Retro 2D action games are an oversaturated genre but they really stand out when done right. Ninja Senki DX takes us back to the 8-bit days in an impressively authentic package. However, is this ninja adventure too old-school for its own good?
Playing as a ninja is nothing new to gamers. Therefore, Ninja Senki DX will feel right at home to many. Where it sets itself apart from similar games can be found in its simplicity. You control a ninja named Hayate to run, jump, and throw shurikens while traversing through each side-scrolling stage. As a side note, I just wrote a top 10 list where I said, "It seems like every video game ninja is named either Hayate or Ryu", so that's a pretty funny coincidence. Anyway, the little guy can double-jump as well which makes him a much more capable ninja than many of his peers. The simple controls are very responsive thus making the high degree of challenge all the more satisfying. Overall, it may not reinvent the genre but it's done so well that any gamer who loves old-school action will find it hard to put down.
Ninja Senki DX's visuals are very retro but what makes them special are the imaginative enemy types and bosses. Each one requires a unique strategy to overcome and watching their patterns is a joy because it's hard not to admire their fluid animations. Hayate himself is a charming fellow with a basic design that actually makes him as cute as he is powerful. The colourful themed stages also offer a decent amount of eye candy. Considering there are eight environments total (divided among a 16 stage campaign), there is plenty of scenery to take in. On top of all this, you have the option to listen to two distinct soundtracks. Patrice Bourgeault's remixed music is phenomenal although the original is quite a feast for the ears, too.
Hayate's journey begins when Princess Kinuhime is murdered by the demonic ninja Shiro so he goes on an adventure fueled by pure revenge. The 16 stage campaign is brutally difficult so working your way through may take a lot of effort. His quest is full of ridiculously tough platforming segments, loads of enemies positioned strategically just to end his life, and a handful of epic boss battles. As you progress, you can complete optional challenges that involve collecting all of the coins, slaying all of the enemies, not receiving any damage, and completing each stage in under the par time. Most gamers won't care about doing any of these because the game is hard enough on its own. However, hardcore gamers will relish the opportunity to show off their skills. Luckily, there are many modes to do so in. It'll take a true gaming ninja to master boss rush mode, survive hardcore mode, get all three endings, and finally beat the game as the secret character Ronin. In the end, there is a ton of content that'll delight any old-school hardcore gamer.
The biggest issue I had with Ninja Senki DX is that you can't see very far away. This results in countless unfair surprises that force you to basically memorize stage layouts. Sure, your reflexes may be much faster than mine but I consider myself a very capable gamer so whenever I took damage because an enemy quickly came from the side of the screen, I felt cheated. Although I absolutely love retro games, Ninja Senki DX contains many frustrating aspects that come straight from the 8-bit era. For example, why do I have to start each stage with the amount of lives that I finished the previous stage with? I'd rather just deplete all of my lives when starting a new stage so I can play through it with a few at my disposal. Also, some enemies hone in right at you and it's hard to shake them off while other enemies take way too many hits to destroy. There are more pieces of retro baggage here but you get the general idea.
Ninja Senki DX is a very well done 2D ninja action game. It has its issues and may not be revolutionary but the fun to be had for anyone looking for a satisfying retro challenge is definitely worth experiencing.
- + Classic challenging 2D action gameplay done right with simple and responsive controls
- + Awesome retro visuals and soundtrack
- + Tons of content to master
- - Inability to see significantly far ahead causes many unfair surprises
- - Loads of annoyances that stem from stereotypical retro video game baggage