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The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: ININ Games
Release Date: Aug. 30, 2019


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Switch Review - 'The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 28, 2019 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

In The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors, you assumes the role of one of five android ninjas to take on the tyrant Banglar and his henchmen with a variety of individual moves in a dystopian future.

Buy The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors

When The Ninja Warriors originally came out in arcades in 1987, it was one of the few titles that used Taito's ultrawide monitor setup, which had been initially created for the space shooter Darius. It was a good beat-'em-up at the time, and PC players got a home port of it first. In 1994, The Ninja Warriors came to the Super Nintendo, but it was completely remade with upgraded aesthetics and some mechanics, while also boasting the same features as the original arcade iteration. The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors arrives on the Switch as something of a peculiarity, a remastered remake of a game that's already a little over 30 years old. For beat-'em-up fans, this is something of a treat.

The only time you'll see any semblance of a plot is at the beginning of the game and at the very end. A once-great nation has come under the tyrannical rule of a man named Banglar. As the rebel Mulk, you know that going against Banglar and his forces is practically suicide, so you create a group of ninja androids to do the job for you. It's short and sweet as far as beat-'em-up plots go, and it does a good job of giving you a reason to start beating up people.

This isn't a typical brawler like Final Fight or Double Dragon, as it is more comparable to Bad Dudes. Instead of being able to move up and down a slanted plane to fight off enemies, you'll do so in a side-scrolling environment. It isn't a typical setting for the genre, but the move means that the action is more immediate since enemies are rushing at you from both sides. It also means that there's less of a chance of missing an opponent, since you don't have to line up to the exact pixel just to finally make contact.

The game adheres to the standard mechanics of the genre. Your regular melee attacks deal enough damage to kill weaker enemies with one blow, and you gain the ability to pick up some objects in the environment and throw them at foes. However, the game also throws in a few things to add some depth to those basic mechanics. The first comes from your attack arsenal, which gets deep enough to feel like a basic pre-Street Fighter fighting game. You have a block ability, which few beat-'em-ups have ever considered including. You also have a special meter that fills up automatically over time and gives you a screen-clearing attack if you can stay unharmed for long enough. The game also features a few special moves, provided you use a direction in conjunction with your attack button. While button-mashing and learning to throw will take you quite far, it's essential to learn these additional moves if you want to reach a boss with your health mostly intact.

Another thing the game does to spice things up is provide a choice of three playable characters. This isn't just an aesthetic choice, as each character has a different move set and traits. Kunoichi is the lightweight of the group, and she's the only one of the trio who has projectile attacks to go along with her melee. Ninja is the big bruiser who moves slowly but is a perfect character for first-time players, as he hits hard and has an attack combo that takes care of enemies in front of and behind him. Kamaitachi sits as an average character, since he's a hair slower than Kunoichi, and his range doesn't match Ninja, but he is good for those who want more of a challenge.

One thing that will certainly please players is the fact that The Ninja Saviors now sports a co-op mode. That seems like a given nowadays, but the SNES release didn't have that feature, a fact that arcade fans lamented. The mode is actually separate from the main solo campaign, but the level layouts and order remain the same, so you aren't missing anything while playing with a friend, provided you're fine with this being a local-only mode instead of something that can be played online.

Since it is originally based on an arcade game, the title itself is quite short. With some restarts in mind, you'll get through the game's eight levels in about two hours while playing solo and much less time if you're going co-op. That seems like the game is made strictly for rentals, especially since using a continue means starting at the last screen fadeout, rather than at the start of a level.

There are a few things that give you a reason to return. You can unlock one new ninja when you beat the game for the first time and another new ninja if you beat the game on the unlocked hard difficulty level. The first ninja, Yaksha, is more like Kunoichi in terms of nimble movement and her propensity to eat attacks if you aren't paying attention, but her long arms make up for her lack of projectiles. Raiden, on the other hand, is simply a behemoth, and your play style relies heavily on figuring out when to use your melee and when to transform into a massive tank to blow up everything.

The other incentive for replaying the game comes from an online leaderboard system, similar to what many modern shoot-'em-ups provide. Since the game doesn't have an actual score, the leaderboards are time-based, so competition comes from how quickly you can beat each stage in normal or hard difficulties, in either solo or co-op. More intriguing is the timed run for beating the game in one go, something that only the dedicated will ever try, since any continues invalidate the clock.

As far as presentation goes, this is pure 16-bit, with a widescreen modification to make it better for modern TV sets. The pixel artwork is gorgeous, and the animations display a level of smoothness that's just as impressive today as it was all those years ago. The sound is also excellent, and the music is especially good; the enjoyable audio is notable since it was a Taito trademark with its arcade titles.

The Ninja Warriors: Return of the Warriors is for those who love classic arcade or console games. Those players are fine with titles being a bit short, since the replayability comes through in getting better with the game or replaying with friends in tow. It certainly helps that everything from the expanded move set to the character differences and presentation is top-tier, 16-bit stuff and rather straightforward, except for the final boss. As long as you're coming in with a mindset of defeating the game more than once, you'll have a great time with this low-key classic.

Score: 8.5/10

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