Whether remembered for the game’s colourful adventure or more for the bewildering psychotic death stare employed by its protagonist on the equally distinctive box art, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja eventually blossomed when it made an eventual transition to the realms of 3D on Nintendo 64. Although this revered SNES classic is where it all began.
We begin in Kid Ying and Dr. Yang’s hometown of Oedo, the manga-inspired ninja duo having become aware of a mysterious female ghost who has begun haunting a nearby temple. Having set out to investigate, you soon best the evil spirit in combat after which it reveals itself to be the ninja cat Kurobei. Explaining that she had been waiting for a strong hero to help her, she hands over $100 and tells them to head to Shikoku Island to see Koban, the cat boss, before disappearing in a puff of smoke.
This begins a whirlwind of an adventure that soon reveals that Koban’s ninja cat clan have been investigating the disappearance of the emperor’s daughter, Princess Yuki. She’s become the target of an army consisting of mimes no less, a rather distressing concept for all involved. It’s delightful, if not under-delivered, narrative that suitably matches the game’s playful character.
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja‘s world is one brimming with quirks, riffing off Japanese traditions to deliver an otherworldly experience that Konami hasn’t since matched. Whether that sees you flinging your yo-yo to neutralise incoming opponents or relying on Ramen restaurants for health recovery, it is a smattering of mini-games that are provided for equal measure that proves a worthy distraction. From a Gradius recreation to air hockey, The Legend of the Mystical Ninja has it covered.
Toppling your foes will see you combine normal and Jutsu attacks, bosses testing you further with players pitted against a floating head that fills the screen with each hit that it takes the Super Shogan who recklessly throws cherry blossom petals around the place, or nine ninjas that battle you from their kite. These are easily a highlight and brought plenty of fresh ideas to the table when the game originally saw release.
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja can also be tackled co-operatively, and, somewhat predictably, becomes tremendously enjoyable once a second player is involved. The Wii Remote, Wii U Pro Controller and Classic Controller Pro are all supported, so there are plenty of options available to you regardless of which you have lying around. With two players you can also give each other piggybacks, a ridiculous idea that actually provides more hilarity than its actually worth, one player lying down on the floor and the other jumps onto their back.
We’re now some twenty years since The Legend of the Mystical Ninja saw a release across Europe in 1994, yet it still retains a goofy and yet endearing charm that sets it apart from most. It is this that mostly allows it to hold up so well to this day, even if it fails to amount to a long enough experience compared to today’s standards.