TAITO’s The Ninja Warriors first debuted as an arcade beat ‘em up using one of the company’s trademark triple-wide screen setups. Swarms of commandos, attack dogs, and tanks would flood the screen to defeat a lone ninja android on a mission to assassinate the villain Banglar. Years later, the warriors returned on the Super Nintendo in a remake of sorts, expanding the general idea of the original while adding new features, stages, enemies, and even adding an additional character. Apparently not content with one remake, the folks at Natsume Atari and Tengo Project were tasked with reviving the warriors, back again in a greatly enhanced update to the SNES classic with even more new features, two brand new characters, and beautifully updated graphics, animation, and music.
The Ninja Saviors – Return of the Warriors retains the general story of the previous two titles. Banglar has taken over and controls the nation with an iron fist, and the head scientist of a resistance group, Mulk, has honestly had enough. How do you take on a lunatic dictator with an army of just about every stereotypical video game villain imaginable? By building ninja androids of course! Only problem is the fact that Banglar is aware of the plan to overthrow him, which leaves no time to properly finish the androids to completion. So off you go to save the world in an unfinished state with the hope that your capabilities are up to the task. I absolutely love how old-school and simple the story is as not many modern day titles have “you’re a ninja robot, go beat up the bad guy” as the main narrative focus.
In typical beat ‘em up fashion, you’ll find yourself traveling through eight stages, punching, kicking, slashing, and bashing countless heads and other various body parts, culminating in a challenging boss fight at the end of each stage. Fighting is the main focus of the game, and as an avid beat ‘em up fan I have to say I found myself surprised at the level of depth and complexity of the combat system. All characters have access to a basic move set: walk, jump, block, evade, a basic combo string, you know the drill. At the bottom of the screen is a power meter that slowly fills up over time and as you defeat enemies. This meter is used for special attacks, hidden techniques, and when fully filled allows you to unleash a very powerful screen clearing attack. Some of the later stages and bosses can be very challenging, so you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the best time to utilize the expansive combat options if you want to avoid throwing your controller through the screen. That technique does not do extra damage to enemies, just trust me on that.
There are three playable characters to choose from at first, the hulking, powerful Ninja, the well-balanced and versatile Kunoichi, and the speedy but technical Kamaitachi. The differing play styles of each character is what gives the game a high level of replayability and picking a favorite may prove difficult since I found them all to be a blast to control. The Ninja has a unique dash attack useful for closing gaps and catching enemies off guard and can throw them in a variety of different ways. The Kunoichi has a new (old?) technique where she can throw a flurry of shuriken across the screen while grounded or airborne and a fun to execute triangle kick. The Kamaitachi is essentially a portable trap, as his blows are so quick it’s easy to stun lock enemies in place before they can fight back. He also possesses an airborne spiral attack and shoots spikes out of his back.
New to The Ninja Saviors are Yaksha, a smaller woman with mechanical arms, and Raiden, a rejected boss character who decided to join your cause in state of confusion, I’m guessing. These characters can be unlocked by simply finishing the story mode once for each. Yaksha’s move set seems limited at first, but I quickly realized she was a master of juggling foes in the air which opens them up for further attacks. Her combo potential is insane and her arms can grab things from a distance and propel her into the air as well. Raiden is a gigantic hulking beast of a machine and is easily the most unique character in the game. He can grab and throw multiple foes at once, take multiple hits without flinching, and transform into a walking gun turret to make you feel sympathetic towards everything in his path. Regardless of your android of choice, the combat is top notch and easily trades blows with some of the genre’s finest.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with The Ninja Saviors – Return of the Warriors. While it can definitely suffer from repetition (let’s be honest, what beat em’ up doesn’t?), the playtime is perfectly tuned before it becomes a notable issue. The re-recorded soundtrack is faithful to the original with noticeable improvements, and is still a joy to listen to. The remake also runs at a 16:9 resolution, has added blood effects, and also features a two player co-op mode if you and a buddy or impressively trained pet want to team up. If you’re itching to jump into this welcome resurgence of beat em’ up titles we’ve been flooded with recently, this is a great title to scratch that itch, especially if you are a fan of the SNES original. Just don’t forget to reboot your ninja every once in a while, and keep that battery charged.
The Ninja Saviors – Return of the Warriors is available now on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.