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The Ninja Warriors is an arcade beat‘em up that was released in 1987 by Taito. I’ve played the Switch port and, to be honest, I’m not a huge fan. Visually, it looked pretty good for the time it released but I don’t think the gameplay has aged very well. It just feels very simple. I wanted to play it because I saw clips of the Super Nintendo game which is apparently a follow-up, released in 1994. It was developed by Natsume, the same developers who brought us the excellent Wild Guns. When I discovered it was being remastered I was very excited and secured copy for Switch. Developed by Natsume and published by Taito, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors was released for PlayStation 4 and Switch in October, 2019. The remaster includes support for widescreen resolutions, enhanced visuals, and new content.
The story is set in the future where the world is dominated by creature named Banglar. He commands an army of humans, mutants, and robots and has ruled over the world for decades. A rebel army rises up and after failing to take down Banglar with conventional weaponry, they send in combat robot ninjas to take him out.
The Ninja Saviors can be played solo or with up to two players. There are three playable robots to choose from at the start and the other two need to be unlocked. Each robot differs in height and weight and they have their own ups and downs. The Ninja Saviors is a side scrolling beat’em up. You can’t run or sprint which is kind of a bummer but you can move around the screen freely and perform a variety of attacks. You can perform combos, block, duck or crouch, pick up and throw objects and enemies, and perform charged attacks which are more powerful than the standard attacks but do drain your battery meter which recharges over time. The battery can also be drained when your character is knocked down. If the meter is full, you can perform what I call a super charged attack that will inflict damage to all enemies on the screen. Your armor or health drains when you get attacked but you can replenish health from the health pick ups housed in crates or boxes scattered throughout the stages. Unfortunately, if playing multiplayer, both characters will share health and battery. If one player dies, both die. There is a checkpoint system so you can continue from the last checkpoint after you die but dying does prevent you from setting a record time. There is no scoring. After beating a stage, you unlock it in the Time Attack mode.
We found the playable characters to be nicely balanced which works out well in multiplayer sessions. There’s two new characters introduced, a short female ninja with extended arms and a massive robot that can transform and gun down enemies. This thing can inflict a lot of damage but he’s a huge target which can suck during certain encounters and his size makes it impossible or almost impossible to dodge or avoid certain attacks. You’ll want to master each robot’s move set otherwise the enemies will kick you’re ass, especially during the later stages. There is a detailed manual in-game that shows you the controls and moves for each character which is pretty nice. I played through the game primarily with the Switch SNES Controller but it does control well with the Pro controller and in handheld mode. The controls are simple but we do question why several of the buttons aren’t utilized. There’s one attack button, one jump button, and you can move around with the d-pad or stick. You perform different attacks by pressing the attack button in combination with different directions and some characters can perform certain jump attacks. You also have to press and hold the attack button to block. I would really prefer that block be mapped to a separate button.
You’ll battle through eight stages and enemies will arrive from multiple directions and there is a good variety of them to deal with. Many of the lower-tier enemies can be killed in one hit but some of the tougher foes don’t go down so easily and require mastery of blocking, dodging, and knowing when to strike. There are these big robot enemies that show up quite often and you can either take them out with charged attacks, by throwing them around, or by attacking their backs. Getting behind or around certain foes can be a bitch if you don’t know how to control the playable robots properly. There are enemies that can teleport around and breathe fire, some have guns and will lob grenades or bombs, flying drones can launch missiles, and some enemies will block and jump around the environments quickly. Different enemies will inflict different amounts of damage and more enemies are thrown at you in multiplayer. You can throw enemies into each other and pick up and throw objects at enemies which can be a great way to deal with multiple foes simultaneously. Each stage ends with a boss and they do require memorization of their attacks and patterns. Most boss battles have you not only trying to take down the boss but fend off other standard enemies as well.
In most stages, you go from left to right. Each stage has you clearing out areas of enemies until you get to the end where you have defeat a boss before you can move onto the next stage. You’ll battle foes through what looks like urban environments and various buildings. There are hazards to look out for like explosives falling from the sky and one stage includes a massive flying robot that will shoot at you from the background. It’s actually pretty cool. Objects that can be picked up and thrown are littered about in every stage. Other than being visually diverse, the stages are pretty standard for the most part. There’s no platforms or anything to jump on, you don’t get to climb anything, there’s no weapons to utilize, and health items are not present in every area so you need to learn the moves to be successful. Once I got the mechanics down, I didn’t have too much trouble getting through the stages but the multiplayer was a bit more difficult since you have to deal with more enemies but it’s not too much of an issue if you’re buddy knows what he or she is doing. If you think the game is too easy on your first run, there is a more challenging difficulty mode that can be unlocked.
The Ninja Saviors is a great looking game. The animations are excellent, the backgrounds are well detailed, and each hit and attack feels satisfying thanks to good looking visual effects. Muzzle flashes and explosions have a nice glow to them which makes them look and feel more powerful. There is an option in the Display menu to make some “effects” red and I would recommend you turn that on if you want the combat to look more bloody. It basically turns the blood effects from green to red. The soundtrack is excellent, complete with catchy tunes that fit the action well and you can unlock different what I’ll call soundtracks, including music from the original arcade game. From what I understand, the new music is just remixed but the songs sound great. The action is accompanied by good sound effects. Enemies will groan when they die and attacks and explosions sound satisfying. On the technical side, the game runs great when docked or in handheld mode. We didn’t experience any bugs but the frame rate did dip once or twice during our time in multiplayer when there was a lot of action on-screen.
We are a little surprised that there’s not a lot of new content added here. The updated visual presentation and new characters and music are nice but we wouldn’t have scoffed at some additional stages or game modes. It’s also surprising the game doesn’t support online co-op. It shouldn’t take you long to beat and you can probably see everything it has to offer in a single sitting. Regardless, we had a great time with The Ninja Saviors. It can be enjoyed solo or with a friend and there is a decent amount of replay value. Sometimes it feels a bit strange that there’s no scoring system in a game like this but if you don’t normally chase high scores, you probably won’t even notice. If you like to speedrun or set record times, The Ninja Saviors has you covered because time is what it’s all about. Moving through each stage as fast as you can in an effort to set record times.
Ultimately, The Ninja Saviors is an excellent beat’em up and is currently one of the best you can get for the Switch. It’s action-packed, a lot of fun, and you get to play as robot ninjas. And that’s awesome. We would definitely recommend this to fans of the genre. The game does offer a decent challenge but it’s also accessible. Deaths rarely felt cheap. You can die and keep going indefinitely but if you want to set record times, you’ll need to master the moves and mechanics. If you like the idea of robot ninjas kicking ass, you should certainly check this out.