Taito has been going back through its back catalog of classic games to bring back to modern audiences, and the next entry on the list is the Ninja Saviors Return of the Warriors. While the package itself isn’t anything too fancy, it does give us a chance to talk about a different kind of beat-em-up experience.
The beat-em-up genre was the precursor to what would become action titles in the 00’s with the likes of Devil May Cry, God of War, and so on. While there were plenty in the arcade and consoles, the best examples fell into two categories — those that offered multiplayer like X-Men, TMNT and the Simpsons, and those that did something different with the formula.
With that said, The Ninja Warriors is one of those games that I think a lot of people missed back in the day (I know I did), but would set the stage in a sense for what would become the action genre.
For a beat-em-up, it’s the only one that I can’t think of designed around singleplayer gameplay. You had the choice between three characters (the Return of the Ninja Warriors adds in several hidden ones). Each character had their own move-set. The main characters of kunoichi, Kamaitachi, and Ninja (yes, that’s his name) would perform different attacks and grapples. Kunoichi was the most agile and could do multiple attacks while in the air and could continue jumping off enemies. While Ninja had a dash that could be used to chain into combos and escape from harm.
Regardless of the character, they each could use special moves from a meter that built while dealing and avoiding damage.
At the time, people commented that the Ninja Warriors played like a fighting game, but looking back now, the game draws lines to the action genre.
Even though the Ninja Warriors was not complicated by contemporary action genre standards, it was a step above the other beat-em-ups. Using blocks, getting around advanced enemies, and the different strategies of the bosses would be elements that became indicative of the action genre.
While the game doesn’t have the length that would become normal for the action genre, it does deliver different stages in terms of environments, enemies, and the as-for-mentioned bosses.
The fifth stage boss comes the closest to fighting an enemy with similar moves; requiring the player to master blocking and setting up counters. With all that said, let’s turn our attention to the remake and talk a little more about it.
As we mentioned at the start, this is a remaster of the game and doesn’t include much in terms of new features. The graphics have been upscaled to HD – making the character models stand out a little more as well as the explosions. If you were hoping for more levels or content, then you are going to be disappointed. The Ninja Saviors is targeted as a way for people to play the game that missed out on it before, or hoping for a way to play it on modern platforms. The only brand-new features are the two new characters and the remixed “hard mode” that adds more enemies and different ones to the levels.
For what’s there, this is an interesting piece of videogame history for action and beat-em-up fans. I would love to see someone try and take things further with a modern-retro-inspired sequel; especially adding multiplayer to things. I enjoyed my time with the title and returning to the age of beat-em-ups.