(Ninja Kid, October 1986, Bandai)
Sometimes seeing the world in only 8 bits can send you into non-sensical bouts of insanity and cause you to stomp on every turtle on the planet with everything you have, sending women and children fleeing in terror. I have also deduced that eating random mushrooms does not make one bigger nor give one another chance at life but rather can make you vomit uncontrollably or yearn to roll in fields of grass whistling "Magic Carpet Ride" for ten hours straight. So I took a SNES break and played some Final Fantasy IV, sue me, it's a great fucking game. Now then, where were we? Ah, another Bandai game which could either be an auto-stinker or pleasantly suprise me a la Chubby Cherub. No way lightning strikes twice so with zero expectations and rolled up sleeves, let's dig into some Ninja Kid!
:Kitaro translates into "Phu-King Boring"
Another Bandai game based on an anime that flipped the script upon arriving in the U.S., this was originally titled "GeGeGe no Kitaro", based on a one-eyed boy named Kitaro who attempts to keep peace between humans and ghost spirits. He is also 350 years old and has a decaying father but the more we delve into this weird shit, the more off-track we get about the game so suffice to say unlike Q-Taro/Chubby Cherub, this story is going strong to this day through manga and animation and sports more episodes than any anime maniac could digest in one lifetime. All Kintaro references were removed for us on this end and we were given the gift of the most generic of generic names, Ninja Kid! The change is actually welcome as he goes from a bland every kid to a goofy-grinned blue-haired kickass ninja type of fellow. The other changes are minor save for an enemy or two here but the core games remains the same. Could Bandai possibly not suck twice in a row?
Now THAT'S a fucking Ninja Kid!
This game is far deeper than I would've given it credit for. If I was suprised about Chubby Cherub not being a total shitfest, I'm five times as shocked at Ninja Kid. The saga begins on an overworld map where there are three temples you must beat to get to the end of the level where a boss awaits. Sometimes, there will even be a mini-boss ready to send you to ninja hades at the end of the regular stages, giving a true sense of "oh shit!" that alot games of the time tried and failed at. Throughout Ninja Kid, whistles are found that can either have you fight alongside a Pegasus, a huge pissed off eagle, or an old witch who's attack is so strong, I swear I wouldn't be suprised if she was Gandalf's fuck buddy for a century or two. There is a great variety of levels to plow through, so I'll briefly touch on how they work.
Why is it even called Poison Field?
POISON FIELD - As easy as it sounds, Ninja Kid must collect 10 spirits that float in the air while dodging whatever comes his way. Sounds like a breeze but in later stages when shit explodes into 8 way death flames, it can be one of the most trying of stages.
One of the humongous sub-bosses. Beating these turds takes very precise, sniper-like shots to move on.
GUERILLA WARFARE - Fair enough. The premise is to kill a set number of baddies that try to make life miserable. Most of the time, this is the fastest part of the game to get through as the anti-ninja's out there can't really match firepower so they can be mowed down akin to a small stage of Contra.
Maybe whistling "Magic Carpet Ride" DID work? Kids, do shrooms!
DOG FIGHT - Ninja Kid dresses up like Snoopy and commands a plane that looks alot like the Red Baron's, Just bullshitting. NK hops on a kite and like in Warfare has to take out a set number of antagonists. This is by far the easiest mode to get through as the targets fly by so quick that you can just manuver behind them everytime and gun their nuts off. No fuss, no muss.
It's a Taco Bell fart that gained a soul!
BLAZING INFERNO - This is the motherfucker of the game. There are ten candles scattered throughout the level and the object is to use this tiny flame that follows you wherever you go to light them all. Sometimes, it can be a glorious pain in the ass to dodge shurikens and knives while trying to get the little firey booger to do what you want it to. Like most old games though, once you get the hang of it, it isn't impossible and forces you to keep trying.
A favorite early form of Shangri-La. Out of nowhere, after all the serious death faced, here comes a dude with a guitar firing notes at you.
After these stages are over and done with, sometimes Ninja Kid is whisked away to fight one of the aforementioned sub-bosses. Most of them are cakewalks and don't up the difficulty throught the game like the stages do. All of them take one shot to the weak spot and back to the map you go. When the entire map is clear, it's time to take on the main badass of the game, a Demon Lord named Shangri-La, who takes many forms as you go on. They are varied and keep the challenge new and intriguing throughout as very different strategies are required to defeat the different transformations he goes through. If any of these NES games from '85-'86 was begging for a rewarding ending, it would have to be Ninja Kid. As for the graphics and controls, the sprites are nice and big and the stages have differing motifs to them that look exactly what they were shooting for. One stage looks like a cold, mountainous valley, another gives the warm feel of a sunny, bright springvale, and so on. The mini-bosses are also the biggest to date for the NES which is saying something. The only real negative I can see graphic-wise is with the enemy variation within the levels can be lacking at times but if I'm going to complain about that type of shit in a 1986 game, I'd better start cavetching about all the colors used for Zoomers and Rippers inside of Metroid. The sound, while nothing to hoot and holler about suffices and doesn't really distract to the point of neededing to dive for the mute button. The main song does loop a bit but the stages are over with quickly enough that it wasn't worth marking off for. In all, Ninja Kid is a hell of alot better than I expected it to be and my only true gripe is the lack of an ending.
Make it past this Stage 6 Assholus Maximus and buy yourself a trophy. Seriously, he is controller replacing hard.
THE FINAL VERDICT
8/10 I just can't look past the scope of what these guys were going for nor fault very much of what they did end up accomplishing. Some people like Coke, some people like Pepsi, some people love Ice Climber, I really liked Ninja Kid. This blew away the first wave of third party games and it is a shame that more people didn't try this involving, challenging, quite fun title. Two Bandai games I thought were going to be the hippo shits have actually suprised me. Maybe the world IS ending soon!
The M 7 on the left side of the screen? Yeah, my trophy is on its way. Good luck making it this far, it gets tougher than old elbow skin.