The Ninja (SMS)

The Ninja Box Art

The Ninja

System: SMS

Release Date: December 1986

Developer: Sega

Publisher: Sega

Genre: Action/Shoot ‘Em Up

We’re on to the Ninja and it’s the last game of 1986. Two years of 8-bit gaming have come and gone over the past 54 days. This is somewhere between a straightforward action game and a shoot ‘em up. I go with this dual wield genre because there isn’t enough enemies on a stage, unlike any of the space shooters I’ve played.

The beginning of the level screen.

You play the role of Kazamaru, a ninja, who must save the princess of Ohkami from the basement of the evil Gyokuro’s castle. Kazamaru is armed with only his ninja darts. He can shoot in all eight directions with the use of the directional pad and Button 1. He can also shoot straight up with Button 2. Being a ninja, Kazamaru can also disappear for a moment and become invincible by pressing both Buttons 1 and 2. Becoming invisible is a very important trick to keep from dying on the few times you are surrounded by enemies.

Hopping logs and killing ninja.

Kazamaru faces off against a horde of Gyokuro’s ninja army. The dart ninjas throw ninja darts and sickles. The slashing ninja has swords they use to run you through. You have to watch out for the Kuno-ichi, who often hide behind buildings waiting for their chance to jump out at you. Transforming ninja disguise themselves as rocks or appear from holes in the ground. There are ninjas who blow fire, these appear alongside undefeatable stampeding horses. Some ninjas disguise themselves as wolves and attack in packs. At the end of each level, you must beat a Ninniku, who takes many hits to destroy.

Fighting Ninniku and dodging horses.

Kazamaru can power up his darts by finding a red scroll. This powers them up into shurikens, which then go through enemies to hit multiple targets. The blue scroll increases Kazamaru’s speed, allowing him to evade the enemies more efficiently. Hidden among the levels are green scrolls that must be collected in order to open a secret passage to the princess.

Gyokuro is no match for my shuriken!

If I was playing this back in the 80s, searching for the green scrolls is what would have been bringing me back to this game. As it is, the levels are all very short, but there are no hints for three of the scrolls. I would expect everyone to find the first green scroll, as you just kill one of the hidden ninjas, but the others would have required a hintbook. Thanks GameFAQs.

Graphics: 2.5

I think the graphics look pretty good. The levels aren’t drab or anything.

Sound: 2.0

The sound design is just fine. Nothing special, but nothing bad.

Gameplay: 2.5

I hated level two, but the rest of the game was pretty good.

Difficulty: 3.0

I think the difficulty was just about right, but the obtuseness of finding the scrolls isn’t fair.

Fun Factor: 2.5

I had enough fun with this one to make it worth my while. I wouldn’t say it’s the best game ever, but it was certainly good.

Overall Grade: 2.5

The Ninja earns itself a B-. It’s certainly one of the top Sega Master System games so far.

The Ninja Video Review on YouTube