Who would’ve thought that we’d be playing a game that both looks and feels like the original Megaman game nineteen years after it was originally released? Whilst games have evolved tremendously over the years, there are still some gamers who are just itching for a challenging retro platformer – myself included.
Tribute Games have brought us some high quality retro inspired games over the last few years and their latest release Ninja Senki DX is another great addition to their nostalgic catalogue. Taking inspiration from classic NES platformers, the game sees you run, jump and fight your way to victory in a colourful 8-bit world. The game has actually been available for awhile – Ninja Senki was a freeware release back in 2010. This is the five year anniversary though, and what better way to celebrate than releasing a deluxe edition of the game with a decent amount of new features and changes?
The game casts you as Hayate, a Ninja who is seeking revenge for the death of his beloved Kinuhime by the hands of an evil demon Ninja. That’s it. Similar to the classic NES platformers, you’re just given a basic premise which sets up the foundation of the game. There’s no epic plot twists or betrayals – just a straight up story of revenge.
The truth is Ninja Senki DX is the kind of game that doesn’t really need a story – this is a game all about solid, enjoyable gameplay. The game sees you working through 2D levels that get progressively more difficult. You’ll be jumping between platforms, pulling off tricky double jumps to reach difficult areas and also using the power of shurikenjutsu (that’s throwing shurikens for those unfamiliar with the term) to vanquish your foes.
The best way to describe it is as Megaman with Ninjas. I couldn’t help but to notice the obvious similarities as I was playing through the game with both the challenging platforming gameplay and even with the similar aesthetic design. It’s a good thing though – if you’re going to make a retro inspired platformer, using one of the most well loved 8-bit platformers of all time as inspiration is a pretty good choice to make.
Similar to classic NES games, Ninja Senki DX also features a tough as nails difficulty. With disappearing platforms, insta-kill spikes and a constant horde of enemies out to get you, your gaming skills are really put to the test. Level design is great though – there’s a perfect balance of enjoyable platforming and the necessity for twitch reactions. I also appreciate the unjustified but wholly acceptable floating platforms that make up each level – it’s old school level design at its finest.
There are plenty of different enemies that’ll try and stop you gaining your revenge though. Whilst there are standard fodder who will fall with ease, you’ll also come up against enemies that launch projectiles everywhere, those with homing projectiles that wipe you out, those who jump at you as you’re jumping between platforms – you’re constantly at threat with the endless enemies coming your way. The enemy design is great too, offering a variety of foes based on Japanese mythology and culture. Some are all new to the deluxe edition too, such as the newly redesigned E. Honda-esque sumo wrestlers that’ll try to smash you down on the last level of the game.
There are eight bosses that you’ll encounter in the game. These boss fights are a standard affair, consisting of learning that boss’ attack pattern and then finding the holes in their defence. Admittedly they aren’t too difficult and though you may die on the first attempt it won’t take too long to figure out how to beat each boss. I couldn’t help but to feel a little disappointed with some of the boss encounters – one of which you encounter the same time on multiple occasions, the only difference being that he’ll come with a few minions to help him out.
Whilst Ninja Senki DX is a tricky game, it does offer some solace with its checkpoint system. There are a few checkpoints in each level and even death only sends you back to the start of the level. It’s a departure from the unforgiving nature of classic NES platformers, where death might see you having to restart the game from the beginning. In honesty I appreciated the checkpoint system, but maybe a little too much at times – I’ll admit that if I started a level with just the one life, I’d quickly kill myself in order to just start the level again with the full three lives.
There are collectibles to find in each level in the form of coins. It’s pretty difficult to get them all – they’re often in the most insane locations that’ll take a ton of skill to reach. Still, it offers the completionist something extra to work for. There are also bonuses on offer for killing every enemy in each level and completing each level within a certain time limit.
It won’t take you too long to finish Ninja Senki DX – I managed it in roughly two hours. There’s a decent amount of post game content though with a variety of extra game modes to play through, some exclusive to the deluxe edition of the game. There’s the ‘hardcore mode’ that challenges you to complete the game in one sitting, ‘boss rush’ mode that sees you taking on all the bosses in the game in quick succession and the additional ‘challenge’ mode that offers you extra objectives to complete. The extra game modes give you more to keep playing after finishing the game, though there are multiple endings on offer for those who want to blast through story mode again. There’s even an extra additional character to unlock if you’re particularly skilled at the game…
Ninja Senki DX looks and sounds exactly like a classic 8-bit NES game. If you don’t like that style then you’ll want to stay away from the game – if you appreciate it though then you’ll love this blast to the past. The visuals are great and reminiscent of those of yesteryear, whilst the soundtrack will evoke memories of playing through some of your favourite classic platformers.
Ninja Senki DX felt like a trip down memory lane for me, reminding me of all the classic platformers I played when I was younger. The 8-bit visuals, fun platforming and tricky difficulty – it’s all there. There are plenty of additional extras that’ll keep you coming back for more too, with both multiple game modes and endings on offer to keep you hooked after completion. Whilst there is a slight lack of depth with boss battles, it doesn’t stop Ninja Senki DX providing a solid platforming experience – with such a low price point it’d be an injustice not to give it a try!
– Fantastic classic platforming action
– Great 8-bit visuals and classic soundtrack
– Plenty of game modes to keep you busy for hours
– Low price point
– Boss encounters can feel a little disappointing
– If you don’t like classic platformers you’re not going to enjoy it
Developer: Tribute Games (www.tributegames.com)
Publisher: Tribute Games (www.tributegames.com)
Release Date: 22/02/2016 (US), 29/02/2016 (EU)
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Playstation Vita, PC, Mac