Tuesday, 19 August 2014
Think back in time to when music was going through that New Romantic thing, people thought shell suits were the height of fashion and Ninjas were very cool. In the eighties there were many titles featuring everyone's favourite import from the East. Most of these titles were terrible but a few managed to capture the Ninja spirit, such as System 3's The Last Ninja series.
The story goes that during a secret ritual the evil 'Shogun' sprung a trap and killed all of the Ninjas except for one. The Shogun's aim was to steal a scroll that contained the secret of Ninjitsu. Now you must go into the warlords land and reclaim the scroll. Yes indeed, ladies and gentleman, welcome to a much simpler time where plots were made up on the bus to work.
The title is played from an isometric perspective. Everything on screen is clear thanks to a simple colour palette and clearly drawn graphics. This means that even going back to the game now it still looks passable. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the sound. The C64 is not really up to the task and we are left with a combination of irritating high pitched noises trying to pass themselves of as a soundtrack. This is a shame but something you have to expect from many retro titles.
What is truly remarkable about The Last Ninja is the sheer amount of weapons and moves available. The Ninja can kick, punch and block as well as being able to somersault along a full three-hundred and sixty degree axis. You will need to use all the ninja's versatility as there are many tricky and unforgiving jumping sections ready to put your skills to the test. Just mentioning the swamp and river sections to many will see them start to shake uncontrollable with fear.
In terms of weapons there are (among other things), a Katana, Long Staff, Nunchucks, Shurikens and Smoke Bombs. Each weapon acts in a different way allowing players to change their style depending upon what their opponent is armed with. There are also numerous items to pick up to help aid puzzle solving. The best part of it is you get almost everything in the first section of the game, meaning you truly feel prepared for what may lie ahead.
Though level design is generally of a high standard they do get less enjoyable the further into the game you get. It never completely spoils the experience however. Each area is different from the last in both design and graphical representation and range from the outskirts of the Shogun lands to the dungeons and court yard of the highly fortified palace.
What raises the title up an extra level are the little touches that have been lavished upon it. The whole experience of finding the weapons and items is highly enjoyable. Getting certain objects really makes players think - taking a claw from a stone lion statue to help climbing for instance, or taking a large Bamboo cane to use as your staff are just a few moments of invention shown by the development team.
Overall, The Last Ninja achieves something very special. Due to the great control system and solid graphical style it still feels great and fresh today. If the control system was given a slight tweak to make it more flexible, and the graphics given an overhaul, the title could be released on a hand held system quite easily. It is very hard in places, but then that goes with the territory for the time of release. The Last Ninja is a classic game that deserves to be played by everyone