Sunday, April 04, 2010

Virtual Console Review - Ninja Combat (Neo-Geo)

Ninja Combat - Alpha Denshi for SNK - 3/10

Augh....Most of the earliest game for the Neo-Geo were terrible.  I'm a bit embarrassed, and wondering to myself just why I am devoting a warm and (partially) sunny Sunday writing about this subject.  Why am I recording this brief moment of early-'90s pop culture for posterity?  Will future generations really be that concerned?  Will my brief paragraphs about terrible arcade video games appear in some post-graduate dissertation in the year 2050?  One can never outguess the future, but I highly doubt it.

So here's the lowdown, kids: Ninja Combat was an early game for SNK's Neo-Geo aracade system, developed by Alpha Denshi, who were responsible for other titles as Ninja Commando, Magician Lord, and the World Heroes series.  Eventually, they created the excellent puzzle-shooter hybrid Twinkle Star Sprites, which considerably salvaged their reputation.

Ninja Combat is a side-scrolling beat-em-up at heart.  The angled playfield, the layouts and level designs, the power-ups and bosses, all point to Double Dragon and Final Fight as inspiration.  The only break is that your character throws ninja stars instead of punching or kicking.  When you pick up a weapon, however, that's when you revert to pure fighting.

So we see that ADK tried to mix up styles for this game.  The idea is interesting, but in execution, it just doesn't work at all.  You can see that this is a second-tier developer, from the stodgy graphics and clunky, limited animation, the rather frustrating sense of collision detection (a long line of ninja can wipe out your health bar almost instantly).  This is a game goes from mindless to frustrating and back again.

The graphics are just terrible.  Why are all the characters so squashed and square-ish?  Why are their upper bodies so much bigger than their legs?  Why does everyone have the same facial features?  Does it seem like the entire game works from a single character template?  That was a cheap gimmick in arcade games of the late 1980s.

Ninja Combat becomes very frustrating very quickly, and the boss battles are especially unfair.  You will be killed with a couple hits, with no real chance to evade or escape.  In fact, you will burn through your credits in no time at all.  Bam-Bam-Bam and you're dead.  Then Pow-Bam-Oof and it's game over.  I don't know if the Virtual Console release offers unlimited continues.  If there are only a set number of continues, then forget it.  At least I can add endless credits on MAME; even then, it's a chore for me to continue.

Now that I think about it, Magicial Lord was impossibly hard, too.  What's the deal with these guys?  Count me out.  I want to go play outside and enjoy the warm sunshine.

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