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Monday, February 17, 2014

NES Replay: Ninja Kid

Developer: TOSE
Publisher: Bandai
Released: October 1986
We're kind of sitting at an incredible point in gaming. At this point, anyone can make and sell a game without worrying about system limitations, distribution issues or other petty problems. It really is a great leap forward in the industry.

There was an earlier great leap forward back in the 80's driven almost exclusively by the NES, but it was tempered by the fact that developers really didn't know what they were doing. For the first time developers could make games that matched up to their lofty ambitions, yet they didn't have the rules of the game quite figured out.

That leads us to today's example: Ninja Kid. Ninja Kid is a platform game with some minor random generation. Every time you start a new level, the game will pick one of a few different choices, each a little different and each totally unique. For example, in one level, a flame follows you and you have to light several candles around the level while avoiding enemies. In another, you have to collect floating spirits, and in another you have to kill a set amount of enemies. There are some others too, and it's neat seeing what the developers came up with.


Ninja Kid had a ton of potential, but never quite matches up to it for a few reasons. For example, like many games of this era, one hit will kill your character. However, frequently enemies will fire at you from off screen, and the controls are too sluggish to avoid their projectiles. It's such a frequent problem that there are only two ways to progress: Spend an inordinate amount of time playing Ninja Kid, or pound away on the save/load state keys in your emulator. That's not a sign of a well-made game.

It's also very random. Some stages, like the candle-lighting stage, are really easy. Some, like a side-scrolling shooter where Ninja Kid rides a kite, are incredibly difficult. It all depends on what you get. Then, once you beat a stage, you're presented with two doors. One door goes to the next level, and the other to an incredibly difficult miniboss. Sure, there's an item that will help point the way to the right door, but picking the wrong door still leads to a world of hurt. You can lose due to a flip of a coin, basically.

I really wish I could recommend Ninja Kid, because I love unearthing lost classics and bringing them to light. I was really incredibly pumped to play it because it sounded so great on paper, but it ended up as an example of a company that had a great idea but couldn't pull it together quite like they wanted to.

Final Rating: