Wednesday 1 March 2023

Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle +Hell Review (Switch)

Of all the retro collections and revivals doing the rounds we have to say that the Ninja JaJaMaru series wasn’t one we were expecting to see. This is a brand new game in the series looking to take a sort of Pac-Man Championship approach to the franchise. There are also various versions of the game you can pick up which contain a collection of the original Ninja JaJaMaru console games and even the obscure RPG games. It’s a bit confusing about which collection has what in it so make sure to do your research before deciding. It would certainly have been easier to put everything into one package.

For those unfamiliar with the franchise, it’s a sort of one screen arcade game. You, as the ninja, have to clear the level of bad guys as they enter from the various doors around the level. The other games in the series expand the gameplay in different ways but this new game very much follows the formula laid down in the first NES title.

There’s something about a single screen arcae game which adds a level of focus to what’s going on. We’ve seen it recently with Donut Dodo and again here it proves to be exactly the right way to go. The original premise is built upon with much more responsive controls and a more breakneck speed as you zip around throwing shuriken’s at the various demons and monsters. You can chain the kills for high scores and there’s also a host of temporary powerups to help you through. One of which includes turning into a huge version of a character from another of the companies games such as a massive baseball guy who bats enemies off screen or a space ship.

It starts out simple but each level adds in new monsters, which all act in different ways. You’ll also get giant versions of some of them at various points as sort of mid-level boss creatures. There a load of different enemies as well so there’s always something new entering the game. Each of the levels are also have had a lot of thought put into them so players can scout for the best routes to high scores.

At the end of each of the three acts you’ll also take on a boss monster. These can be frustrating as your health from the last level you were on travels with you and bosses are real heavy hitters in terms of damage. It would have benefited from a checkpoint before taking each one on but it’s a small problem with what is a consistently fun and enjoyable game.

As you progress, you’ll also continually gain coins which are then used to unlock a continual collection of music and characters you can play as. There are various coloured ninjas as well as pretty much all of the monsters which will eventually unlock, twenty-five in total. Each character has different health and damage stats and also different attack patterns and other characteristics such as flying or jumping higher. It gives an extra level of depth to the experience as it adds a ton of different ways to try and take on the levels.

Overall, This is a successful return for the franchise and by far the best game in the series. Not only that, it’s also a successful updating of the original format to the modern day. The arcade roots are still very much intact but the added bells and whistles put the game in the same sort of category as Pac-Man Championship Edition in terms of how successfully it’s been updated. It also works perfectly well  for those .who have never played one of the games in the franchise before. An excellent arcade hit.

Overall 8/10

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