Video Game Review – Legend of the Mystic Ninja / Ganbare Goemon (SNES)
*This review won 2nd place for VideGameGeek’s October 2011 reviews. The theme that month was simply, Japan.*
Legend of the Mystic Ninja was a really fun game from my youth because it had much variety, fun game play, and comedic overtones. Most games that came over to America from Japan normally had their Japanese visuals censored and replaced with American objects, or, if there was too much ‘Japanese’ in the game, it wouldn’t come overseas in the first place. However, Mystic Ninja took a very unique route and kept all the Japanese culture elements in it. At a time before Japanese themes were common, most people considered it a very strange game.
Anyway, none of that matters, as we are here to determine whether or not the game is worth playing.
You start in an overhead map of your town, and the sprites of you, the enemies, and the town are very big and detailed. Luckily, they are not so big that it’s hard to see where anything is.
Throughout the level are many mini-games you can play. These involve racing horses, whack-a-mole, quiz shows, and even a memory card game. They are a good way to earn money, but they can also become a big distraction, as my sisters and I often ended up playing the mini-games on the fair level for 2 hours and never advanced to the rest of the game. The mini-games will be described in more detail at the end of the review.
You attack with a weak weapon with virtually no range. If you attack 10 enemies, the 10th one will drop a cat (the others drop money and scrolls). If you collect it, you will have a medium range weapon (a stick), and a 2nd cat gives you a long range weapon (yo-yo).
You go around and defeat enemies. They all take one hit, but come in various speeds and attacks. One man caries a fish. When he’s defeated, the fish flops around and you have to hit it. Another man shoots white lanterns at you, but most just run directly at you. You must be careful, though. If you ever see a young woman in a komono or a happy elderly woman, you can collect them for $100.00, but if you attack them, you will lose $100.00.
Later in the game, there are deer that you cannot collect; they will hurt you like enemies, but if you kill them, you lose $100.00.
Throughout the world are shops that can heal you. There are normal areas that sell food, and their price is based on how much they heal you, so if you only need to refill 4 energy bars instead of 8, you can buy the cheapest food. There is also special food that you can take with you, and when you lose all your energy, instead of dying, it will heal you. You can carry a max of 3 of these. They are Pizza in the American version, but are rice balls in the Japanese version (one of the few sprite changes). In addition, you can buy armor that prevents damage (limit of 3) and helmets that prevent head damage from overhead stages (limit of 3).
You can also purchase bombs. Bombs are thrown in small arcs, so they are still close range weapons, but their explosions stack, and can sometimes hit a boss 2 to 3 times for maximum damage. A 3rd weapon is coins. Yes, you can switch your weapon at any time to throw coins ($10.00) as a long range weapon. There are very useful throughout the game.
After each overhead stage, you then go into a side-scrolling stage. Luckily, the movement is very fluid in these levels. However, in 2 player, they can get very frustrating. If you jump up to a higher platform without your partner, they will die, as the screen scrolls up after the first person that takes the high road. You can carry another player on your back, but the person who is moving doesn’t get hurt, it’s the rider that does. Luckily, if even that fails, you can assign only 1 person to play the side-scrolling stage, and when that player defeats it, both players proceed to the next level.
In one player mode, you must defeat the entire stage without dying (there are halfway markers on occasion), but in 2 player mode, if you die, you immediately come back flying and invincible for a few seconds, taking out some of the frustration of playing two players at once.
The bosses are also very unique and require different strategies. In the first level, the boss tosses discs at you which bounce across the screen and you must deflect them with your weapon. The Lantern boss is unique in that you must destroy all his lanterns before you can even hurt his face. A giant face in level 3 starts out small, but the more you hit him, the bigger he gets, until he takes up most of the screen and you have to hide in the corner. Later, you will have to fight a flying dragon, multiple ninjas on a flying kite, and other unique challenges.
The levels get challenging starting at the 4rd level side scrolling stage. You have to learn to jump on platforms that constantly turn into the background, (taking you with them and making you learn different ways to jump from each platform), as well as dodging falling spikes, and a lottery machine that constantly turns out bombs or enemies to attack you with, but occasionally gives you goodies like money and scrolls. Each level gets progressively harder than the last. The game designers decided to let you enjoy the world and play it’s mini-games, then once you get further, it decides to throw harder stages at you. The overhead stages, however, don’t get that much harder, but the challenge does increase, by adding birds that drops bombs on your head and men that shoot spread shot guns along with the lantern throwing men.
There is a lot of comedy here. The animations are hilarious, as whenever an enemy is defeated, their eyes always pop out along with a goofy expression. In one area, the magical transportation device is getting shot out of a cannon, and it works just as well as you imagine. At the end of the first level, you can chose 3 different cut scenes depending on how much money you want to spend to cross the ocean. If you are a penny-pincher, your friend will ride a shark and chase after you on your barrel.
The most important thing to remember before ever going anywhere is to collect sandals and golden cat statues. Sandals make you run faster and jump further (you run at 2 and 3 times speed, and can jump over 1, 2, or 3 blocks). You will need the sandals to run faster and jump higher in scrolling stages, but unfortunately, sandals are never in those stages. You will want to explore the town for secret entrances that can be activated with your weapon. Inside are piles or rocks blocking your path, but if you have 3 sandals, you can jump across to a golden cat, which will give you 2 extra hit points. Though your sandals stay with you from level to level, your life meter always reverts back.
You will lose a sandal for each time you are hit. It’s usually a good idea to find the secret entrance, but don’t enter right away. Go and buy sandals, then return. You can buy multiple sandals to make sure your speed doesn’t get reduced. For instance, if you have 10 sandals (the max), you won’t have to worry about losing jumping or speed until you are hit 8 times.
Throughout the stages are dojos. You can chose to learn a martial arts technique, but it can only be used in that levels side-scrolling stage. Each technique costs scrolls to activate. The more powerful the attack, the more scrolls necessary to activate it. Your abilities include riding a tiger that can jump on people, flying, shooting electricity in 5 different directions, and a kabuki player which attacks with it’s hair (only available in the final stage). I only ever found the final dojo attack against the final boss to be useful, Though flying has it’s advantages for people who find the platforming segments hard.
Story: 10 out of 10
The story starts out with you attempting to put a stop to the ghost haunting your village, but quickly turns into a conspiracy involving ninja cat clans and a kidnapped princess. The comedy throughout the game is always pretty good, and some NPCs have funny comments to make.
Challenge: 10 out of 10
The challenge starts out easy, introduces you to fun mini-games, easy overhead and side-scrolling levels, then decides to up the challenge as you go on. It progressively gets more challenging as well, which is a video game done right.
Music: 10 out of 10
The music features a lot of traditional Japanese music mixed with some intense boss and level music, as well as melodic themes for the overhead worlds. The music is catchy, fun to listen to, and worth a CD collection.
Fun: 20 out of 20
The game is a blast to play because it contains both overhead and sidescrolling stages, as well as over 12 mini-games to amuse yourself with. The strangeness of the experience also draws you into it.
Control: 10 out of 10
The controls are very simple. Hit Y for Attack and B for jump. You can then press L1 or L2 to select your coins or bombs as weapons. The characters move fluidly, react quickly, and hit detection is one of the best for any game.
Graphics: 10 out of 10
The graphics are surprisingly big and very details. Not only are the bosses larger than life, but each minor enemy looks completely different from each other and looks very detailed. In addition, multiple sprites were created for the food, which all look exactly they the item they are depicting (rice balls, hamburgers, soup, tea set); and each side scrolling stage has a completely different background, foreground, and interactive enemies. In addition, it wasn’t necessary, but there are also bath houses and hotels where you can heal which aren’t needed (as you can just buy food), but they give the impression of a bigger world within. A lot of detail was put into this game.
Replay : 10 out of 10
I still find myself playing this game on occasion. Though I have now found it too easy to play too often, I have played it multiple times because the game is very engaging between it’s two elements, not to mention it’s fun to play with two players, regardless of the fighting that occurs when you jump up and leave your friend behind to die, or have them land on your back, so then you purposely jump up to hit them into the spikes. The mini-games, as 1 or 2 players, add more reasons to go back and play the game again.
Extras: 10 out of 10
The addition of the mini-games are not only extras that are fun deviations from the main quest, but they are important to the game as it’s the only way win money and afford better items.
+ 5 Two Player Option
This game is a good one player experience, but they made the time to make it fun for two players. Not only that, but they understand that not every player is equally skilled, and placed 2 different handicaps; having one player control the other on his back, or opting not to play while the more experienced player does the hard side-scrolling stage.
Most people will not have heard of this game, but it is a fun experience, and one that deserves more attention. Three sequels were created for the Super Nintendo. Unfortunately, this is the only one to come over translated. It makes for a diverse and unique game play experience unlike any other.
Maze – Spend $100.00 to later find another $100.00 and some extra bombs and scrolls in a 1st person maze explorer. Two players can play, but the person that gets the item first is the only person to get it. Unfortunately, there is only 1 in Japanese version, but the American version has a 2nd, different, maze later in the game
Goblin – The hardest mini games I have ever played. I can never score a point, even today. It somehow involves tossing a ball, but you have hold down the button and release along a line and arrow; all of which never makes sense. You’re better off ignoring this one.
Whack-A-Mole – Each hole corresponds to a controller button (left, right, up, down, X, Y, B, A). When a mole pops out, hit the corresponding button. You can make a lot of money here if you don’t miss a single mole ($300.00 on slow, $500.00 on fast). In two player, each player has their own separate board and do not interfere with each other.
Paint – You have a huge open canvas and your paintbrush moves automatically. You must use the control pad to paint as much as possible without running into paint you have already lade down. With two players, you must avoid your own paint and your opponents paint. This plays exactly like Tron Speed Cycle races.
Fortune Teller – Random chance; you either come out and find lots of girls (money), nothing, or lots of bad guys.
Dice Game – You bet up to $3,000.00 on weather or not 3 dice will be High (11 – 18) or Low (1 – 10). This one is random chance. This can be played with two players easily.
Lottery – For $100.00, you pick 1 of 4 animals, then 1 of 4 letters. There are then 3 draws: one for which you automatically win your $50.00, then a drawing for $100.00 if your letter is drawn, then a drawing of a letter and an animal for $1,000.00. In the American version, you can see the letters and animals as they cycle and actually win a game every 3rd time you try it my studying the movements.
Video Games 1 – Tear Down The Wall – This is Breakout (or Arkanoid).
Video Games 2 – Air Hockey – This is Pong with giant circles. This can only be played with two human players.
Video Games 3 – Gradius – The entire first level of Gradius.
Quiz Show – You are asked 1 of 10 questions based on events in the last 2 levels, such as how many lanterns lantern man had, or the name of the cat you saved. The winner takes home $300.00. This only appears once in the entire game.
Horse Races – There are 6 horses, and you bet on which two horses will be first or second place. If you bet Horse 4 – 5, either Horse 4 or 5 can be 1st place, as long as the other one you bet on also comes in 2nd place. Each combination of horses has a probability of that happening. The higher the probability, the less chance that combination of horses will win, but if you do win, you will get a higher payoff.
Play – This was only in the Japanese version. Play 1 has you watch Player 2 do a dance; he becomes 4 different people, and eventually ends the play with a fart, resulting in your character falling over. Play 2 involves dancing flashing light on a woman, then she eventually lowers her kimono so you see her back, then she is laid down naked covering herself for a split second before disappearing.