bones story really just serves as window dressing. That’s not really a gripe though, because no one goes to the arcade looking for a deep story!
The Ninja Saviors is not a massive reinvention of the arcade formula. At its core, it shares some DNA with dozens of other arcade beat ’em ups. Even the enemies you’ll encounter follow classic arcade tropes (gangsters, ninjas, robots, etc.). What sets NatsumeAtari’s title apart, however, is that it delivers all those genre clichés in such a pleasing manner that it’s easy to ignore the fact that it’s all been done before. The controls are tight and responsive, enemy types are varied and require a bit of strategy, and the game has a few options that make it suitable for both the hardcore and casual crowds. Players start with an infinite number of continues, but using a continue results in the time completion for the level not being recorded. It’s a minor detail, but it’s a smart way to give the game the challenge some gamers will expect while still making it an enjoyable experience for the casual crowd.
The game plays well, but it also looks good, too. The 16-bit graphics pop, whether it’s in handheld mode, or docked. The backgrounds are gorgeous and the character designs are crisp and unique. More importantly, it also runs well. Some levels (particularly the last boss fight) feature a large number of enemies, and the game never suffered any noticeable slowdown, regardless of how many opponents appeared on-screen.
If there’s one area where The Ninja Saviors shines brightest, it’s the soundtrack. Performed by Taito’s house band Zuntata, this is one of the finest soundtracks I have ever heard in a video game. It perfectly encapsulates the arcade feel, and I know I’ll have these tracks stuck in my head for days. Players can even toggle between the new compositions and the SNES versions, as well. As of this writing, the soundtrack is not available for purchase digitally or physically, but that definitely needs to change.
The game’s length, however, will likely be the biggest turnoff for potential buyers. The Ninja Saviors boasts 8 stages, and most players should be able to wrap up the game in less than an hour. Finishing up Normal mode unlocks Hard mode, but even those stages don’t offer a huge challenge. Beating each level unlocks a Time Attack version of each stage, and those results can be ranked online, but these extra options only extend the length so much. The Ninja Saviors is a blast while it lasts, but that just isn’t that long, and the $19.99 price tag might be a bit too steep, for some.
I never had the pleasure of playing The Ninja Warriors in the arcade or on SNES. I did, however, spend more than a few summer nights with a handful of quarters in a bowling alley arcade, giving my all to beat Magneto in Konami’s X-Men. The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors perfectly conjures up those memories with a wonderful soundtrack, gorgeous graphics and tight controls. It’s not a terribly long experience, and some will find it a bit too easy, but it’s a wonderful experience regardless, whether played solo, or with a friend. While arcades have become few and far between, it’s nice to know the spirit of those classic games continues to live on.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.