Legend of the Mystical Ninja Review

The goofy charm of Legend of the Mystical Ninja is hampered by its uneven gameplay.

Originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is an oddball action adventure game with a good deal of personality. Though the core gameplay offers a pretty straightforward 2D side-scroller experience with lots of pit jumping and big boss fights, you'll also spend lots of time wandering around villages, visiting shops, and playing minigames. There's something appealing about how the game presents itself, and as a platformer that's more fun with two players, it's a bit of a rarity. Overall, it's a fun experience that gets hobbled by the clunky village areas and the inconsistent quality of the minigames.

Absurdity abounds in The Legend of the Mystical Ninja.
Absurdity abounds in The Legend of the Mystical Ninja.

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja starts off with our heroes, Kid Ying and Dr. Yang, investigating the appearance of marauding ghosts in their village. Before long, their mostly nonsensical adventure has them traveling all over Japan, fighting a cadre of ridiculous enemies. The game is primarily a 2D side-scroller, where you'll do plenty of hopping about and whacking enemies, as well as the occasional light puzzle solving. The action levels usually culminate in a big, ridiculous boss fight against a giant pink octopus, a man carrying a huge platform of lanterns while wearing a samurai mask, a disembodied Buddha face, or something else equally bizarre. Kid Ying and Dr. Yang each have functionally identical weapons that can be upgraded by picking up special lucky-cat statues from felled enemies. There are multiple upgrade levels, with Kid Ying's ultimate weapon being a yo-yo and Dr. Yang getting a roll-out party blower. The most distinctive quality of the action levels is the fact that two players can go through them simultaneously. This can lead to the occasional accidental death as one character pushes forward, knocking the other character into an enemy or a pit filled with bamboo spikes. The upside is that two players can make short work of a boss, and you can also piggyback on one another to make getting across tricky jumps easier.

While the action levels in The Legend of the Mystical Ninja are fun, they're regularly interrupted by village areas, which are filled with strolling enemies, as well as houses and shops where you'll find health-replenishing food and ability-enhancing equipment to buy. You'll also find a variety of minigames here, which range from a crummy quiz-show game to a slightly inaccurate re-creation of the first level of Gradius. The problem with the villages is that you need to explore them to find the entrance to the next 2D side-scrolling level. The villages aren't massive, but there's no kind of map system and it's easy to get lost. It's a tedious process, especially since the controls here feel clunky.

The village areas don't entirely ruin the experience, but they hurt the overall pacing and make The Legend of the Mystical Ninja harder to recommend. Still, it's an accurately emulated version of the game, and if you're looking for something absurd, there are worse ways to spend $8.

The Good

  • Solid two-player platforming action
  • Includes the first level of Gradius
  • Endearingly bizarre visual style

The Bad

  • Village areas hurt the game's pacing
  • Minigame quality is inconsistent

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