Here we go again. This is another one of the Neo Geo's dire scrolling beat 'em ups. OK: perhaps that is a little bit of an unfair statement as there are one or two half decent ones... Sengoku being one of them. However, for some odd reason it seems that no one has ever managed to produce a game that has ever come even close to rivalling Capcom's stellar side scrolling fighters from the early nineties, such as Cadillac's and Dinosaurs and Final Fight. All Neo Geo fans ever got were a handful of mediocre beat 'em ups, that never did the machine justice. Ninja Combat from Alpha Denshi certainly doesn't buck the trend.
So what makes this game so VERY average? For starters it is the fact that Ninja Combat has been done so many times before (and much better I might add) and simply is just not interesting. Well, one thing I can think of that is of note is that certain characters become enabled for use after every stage, which takes away from the tedium a bit. In this game you don't really hit people with your fists, instead you fire projectiles that cover a short distance of the screen. You can however pick up numerous weapons, including nunchuka's, mace and also BIG swords. One thing that makes collecting these weapons awkward was that you can't just walk over to them and press attack to pick them up like in most beat 'em ups, instead you must press the B button to drop one weapon, then press A to pick up the one you want. This is awkward enough, but on a few occasions I tried to pick up a weapon that was only slightly off screen (about 3 quarters were still visible) and it wouldn't let me touch it!!! I also had one occasion were I accidentally hit B and my character threw them straight off screen so I couldn't pick them back up at all! Very annoying to say the least.
Graphics & Sound:
Even back in 1990 this would have been considered average, so it REALLY has a hard job standing up to the test of time. While I still love the odd game of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, I could not stomach more than half an hour of this game I'm afraid. Unfortunately Alpha Denshi didn't do their best with the graphics either, as unfortunately they don't look good, even for an early Neo Geo game. It is definitely a case of early SNES or Megadrive/Genesis first generation graphics, rather than something that actually takes advantage of the Neo Geo's superior specs, with its dodgy animation and hordes of same-looking bad guys. The audio is also generally very average, with the sound effects just consisting of a few screams and bog standard hitting noises. The music is very forgettable too.
I'd really love to be able to recommend Ninja Combat, as I'd like to be able to review a game that surpasses all the other Neo Geo games in this genre significantly. I'm afraid that Ninja Combat won't be the game that allows me to do that, which is a shame. Perhaps before the Neo Geo's time is over we will see a good side scroller; either a new game or even a release of an old game that might be unreleased and is lurking in some software developers vaults. I know that it is a possibility that some older prototype games might come out, so there is a small chance of that, however I am unsure if anyone would actually risk making a new game from scratch as not as many people are interested in this genre these days.
Oh well, at least we Neo Geo fans can still lay claim to having some of the best ever one on one fighters on our favourite system :) Go play those instead!
Game play: 5/10
Replay Value: 3/10
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