Make mine a double

Ninja Spirit logo

IHAVE never understood the fascination that hackneyed plot writers have for all things animal like. This predilection borders on the obsessive when the authors are Japanese, and becomes almost a fetish when the turgid prose acts as a guideline for a leapy leapy, jumpy jumpy ninja game.

Ninja Spirit is the latest follower of this path, casting you as Tsukikage, the spirit of the great white wolf. Why, is what I want to know? Don't they realise that wolves are horribly smelly, moult all over the place, have fetid breath and slobber continuously? Is this a good role model for a ninja? Or anyone bar a Millwall supporter? No, I think not. Yet in Ninja Spirit you are the spirit of this wolf, intent on slicing and dicing the beasts in the bowels of the Earth. And their masters, too.

Very laudable, I am sure. Right, just a mo while put my brain in a jar for half an hour and play the game.

This conversion of an Irem coin-op starts with you, Mr Ninja, strolling along the boardwalk (but nowhere near the sea), waving your shiny new sword around menacingly. Along come balding ninjas, leaping enthusiastically through the air, only to be skewered on your weapon.

The screen scrolls along sideways quite respectable, and a Far East tune throbs from the speakers. Your armament is not limited to the sword, with which you can strike a number of poses, but includes throwing stars, throwing axes, and a retractable grapple on a rope.

Strangely enough, the grapple is one of the more deadly weapons, if a little slow. Its main advantage is in blocking spears and other incoming missiles, while stretching out to disembowel your opponent. After collecting the soul of a ninja (once you have gutted a particular one, that is) your weapons become far more effective, but unfortunately you also receive the attention of yet more ninjas. These ones seem to squat in mid air, fading in and out of view while attempting to stick you with a spear.

These chaps would not be so much of a problem if it was not for the earth burrower who wriggles along underneath the boardwalk, perpetually spiking you from below. Only the sword can be used to stab downwards and finish him, which involves much frantic weapon swapping, and usually death if a mid-air ninja appears while all this is going on.

Death results in you being replaced at the beginning of the section you were traversing at the time, but the problem is that these sections are far too long, so you have to retreat too far. After struggling to the end of this level you meet one of the evil one's guardians, who will promptly blow you of the screen. And this was only the first level.

Truly skilled ninjas can expect to see bottomless marshes, fraying rope bridges, collapsing boardwalks and sheer rockfaces (up which you must go).

After I spent considerably more than half an hour trying to get that far, alas I could not manage it, and neither could anyone else I asked. While the graphics and sound are all quite reasonable, they do not impress to any degree, leaving the difficult gameplay to either challenge or frustrate, depending on your competence.

Although a reasonable coin-op conversion, Ninja Spirit is really just too difficult to be worth bothering with. To be honest, the only spirit I had interest in was not of the white wolf variety.

Ninja Spirit logo

ACTIVISION £24.99 * Joystick

What is all this Ninja Spirit? Well, it allows the summoning of long-dead ancestors to see off present-day foes. Dealing with ancient magic, though, requires balls! Childish innuendo aside, the sphere in question are 'spirit balls' that give the living warrior power-ups on his sword, shuriken, rice scythes and 'lasson ropes'- a bit of string with a blender on.

All very handy, as from the word go Ninjitsu's most unpopular man is set upon by horde after horde of blood-crazed nutters. The guy's task is to fight his way through seven lvels of death, destruction and other distractions for no good reason whatsoever.

The areas vary, but the song remains the same, a horizontally scrolling cut-em-up, with the small 'ninjy' leaping around the place waving various death-dealing devices. Bad guys appear in trees, hop on screen, charge headlong at him and even burrow under the floorboards, trying for a bod shot.

On the plus side Ninja can collect spirit balls, select the flashing weapon (the best one for that section) and then something magical happens. It is called mega-death! Swords throw out hgue rinfs of destructive energy killing anything they touch, death stars triple in voloume and various other deadly side-effects ensue.

The true Ninja Spirit shows when you collect a spirit ball and find that you have grown a solid shadow. This is one of your ancient friends back from the grave. They mirror ever move, striking with the same power-ups as you. Your companion is invulnerable and hangs around until you croak, which can be a mightly long time with the spirit doubling your kill power. Sickening violence on a grand scale is the result, but now it is in your favour!


The days when ninjas followed the Henry Ford dress code (any colour as long as it is black) are long gone. These boys wear every colour under the sun and when mixed with Buddhas and bonsais they created a stylised Japan that never was, but should have been. The end-of-level guardians, too, are big, bad and beautiful. Lend an ear to the soundtrack while slaying and the picture is complete.


NS is a straight arcade charge into single-handed genocide. No subtle gameplay, no vast array of controls - just swords and spears, blood and guts. The first couple of levels are easy enough for any shogun assassin to carve up real quick. The major difficulty comes from finger fatigue as foes fling themselves forward incenssantly. Thre is an instant magic but no real development in the style of the opponent, so life soon gets little bit dull. Enough is missing to bore the 'intelligent' gamer to tears in ten seconds flat, while any accomplished coin-op killer will rip through all seven levels in no time.


Ninja Spirit was a great arcade maschine game, the double-action blades of the ninja and his spirt shadow putting Gilette's corporate output to shame. But what was fun for a ten minute massacre drags as a home conversion. The extra power weaponry helps in the beginning, as does the double ninja bonus, but after that, all that is left are the end-of-level guardians - and they are good, but not that good.

Ninja Spirit logo

Was macht ein Softwarehersteller, wenn ihm nichts Neues einfällt? Im Zweifelsfall eine Ninja-Prügelei. Und wenn einem selbst dafür keine glorreiche Idee zufliegt, dann nehme man sich ein Beispiel an Activision und setzte einen zwei Jahre alten Automaten um...

Vorgeschichte gibt's keine, wozu auch? Schlimm genug, daß einem in der Anleitung erzählt wird, man sei der Geiste eines weißen Wolfs und habe spaßeshalber die Gestalt eines Ninjas angenommen, um "den Mächten des Bösen den Kampf anzusagen".

Wäre unser Held mal lieber ein Wolf geblieben, denn das Ninja-Sprite sieht irgendwie bucklig aus und führt zudem das Schwert wie ein Metzger sein Schlachtmesser.

So tigert man also von links nach rechts durch die pastellfarbenen Level und versucht seine vier Bildschirmleben gegen die zahlreichen Gegner (Samurais, Musketiere, Wölfe, etc.) zu verteidigen und möglichst unbeschadet über die vielen Fallen (Morsche Planken, herabfallende Steine usw.) zu gelangen.

Kein leichtes Unterfangen, denn die Steuerung ist nervös, und die Mächte des Bösen sind wahrlich mächtig. Neben dem Schwert und den obligatorischen Shurikens, stehen anfänglich eine Art von Wurf-Regenschirm und eine ausfahrbare Peitsche im Stil von "Bionic Commando" als Waffen zur Verfügung.

Später kann man dann noch speziellere Geschoße finden, oder durch Aufsammeln von Kügelchen hilfreiche Geister anwerben.

Ninja Spirit bietet sauber programmierte Durchschnittskost mit weichem Scrolling, mittelprächtiger Grafik, Düdel-Sound und einem gepfefferten Schwierigkeitsgrad. Die Frage ist nur: Wer hat nicht schon ein Dutzend solcher Games daheim?(ml)

Ninja Spirit logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Price: £24.99

This is a game with nearly everything a reviewer should baulk at. It is a conversion and it has more Ninja per screen than you could ever begin to imagine. But it is not just a clichéd beat em up - Ninja Spirit is actually pretty nice.

As usual, the plot does not hold much water. Run around killing Ninjas, bump off the end-of-level guardian. All pretty simple, but fun...

The first level starts off with Ninjas suspended from trees hurling missiles at you, Ninjas under the floorboards trying to prong you with spears, and the inevitable horde of Ninjas who run from right to left and get in the way. To help you do them in your own little Ninja comes equipped with swords, bombs, shurikens and razor blades on a rope. Each weapon comes in useful in certain sections, with the computer advising you on what is best to use when you do the unhappily necessary job.

Once in a while, gold ninjas appear. Killing one of these results in a token being dropped, giving you either increased weapon power or a Ninja Spirit. Basically this is an exact duplicate of your character which moves in time with the original and which is impervious to damage. Another useful add-on is the fire rope. This makes you pretty much - but not totally - indestructible!

The end-of-level guardians are surprisingly varied. Level one contains a drinking well down which (surprise surprise) are Ninjas! Later levels feature teleporting Ninjas and a very large kite, complete with added peasants to pilot it.

Controlling the main character is surprisingly simple, despite his array of weapons. My only gripe is that some sections are almost impossible to get past if you have lost your extra powers. It is matter of honing your skills so you do not loose them in the first place.

Other levels feature boulders, Ninja pensioners, caverns and cliffs. To keep the action going there are vertically scrolling sections which break up the potential monotony. From the onset things are tough, maybe a bit too difficult; but after a bit of practise you can live with it.

Ninja Spirit is neither graphically or sonically outstanding. On the other hand it is a good conversion of a not-too-hot arcade game. Well programmed, good fun and contains lots of action. Well worth checking out.

Ninja Spirit logo

Activision, Amiga £24.99

The Last Warlock is once again haunting helpless Japanese villagers, and only Tsukikage, the spirit of the white wolf, can save them. However, wielding a samurai sword with a pair of paws ain't easy so our hero has taken human form to be the ultimate ninja in this fiendishly difficult coin-op conversion.

To defeat the Warlock Tsukikage - or Tsk, for short - must fight through six lands, starting in a decaying temple packed with baddies. Besides the sword-slashing ninjas running at you, there's sneaky baddies crawling under the floorboards poking pikes at you, and ninjas on the walls who throw poisonous knives down at you. At the end of the level there's the obligatory superbaddie, in this case a Buddha statue with lethal fireworks exploding from his hands.

After this its off to the woods for yet more ninjas who are now joined by ghostly fireballs, vicious white wolves leaping from the sides of mountains and a huge flying end-of-level monster. The swamps are even worse, with huge swordsmen and eagle-eyed riflemen.

Then there's a massive warehouse with a trapdoor to take you into an underground confrontation with yet more of the Warlock's minions. Even more demanding is the vertical cliff-face where you must leap from ledge to ledge, dodging ninjas all the way. But worst of all are the caves, where old men leap to attack with twirling sticks.

Tsk has more than his sword to defend himself with though: pressing 'space' gives him ninja deathstars to hurl, dynamite and lassoon blades on a chain. What's more yellow-robed baddies drop crystals which can produce a clone Tsk to follow his every step, flames to circle around him, an energy field to massively improve the sword and lots more besides. Unlike the C64 version, the computer will even flash the weapon it thinks you should use for which section.

Robin Hogg The original Irem coin-op is one of the toughest around and Images Design have kept the conversion faithful which is not good news for novices. The lack of continue-plays makes it a harsh game, level one is horrendous and while level two is easier it soon gets back to nightmare difficulty. Nevertheless after initially dismissing it as way too hard, I was drawn back to the game. The tactics are completely different from the super-fast C64 game: on the Amiga the sword is particularly effective - even deflecting some of the weapons which are hurled at you. Without doubt this is an enjoyable game, which really makes you sweat blood in a satisfying sort of way. On the debit side the graphics are a bit pale and it's £5 too expensive, but the sound is great with some really strong music. Well worth getting - as long as you haven't got a foot-through-the-TV sort of temper!
Scorelord This is an excellent ST game, with a good scroll, loads of leaping sprites and an unusual palette. On the Amiga the colour scheme isn't quite so impressive - I was disappointed the colours weren't darker and richer - although the amount of detail is still impressive. Apart from a poor level two, the levels generally get better with plenty of variety and imagination. Sound is even better, with good use made of the Amiga to provide atmospheric music for each level - pity there aren't any sound effects though.
Actual gameplay is terrifically hard, at least to start with, much harder than the C64 which is very frustrating when level one has to be reloaded every time you lose all your lives. However persistence is rewarding - you have to think about this one more than the C64 where you can simply run past some problems. It's also fun where you walk on the ceilings!