Scott Watson reviews The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors…
I must have been one of the few back in the day who missed this side scroller beat ’em up from Taito. The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is essentially a remake of a remake; based firstly on Taito’s 1987 arcade release, The Ninja Warriors, and subsequent SNES remake from 1994.
It’s a love letter to the side scrolling arcade blasts of back then, to the kind of gameplay that made you want to chuck money continuously into the arcade cabinet just to complete the game. Everything about Return of the Warriors stirs those memories and delivers it in spades, for all its shortness.
Like its predecessors, the ninja saviours return in the form of three android fighters, essentially heavy, medium, or light focused characters. Ninja, the heavy, uses nunchakus to great effect along with the ability to soak up a bit more damage than the other two; Kunoichi is the good all rounder, using blades as his main weapon; Kamaitachi rounds out the trio, a light and speedy assailant with some mean sickles on chains. All of them have variations of the same move set, but what’s most impressive is how nuanced it can be the more you play it.
Button mashing will definitely get you through a good majority of the game, but it’s surprising to find out how many kicks, flips, dashes, grabs, and more can be coaxed out of each character as you play through the levels. Each also has an area of effect special that builds up as you progress through the level and allows you to cause major damage across the whole screen when used. It’s monitoring and managing this special as you beat up the enemies that brings the tactical edge to the fighting. A power meter builds over time that once full allows you to unleash this special, but taking hits from enemies can quickly wipe it out back to a reset. This gives the game some nice ebb and flow as you choose whether or not to commit to attacking enemies or dancing around to give the special time to power up.
Enemies naturally come in all shapes and sizes and various tactics need to be employed to take them out accordingly, be it the standard grunts, to the more hefty boss encounters that see you dancing around from one side of the screen to the other looking for opportunities to unleash your special.
While the game itself is an arcade classic, realised brilliantly, there’s really not much longevity in it, beyond the unlocking of two additional characters to play with and time attack modes, it’s all over and done within a few hours. Whether that’s enough for you is really determined by your love of retro gaming, and of this series in particular.
That being said, it’s a gorgeous retro recreation, from the stylish and sharp characters, animation, and backgrounds, to the thumping music driving you on towards the end game. Yes, it’s over far too quickly, and again this is a huge nod to its arcade past, but perhaps it will keep you occupied long enough to marvel at its old school magnificence!
+ Beautiful crafted sprites, animation, and background
+ Thumping sound track
– It’s really over far too quickly
Platform reviewed on PlayStation 4