The Legend of Kage

Publisher: Taito
Genre: Platform

In The Legend of Kage, you are a young ninja whose bride was stolen by other ninjas. You need to kill those ninjas and retrieve her so she can be kidnapped again in the bizarre ninja version of the circle of life.

A ninja in his natural habitat
A ninja in his natural habitat

Gameplay is fairly straightforward – some levels require you to move to the end and defeat a sort of one-hitpoint-wonder boss. Other levels require you to kill a certain number of ninjas. Still others require that you just scale to the top of an impossibly tall wall. Whatever the case, Unless you grab the orb-of-lets-you-get-hit-one-extra-time, you die one hit, and hits often happen arbitrarily, owing to the frequency with which ninjas throw shurikens in random direction and your (admittedly realistic) inability to control a jump after you leave the ground.

"Why oh why did I ever leave the ground?"
“Why oh why did I ever leave the ground?”

John’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5. With repetitive and painfully arbitrary gameplay, a dearth of enemy varieties, clumsy controls and poor hit detection, the Legend of Kage might be enjoyable to play through once or twice, but it wears quickly and ages poorly.

Kill the same four ninjas a hundred thousand times.
Kill the same four ninjas a hundred thousand times.

Kid Niki: Radical Ninja

Publisher: Data East
Year: 1987
Genre: Side-ScrollIn Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, you play the role of the titular kid ninja. Your bird was shot by an arrow and, in proper ninja form, you set out for revenge. The game consists of running along attacking ninjas and other enemies until you get to a boss.

Kid Niki: Lackluster Title Screen
Kid Niki: Lackluster Title Screen
The most interesting screencap I could get.
The most interesting screencap I could get.

There’s nothing wrong with this formula in general, but this execution is bland. I was a little torn as to whether to call this a “platform” game at all, given that there are no platforms to jump on top of. There are times you jump over pits and the like, sure, but you are always on the ground, with no over or under platforms.

Enemy attack patterns are predictable, but your radical ninja moves are sluggish, making evading most attacks impractical at best. Because of the lack of platforming or powerups in the game, the action is very linear and not particularly interesting. Compound this with the fact that hit detection is sporadic (at best) and you have a recipe for a completely forgettable game that probably isn’t worth your time.

John’s Rating: 2.0 out of 5.0. Kid Niki is dull. It’s not even really good enough to make fun of. The bosses are clearly designed to be silly or zany, but I’m not feelin’ it.

Also has some tasteful religious imagery.
Also features tasteful religious imagery.

Ninja Kid

Year: 1986
Publisher: Bandai
Genre: Platformer

Before I do a review of a game with “ninja” in the title, I just want to clear the air. I’ve already been pretty critical about a martial arts title for the NES, so let me just state the following: ninjas are awesome, especially in video games. Having said that, the 80’s were a different time. You know how everything is about zombies now, and how for every excellent zombie movie or game, there are about three hundred utterly forgettable crap movies and games that no one will ever watch or play a second time on purpose? That’s how ninjas were in the 80’s. What I’m really trying to say is, when I came to this game, I knew I had played it before, but simply could not remember which ninja game it had been.

In its defense, this might be the best title screen yet.
In its defense, this might be the best title screen yet.

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