Otherwise known as Goeman, Legend of the Mystical Ninja was actually the 2nd Goeman game in the Konami series, but the first released in the west. Considered by many a SNES classic, Mystical Ninja follows Kid Ying and Dr. Yang as they travel across native land to free an abducted princess. Now almost 25 years on, does it hold up today?
So what is it?
Legend of the Mystical Ninja is an action platformer with RPG elements, using a combination of semi top-down and left-right-left platform action, depending on the progress within each stage, of which there are 9 to get through. It’s great to pick up and play – simple jump and attack commands as well as evasion will get you through the most of it, with the addition of rotating weapons you can purchase from the various stalls and shops dotted around. Said stalls also sell health, armour and sandals that increase your speed. Currency is almost limitless due to the nature of constantly re-spawning baddies that hand out cash as they are disposed of. The top-down sections are maze-like, each one more complex than the last, as you find your way to the left-right boss areas. Once there, the game transforms into a more standard action platformer – more like the Megaman series – until you reach the end of level boss.
Legend of the Mystical Ninja is an instantly accessible title, with a simple control scheme that feels natural in your hand. Being close quarters with the enemies is vital to progression and even backtracking an inch will reveal baddies have re-spawned, keeping you on your toes as they come thick and fast. The real fun in LotMN is the various stalls, shops and – Yes! – Arcades. Along your journey you can pop into many doors/curtains, each holding something different. The shops, although a novelty in appearance are essential; if you don’t stock up on armour and food, there is no replenishment once you reach the boss areas. It’s an initially steep learning curve but you certainly benefit from its lack of subtlety. Mystical Ninja does get progressively difficult at each stage and the bosses step that up even further with a couple of real tough ones along the way.
It’s the various games and arcades that provide a great quest distraction and are great fun. From a standard lottery, a matching pairs game, a quiz show, even greyhound betting, there is hours of fun to be had, let alone the game itself! There is even a Konami arcade, which provides a level of Gradius to tackle. With money not being an issue, you can easily find yourself immersed in these mini-games that you only leave to keep the currency coming.
LotMN provides a lush, cartoonish view of Japan, with the aforementioned shops appearing as Chashitsus, enemies such as samurai, ninja, and kimono-clad geisha’s among others. The standout element has to be the soundtrack; catchy yet traditional, you’ll find yourself humming along most tunes after just a few seconds.
As indicated earlier, it is essential to stock up where possible before heading into the boss areas, otherwise you’ll likely be in for a world of pain and frustration. Health depletes by merely touching an enemy, whereas with armour it will merely remove a piece when hit. So without armour only a near perfect run will keep you going, which can become really tough then facing the various end of level bosses. Not a fault of the game as such, but once you pass the checkpoint there is no going back so prepare to lose your health, lives and continues swiftly, which of course can lead to frustration.
The only other minor criticism is the length of the main quest itself. The 9 levels, provided you don’t spend hours in the arcades/games, move pretty swiftly, especially if you’re equipped for the boss areas. It can also be quite repetitive in the pre-boss zones, although necessary for currency.
Overall – ****
Legend of the Mystical Ninja holds a lot of nostalgia value for me. The amusement park level alone provides hours of entertainment in itself, and is certainly a world worth exploring for its charm. It’s a simple yet enjoyable game that still holds a lot of that charm many years on. Still recommended.