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The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is the first game in the Goemon series to be released in America. I had never played any of these games but have seen Jeremy play one of them for the Nintendo 64. He told me this one was co-op and said we should play it. And just like that the decision was made. Developed and published by Konami, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja was released for the Super Nintendo in February, 1992. I guess we would consider this an action-adventure game consisting of both exploration and side-scrolling action.
If playing alone, you play as Goemon, otherwise known as Kid Ying in the American version. If playing with another person, the second player is Ebisumaru, otherwise known as Dr. Yang. After fending off the ghosts terrorizing their hometown, they discover that Princess Yuki has been captured and they set out to rescue her. And that’s really all there is in terms of plot.
The game consists of nine Warlock Zones you must progress through. Each zone starts you out in a town which is like a hub world where you’ll have to fend off enemies, can visit shops, play minigames, and interact with NPC’s to learn about events or obtain hints on what to do next. Sometimes you may need to purchase an item or do something specific that isn’t obvious to proceed. After figuring out where to go, you’ll proceed through a side-scrolling section where you work your way to a boss. After defeating the boss, you progress to the next zone.
Both characters can move left and right, jump, and in towns they can navigate up and down. They can smack enemies with their melee weapons or throw their ranged weapons and each throw costs money. Defeated enemies will drop money, lucky cats, or scrolls. Be careful not to hit any women as they result in a loss of money. The money can be spent at shops to play minigames like a level from Gradius, air hockey, dice games, a breakout clone, and others that don’t affect progression. The money can also be spent at shops on weapons and armor or items needed to progress which are usually ridiculously expensive. You may have to farm for money quite a few times to afford the items you need and that can be a bit tedious, especially if you suck at the game. Because it gets pretty hard.
Lucky Cats upgrade your character’s melee weapon. If you take damage, you lose an upgrade. Some of the equipment you can buy can your make your life easier like sandals which make you move faster but if you take damage, you’ll lose them. Collecting ten scrolls grants you a power and powers are used to activate the Jutsu moves. You have to pay to learn one of the Jutsu moves and you can only use them within the zone you buy them which really sucks. However, they can be very helpful like letting you ride creatures which ram into enemies and walk on hazards and there’s one that lets you fly.
Mystical Ninja is a difficult game and will require a lot of memorization to complete. However, some aspects are just frustrating. In some areas, the screen doesn’t start scrolling until you get very close to the edge and some enemies move so fast, there’s no way to see them coming so you take damage. Enemies can fill the screen in the towns, running in from every direction, some jump around, and some fire projectiles so you literally need to have the reaction time of a Mystical Ninja. The side-scrolling sections consist of platforming and the level design is pretty good overall. There are hazards to avoid like gaps, boulders, and spikes, among others, and you can acquire elephants which act as checkpoints. If you manage to save enough money, it may be a good idea to stock up on armor, extra lives, and food for health. The bosses are large and will really kick your ass until you get their attack patterns down.
After taking enough damage, you die, and lose a life. After dying a certain amount of times, it’s game over and you’ll restart from the beginning of the current zone. We are not ashamed to admit that after about twenty or thirty “game overs”, we cheated because we can. We gave ourselves infinite lives. We still got our asses kicked but we beat it. Some of the platforming areas can be very challenging but one player can piggy back on another which can make getting through some of these areas easier. Communication between players is beneficial otherwise trying to progress won’t always be an easy task. Now the game doesn’t hold your hand but NPC’s will give you hints if you’re not sure where to go. In fact, sometimes the NPC hints are needed to actually activate the way to progress. It’s always wise to interact with any characters you can. With that said, the formula never changes. You’ll always have to explore the town, figure out what to do, find the entrance to the side-scrolling area, get through it, defeat the boss, rinse and repeat.
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is a good-looking game with plenty of detail. The game is based on Japanese folklore which I know very little about. There are some cool uses of Mode 7, parts of levels will turn upside down, and the character sprites look pretty good. The soundtrack consists of a lot of old-sounding Japanese stuff. Yeah, we’re not really sure how to describe it but it fits the game well. It’s obvious we know very little about Japanese culture but we can say the music is pretty catchy. The sound effects are typical for the time the game released and the on the technical side, the frame rate will dip when a lot of enemies fill the screen but for the most part, the game ran smooth.
We definitely had fun with The Legend of the Mystical Ninja but it’s hard as fuck. And before you say “it’s not really that hard”, yes it is. If you play something repeatedly and know how to overcome every challenge, it’s not that hard. This was our first time playing through this so it was pretty hard. The controls are solid, the combat is fun, the level design is good, and it puts up a decent challenge. You may die quite a few times before you beat it, but it’s fun enough to keep you coming back.
Ultimately, we would recommend The Legend of the Mystical Ninja to fans of side-scrollers and possibly beat ’em ups. It’s not technically a beat ’em up but it sometimes feels like one. It’s got plenty of action, there’s exploration, it will kick your ass, and if you enjoy feudal Japanese folklore, there’s no reason not to check this out.