Title: Arcade Archives Ninja Spirit
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 07/04/2019
In this arcade action game from IREM, you take control of a Ninja who sets out to destroy an evil sorcerer that killed his father! Not much else to say.
Just like before, this has all the standard Arcade Archives features for the visuals, where you can adjust scanlines to your liking. The game itself looks outstanding, with great 16-bit visuals for 1988 and a color palette that’s easy on the eyes. (and also a lot brighter than the PC Engine palette more people are familiar with) Needless to say, if you like IREM’s spritework from R-Type and Image Fight, then you’ll definitely love how this game looks as it’s significantly prettier than both of them. Combine that with a stellar soundtrack and great sound design and you have a memorable game.
Ninja Spirit is an action platformer where the main objective is to go through seven stages with your ninja, defeating any enemy in your way as you head to the boss of each stage. You have four weapons to choose from and each of them can be upgraded upon picking up a glowing crystal. You have a basic sword slash, a throwing star, a grenade bomb, and a sickle to choose from, and each of those weapons work great depending on your playstyle or surroundings.
Alongside the four weapons, you also can get up to two Ninja clones whenever you pick up a blue crystal, which copy all the movements and attacks you do and can be a great way to murder bosses. In fact, the bosses are the least of your worries in this game since they all die in no time at all, especially if you use upgraded Grenades. The true challenge comes from getting to them, since enemies typically swarm the screen and the last two stages get crazy when it comes to enemy placement. Luckily, enemies don’t do anything to you until they draw their weapon, and the upgraded sickle does a fantastic job of sweeping the weaker enemies out, but the game is still very brutal and requires a lot of memorization, with one hit deaths and limited checkpoints.
When you get the hang of it though, Ninja Spirit might be one of the fairest games Irem has ever made, since the enemy patterns are easy to memorize with practice and the game hardly feels cheap until the final stage of the game, where a bullet sponge of an enemy will home in on you while random bursts of gas can pop in your way. This all comes to a head when the final checkpoint of the game is a pit with a ton of ninjas flying up at you with their weapons drawn. The only way to get to the final boss is to dodge every last one of them and memorize the pattern, and even then you have to be absolutely careful since the final boss uses homing shots that will send you back to the pit if you die. It’s such a jarring difference from the rest of the game, as that rewards careful memorization and knowledge of enemy patterns a lot better compared to throwing a bunch of enemies at you. Despite that sudden difficulty spike, Ninja Spirit is still a ton of fun, and it’s a tight platformer for both scorechasing and completionist purposes.
Per the norm, there’s online leaderboards for the main game and also for the Caravan and Hi-Score modes. Ninja Spirit doesn’t really benefit from the caravan mode due to the pacing of the game, but the hi-score mode is a great fit due to the focus on memorization, and working towards a high score is immensely satisfying.
In conclusion, Ninja Spirit is a fantastic action game that holds up very well today, arguably a bit more than the PC Engine port that’s more famous. It may only be seven stages long and can be beaten in 45 minutes or so with trial and error, but they’re still some of the finest action stages that I have ever seen from an Arcade game, and I can’t recommend this game enough. The only gripe I have with this otherwise perfect port is that the game has some sort of weird loading time whenever you boot up a mode. Instead of being instant like most ACA games, it takes a good 20 seconds or so for the game to boot. Image Fight did this as well but only for the main game, which is just really confusing. Needless to say, if you want to use save states in this game, expect some waiting every time you reload the game. Nevertheless, don’t let that discourage you from giving this Irem classic a try, as it’s still incredibly fun!
I give Arcade Archives Ninja Spirit a 8 out of 10.