Old school’s back in session
Usually, when I see a developer trying to go “Retro” they’ll
A) Make their games simple but obscenely hard
B) Go 8 or 16 bit with the graphics and sound
C) Give it a coin-op style overlay.
They really don’t capture the heart of being “Old-School” with most of these. Sure, titles like Megaman 10 can run right up with the best of them for being called Old School, but there’s just something always missing for me.
Usually, it’s that “I CAN do this” feeling, despite extreme odds. I find a lot of devs forgetting that when they start to tone up the difficulty.
Ninja Senki is a game that’s stylized somewhere between Mario and Megaman, with Ninja Gaiden overlay. It captures the heart of D-Pad + AB-Select-Start retro feel. You have move buttons, jump, and shoot. Your arsenal of moves consists of a double jump (That works unlimited times on water, and you WILL use this on water.) and a “Throw Shuriken” button.
Nowhere does anything feel cheap or unnaturally difficult. If you die, you have only yourself and your quicksave-coddled skills to blame. If you die too much, you go back to the start of the scene. If you die WAY too much, you go back to the start of the game. You get the feel for the levels just soon enough to beat them, and move on to the next one. The movement is tight, and the enemies are simple but challenging.
The lives system only sits and makes sure you’re still playing. You can only take 5 hits before dying, which is the right number to me. It will be lenient and start you at the beginning of the current area for single deaths, current scene for game overs, and even then, it will deduct 100 points from your score to drive you back to the start of the level from ninja-hell or wherever you go. And your score does NOT go up rapidly. Most enemies are only worth 5-20 points, and they WILL kill you.
The story, thin as it may be, is the kind that you read in the instruction booklet and are treated to simple cutscenes for. Your girlfriend is dead. A ninja did it. A ninja will kill the other ninja. You are the ninja who will kill the ninja who killed your girlfriend. And even then that’s just getting needlessly complicated.
This game has pure, old-school charm, and while it will frustrate you (Especially when you realize that you CANNOT close it, or you will lose your current progress), it feels rewarding to beat. Like so many old NES titles, it will bring you back to basics. And make you feel like you’ve never played a game before.