Ninja Jajamaru: Retro Collection (PS4)- Review

Thanks to ININ Games for the review code

Title: Ninja Jajamaru Retro Collection
System: PS4
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 02/21/2023


Back in the late 80s/early 90s, Jaleco pumped out a bunch of games with a goofy ninja character named Jajamaru. Recently in Japan a collection was brought out of his NES adventures, which even included a brand new game from the ground up as a celebratory bonus, along with a bunch of neat historical scans and such, so when ININ announced they were seemingly bringing it westward with more games added, I was pretty intrigued to say the least, especially since the PS4 version was originally planned to be put out from the doomed Dispatch Games.

Yet this set isn’t exactly as it would seem, for while this retro collection does contain most of the games from the Japanese one along with some newcomers, the emulation wrapper is completely different, and two RPGs from the original set and the brand new game have been split into their own SKUs I’ll review later. So, how does this set hold up compared to the other one, and is cutting out some games for other ones really worth doing? Let’s take a look at a lot of Ninja action.


The original Jajamaru Collection from 2019 was done in-house by City Connection, and used a pretty average NES emulator that had quick load and saving with the press of a shoulder button. A later patch would mend that to holding the buttons down to load and save, but for the most part these games ran fine, if a bit basic in terms of bonuses. However, the big bonus was in the form of a shockingly in-depth museum, containing tons of art scans of the included titles and a lot of respect for the history of this rather niche franchise, really making the Jajamaru set feel like a great labor of love, even if the emulation effort was incredibly barren.

Well, all of that has been thrown out the window for better or worse, as this is a Ratalaika set in as much of a Ratalaika set as it can be. While Wonder Boy got an outstanding set with tons of bonuses and QOL, Jajamaru sorta got the same treatment, but one that’s a bit different compared to the original version. For starters, you do get the excellent CRT filters Ratalaika has been putting in all their reissues lately, along with better display options, though no borders from what I can tell.

The NES games look and sound mostly fine and play as they should, only now all of them have been translated, even the games that barely had any text to begin with have gotten some sort of overhaul. Looking online, these games all got fan translations, and it appears most of them were used as a base for these translations (mainly the ones of the Stardust Crusaders variety, just with some tweaked text/logos and such). The SNES game is emulated normally, though the Game Boy game is where the weirdest issues happen with the emulation, for the pitch often goes up and down, usually when the fast forward button is held down, and like with Avenging Spirit it only seems to fix itself upon the menu button being hit. This also applies to the GBC coloration of the original game.

Speaking of that, the GBC colorization is a shockingly robust effort, and arguably the biggest bonus addition of any Ratalaika set to date. Done in a very similar fashion to several fan-made GBC color hacks that have gotten popular in recent years, this takes the Game Boy game, Jajamaru’s World Adventure and brings every detail up to Color while sprucing up a lot of the visual aspects. Background details, enemies, and sprites all have way more color than they ever did with the monochrome look, and even effects like the flashing lights and screen transitions have been smoothed out to be a lot more easy on the eyes, and that’s a very good thing since the original GB game is very excessive with the flashing lights, to the point it can be a hazard.

There’s also an art gallery in this Ratalaika set, but unfortunately it isn’t as robust as the one in the Wonder Boy set, nor even the one from the Japanese Jajamaru set. You have some key art, and that’s about it. Even the new games exclusive to this set have hardly anything in this gallery, and it comes off as rather disappointing.


Usual routine, and being that this is a Ratalaika joint, it’s very typical, though all the games do have cheats you can toggle, usually being something that gives you infinite lives/HP. Still, for the sake of this review, I played these games without cheats, barring one.

Ninja Jajamaru-Kun: The original game that started it all, and one that’s already been reissued a lot: PicoPico, Switch Online, Wii VC, it got around quite a bit, and with how simple the game is, I can see why. It really doesn’t have much in terms of text, and while the little bit here got re-translated, Jajamaru is a very basic arcade scorechaser.


The main objective of each stage is to defeat all the yokai wandering around, shooting them with your shuriken and collecting their spirits for points. Once all the enemies are defeated, you clear the level, and it repeats anew in a different stage with harder enemies. There isn’t much of an “ending” here, per the norm, but every now and then the captive Princess Sakura drops pedals, and upon collecting three of them and clearing a stage, you get taken to a bonus round where you duel her captor, rescuing her if you manage to knock him out within the time limit. Once you do that, it’s back to more stages of beating up enemies and getting their spirits, until you game over. It’s janky and very clunky to control, but it has some charm to it.

Ninja Jajamaru’s Big Adventure: TOSE quickly made another game for Jaleco, but rather than being an arcade-style game this time, it’s their take on Super Mario Bros, with the same sort of jank jumping and scrolling as the original Jajamaru-Kun. Through twenty levels, you take Jajamaru across a journey through basic platforming levels and boss battles, alternating every stage.

This is honestly a game where the fast forward really comes in handy, since Big Adventure is utterly boring, scrolling at a snail’s pace with not much of interest happening until the boss stages, which last until one of you two kicks the bucket. The platforming is very poor and the controls are irritating, and the boss stages are pretty much akin to the bonus stages from the first game, but on a bigger scale, thus making these a lot more fun. I’ll also not be ashamed to admit I used the infinite health cheat just to see how fast I could blaze through the game with the speedup feature, and it definitely doesn’t take that long at all to clear thanks to these handy additions, at least making it a bit more tolerable if you want to complete this for completionist sake.

Ninja Jajamaru: Operation Milky Way: Right off the bat this game looks like Super Mario Bros 3, and the presentation definitely fits that vibe. However, Milky Way isn’t really structured or even plays that closely to the famous NES platformer, really being one that instead relies on an awful lot of cheap deaths and windups, which is a shame since a lot of concepts in this game are pretty fun to toy around with, from certain powerups, boss fights, and stage gimmicks.

It also controls a hell of a lot better than the prior games, even if Milky Way is a lot more slippery. You have the option to choose between Jajamaru and Sakura, which adds a little bit of replay value. This is the first game here to have a lot of text, and it was translated pretty well, though I am a little surprised the US Prototype was completely excluded from this set, (That would be Squashed, a canceled US localization which repurposes the story to be about a vegetable kingdom in peril) but at the very least this version is better anyhow, so for the games here this is honest the best of the bunch, frustrating difficulty bumps and all. However here on PS4, all the trophies are bugged and do not work for this title, so you may want to wait for a patch before playing this one, trophy hunters.

Super Ninja-Kid: One of two exclusives to this Ratalaika version! This is a SNES sequel to the UPL Ninja-Kun games, which Jaleco ported one of to the NES, which ended up leading to the Famicom Jajamaru titles. Thus, Jaleco goes back to the roots, with this one being a bit more exploratory and tasking you with clearing chapters and using the different weapons you acquire to clear the way. The boss fights are run, the controls are responsive and there’s even two player co-op, which is neat, plus you even have a cute dash attack that can be used to roll into enemies and under tight corridors.

Sadly, the game’s fun factor does wear out after a while, mainly due to how labyrinthine the stages feel; a series of stage maps would have definitely been a helpful bonus feature. It also took a bit to realize you could dash and roll because neither the game nor the collection really do a great job of indicating that to you, not even in the controls menu. Still, not a bad time, and easily the second best of the games here.

Ninja Jajamaru: The Great World Adventure/DX: Oooooooh boy. This game was the first experience I had with Jajamaru many years ago, thanks to a 3DS Virtual Console drought where the US version of this game (Maru’s Mission) somehow became the only new release for a good few months. Then I finally tried it on the Retro Bit Generations, and a poor game on a poor emulator isn’t a good thing. So, how does this original Japanese version hold up, including the color edition?


Well, while the US version is absent and you do miss out on some interesting regional differences, I honestly found the bosses in the Japanese version to be a bit better, even though the core game is all over the place. See, this is a platformer like Big Adventure, but with tighter, better control. The problem is the game attempts to over correct any fears of it being too difficult by making a lot of aspects stupidly easy, from giving excess health drops to enemies, the ability to float really high for quite a while, letting you fly off the screen Kirby-style, and making pretty much every enemy and boss a cakewalk.

The tradeoff comes from how you have one life and zero continues, and instant death hazards like pits and a Medusa boss still can send you tumbling from feeling nearly invincible to dead in a matter of seconds. The rewind is pretty much vital here and even without it you could probably beat the game with ease due to how short it is. Honestly, World Adventure is pretty horrible, but not to the point where playing it will make you bored or in pain, just more confused by how random and badly made this game is and fascinated to at least breeze through it to see what weird shit the game will do to you; the original GB version can even outright crash on you, and that was a flaw in the original ROM as well, so it’s not a fault of this Ratalaika port. (plus rewinds can save you from such a thing, thankfully) A short breezy adventure that’s a curio, but nothing too special otherwise.


That’s why the DX version here is a complete surprise! Given the same sort of DX treatment as other fan romhacks such as Mega Man World V DX and Super Mario Land DX, World Adventure isn’t really given any new QOL or options in this color mode, but the presentation is miles better here. The game looks a lot nicer in color as a result, and it no longer seems as if the universe will collapse at any moment while you’re playing due to the janky scrolling and other odd visual effects being toned down, a godsend considering the flashing light effects from some bosses in the original were borderline seizure-inducing. Still, a weird poor game is a weird poor game, and color doesn’t fix the jank or the weird feeling that this whole experience still is. While the DX version is easily the way to go here, those sound emulation struggles I noted earlier make World Adventure DX an experience that still leaves a lot to be desired, even if the length is short enough that it won’t hurt you to clear it once.


In conclusion, The Ninja Jajamaru Retro Collection is an average serving of average games from Jaleco’s catalog, and while the emulation of the set is generally superior to that of City Connection’s own from a few years prior, this Ratalaika joint is still unfortunately rather buggy in some aspects, and the removal of the two Jajamaru RPGs to slot them in their own compilation is a huge bummer, especially when the two replacements here (Super Ninja Kid and World Adventure) aren’t that great.

New touches like the excellent colorization of World Adventure and using polished fan translations are a very good thing, and Operation Milky Way is a frustratingly fun hidden gem of a platformer worth checking out here, but generally the Jajamaru series isn’t one that’s at a high bar to begin with, let alone for the asking price considering poor games like Big Adventure and World Adventure are here. Really if it wasn’t for the sheer passion of World Adventure DX, I’d be singing a more harsh tune about this set in general.

Bundled as part of the digital bundle with the newer game however, I can definitely recommend this set a bit more, since that new game really compliments these original titles rather well, with these titles being moreso historical curios rather than something actually worth playing, but with the trophy bugs and a barebones gallery, along with the five games here being so-so at best and boring at worst, buying this standalone is a rather rough task, only boosted by a very solid Game Boy Color remake.

I give Ninja Jajamaru Retro Collection a 5 out of 10.

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