Ninja Jajamaru-kun Review

Ninjas are awesome, but this 2D action game featuring a tiny ninja is tedious, ugly, and downright uncomfortable to play.

Getting the chance to download and play games that weren't originally released in the West is one of the better perks of the Wii's Virtual Console service. However, not all of the imports that companies put up for sale on the service are worth your time or money. Case in point: Ninja Jajamaru-kun, a simplistic 2D action game for the Nintendo Entertainment System that's downright shoddy even when evaluated by 1985's standards.

In the game, you play a young ninja named Jajamaru who's trying to rescue his kidnapped girlfriend. The quest involves a looping sequence of 24 separate stages, each containing four floors and spanning roughly two screens wide by one screen tall. Within each stage, there are eight enemies running around, which you need to eliminate in order to move on to the next stage. To that end, Jajamaru can run, jump, and throw shurikens straight ahead. The whole idea is to bash ceilings with Jajamaru's head and move from floor to floor shooting enemies without getting shot in the process. Occasionally, the bricks you knock out of the ceiling will leave behind power-up items, which you can grab for bonus points or to make Jajamaru invincible.

The joke's on Jajamaru. No matter how many stages he clears, he never gets the girl.
The joke's on Jajamaru. No matter how many stages he clears, he never gets the girl.

The game's biggest problem is that there's basically nothing to it. The background decorations change and the enemies absorb more shots as you go deeper into the game, but the actual stage layouts and artificial intelligence behavior remain the same. On top of that, the enemies don't do much apart from run back and forth and throw knives at you when you approach. Every stage feels the same. That's bad, considering the game's whole dynamic involves playing through as many stages as you can in order to rack up a high score.

As you'd expect for an NES game produced in 1985, the graphics and audio are rather crude. Jaleco did manage to squeeze some atmosphere out of the music, at least, by organizing the beeps-and-pops output by the NES into a couple of genuinely interesting pieces of Japanese classical music. The sound effects are just a collection of ticking noises, though. Regarding the graphics, the tiny character sprites barely animate, and every background consists of a single splash of color, some bricks, and some ugly-looking trees. Not that you'll be able to pay attention to any of those details, because the scrolling and character movements are so jerky that your eyes will begin to blink, water, and exhibit other signs of physical discomfort after barely a minute of playtime.

Ninja Jajamaru-kun is tedious and ugly, and it actually induces physical discomfort. You'd have to be crazy to dole out six dollars to subject yourself to this kind of pain.

The Good

  • Controls and concept are easy to learn: run, jump, shoot
  • They crafted some nice music out of the NES console's beeps and pops

The Bad

  • Running and shooting in cramped stages gets old quick
  • The enemies and stage layouts are all basically the same
  • Crude graphics are physically painful to watch due to jerky movement

About the Author