The TurboMento-12: Ninja Spirit

You thought I forgot, didn't you? Or, perhaps more accurately, you didn't remember me saying anything about doing TG16 games or weren't aware in the first place. Well, I stated in my 2013 Resolutions blog that I would break out and beat a Turbografx-16 game every month this year for a bit of retro Turbo action as a way to address my unfortunate unfamiliarity with NEC's 8/16-bit hybrid console, since it skipped Europe entirely back in its heyday. I've mentioned the site a few times, but the very excellent internet documentary/entertainment series Chrontendo has been experimenting with a spin-off feature called Chronturbo that details the early games and history of the maligned console and I've rediscovered an interest in going back and playing a few of its best received titles.

For the record, I've been purchasing these games for the Wii's Virtual Console with all these free points I get for Club Nintendo from buying new games (though my new copy of Pandora's Tower didn't seem to come with a scratchcard Club Nintendo slip, so maybe they've stopped doing the points thing over here?). I'm still holding out for an official TG16 compilation though, possibly like the ones for Mega Drive games on Steam since that'll make it way easier to capture screenshots. Let's pretend we all live in that world, so I don't have to explain where all these pictures came from. Yes? Agreed.

My first game for this feature, tentatively dubbed TurboMento-12 (because, you know, twelve months in a year), is: Ninja Spirit, Irem's Arcade game answer to Ninja Gaiden which received its best home version on the TG16. It got a few releases on home computers too, but we all know how ass those tend to be. I know I do; I owned a damn Atari ST. Try playing anything originally from the Arcades on that business and see how much fun they are (N.B. The Amiga/Atari ST had a lot of strong points, don't get me wrong, it's just Arcade ports were not one of them).

Anyway, enough digressions. I'ma briefly take you through the entire game just below. It's... it's not a particularly long game. The Ninja Spirit that burns twice as bright burns for half as long, or something.

C'mon, Give This Feature a Chance! Where's Your Christmas Ninja Spirit?

So this is how it starts: Not with a bark, but a whimper. Or rather, not with a whimper, but a howl? Anyway, the dog is the player character. We just assume the form of Corpsey McHeapenstein over there, since he's our deceased master and we're kind of pissed about him getting ghost murdered out of nowhere.
This is what you'll be spending most of the game doing: Running in a straight line and tearing shit up with sweet ninja powers. Currently, I have one shadow clone (like the ones introduced in Ninja Gaiden 2) and an upgraded katana that fires those blue circles that block projectiles. It's mostly a defensive weapon, so it's good for beginners.
Here's the first boss: Asura. He's friggin' enormous, but those energy shots can be easily deflected with the upgraded sword. My Protip is to just jump up there and keep slashing his face. Sometimes the subtle path is not the correct one.
Where's your Wrath now, explodey Hindu deity person? Ya Burst ain't shit, son.
Here I am on the second stage rocking two shadow clones and the shuriken: Shurikens are the surest way to kill absolutely everything that pops up, since they fire in three directions when upgraded and that means nine shurikens per toss with two clones. It's like the Spread shot from Contra, only even more insanely OP.
Second boss is this tree-climbing Wolverine mofo. He moves quickly and unpredictably, but at least he doesn't take up the entire screen.
By the way, everything explodes in this game. Welcome to the late 80s/early 90s.
I skipped most of the third level but you can see what it's like here: Gigantic crescent moon, cool field of long grass waving in the wind. The third boss is a one of those slow-moving but hard to avoid fellows. I have no idea how a 10-foot tall ninja conceals himself, exactly.
What I do know is that 10-foot tall ninjas explode spectacularly. Best tactic is to jump over him and hammer him with projectiles as you arc over.
It's such a ninja feeling, when you're bisecting dudes on the ceiling.
These purple assholes are the worst. A little elaboration on how health works in this game: For each life, you have five hit points (seen at the top right). Hits from enemies reduce them by one, usually, except in rare cases like this chain-whip-wielding purple perp here who will simply insta-kill you instead. Also, there's hundreds of them and they ninja teleport in without any warning. It's one of the few cases in this game where you stop effortlessly killing everything in your path and need to use a little more caution. Ninja caution.
Bombs are your best friends here: Though they don't spread out like shuriken, upgraded bombs are thrown very quickly and the explosions take out enemies just out of reach, like those black ninjas in the rafters or the little pokey guys who appear below.
Even with the bamboo spike traps down here, it's a darn sight easier when there aren't purple chain ninjas insta-shanking you.
Then the game throws a Double Dragon "Fuck you!" your way with this entirely incongruous descending ceiling trap. Stopping for anything gets you squished. I mean... obviously. What is this, the Cube?
No, these are the Cubes. These sentient Ninja dice (citation needed?) will try to crush you between themselves and the wall, so they become slightly easier to read once you figure this out. Bombs make short work of them, but you need to destroy all four weak points on both of them.
Apparently those things were powered with something explosive. Who knew? The ways of the ninja are mysterious indeed.
This next stage forces you to ascend this cliff vertically, which is a neat touch. I mean, this was in Ninja Gaiden as well, but it's a nice change of pace. Except when you miss a platform and fall gently to the bottom, that's when you start pining for the horizontal once more.
Get to the top of the cliff and OH GOD KITE NINJAS.
You know what happens when a kite gets struck by shuriken? Same thing that happens to everything else: They explode. Also Ben Franklin discovers electricity. Ninja electricity.
Some sweet parallax scrolling here. True fax: The Turbografx-16 was the first console capable of true parallax scrolling. The NES faked it and the Genesis came out an entire year later in Japan.
The boss of this stage is this creepy zombie character. Or rather, it's fifteen of these creepy zombie characters one after the other (and occasionally simultaneously). They move slow, but they strike suddenly and, of course, a single slash is enough to kill you. Fortunately, you can just jump on this rock and fire downwards. Hey, I didn't say I was an honorable ninja. Fuck that, I'm a dog, what do you even want from me?
The seventh and last level is this suitably creepy cave dungeon, but despite some odious gas erupting from the walls, it's nothing too bad.
The bad part is this descent into the underworld. In a The Sorrow-type twist, the souls of dead enemy ninja pop up and insta-kill you as you fall. You've got to pick the right path past them all as you fall at terminal velocity for something like 30 seconds straight. And there's more than a handful of these guys, let's just say. Hell, I probably went through a couple hundred of them on the way here.
Persevere with that horrible trial (in all honesty, it took me like 15 minutes, so it wasn't exactly a Sisyphean exercise) and you'll face this mummified Buddha type fellow here, which I seem to recall was named Daisoujou in the SMT games. It's probably the same guy: How many different pointy-hat mummies in the lotus position could there possibly be? (Though, curiously, Buddhist monks who mummify themselves in this way are basically that religion's equivalent of Catholic saints, so why this one hated a ninja enough to kill it during the opening cinema is anyone's guess.)
Anyway, what they don't tell you about the human body after it undergoes the mummification process is that all your organs turn into plastic explosives. It's why pyramid tour guides always look so nervous.

After Mummies Alive! is comprehensively turned into Mummies Not Alive!, the dog (or wolf, I guess) changes back to its animal form, its task complete. His ninja master is avenged and only half a million other ninjas had to die in the process.

That's Ninja Spirit: It's a lot of fun, and hasn't aged to become this hard-as-nails completely inaccessible 8-bit game like so many others of its era. You have infinite continues (one of the few Arcade games to graciously leave that part in instead of imposing a hard limit) and its more difficult sequences just take a bit of trial and error, or luck. Sometimes it's as simple as trying a different weapon or not just wading through everything with your clones. Overall the game took about an hour to complete, so maybe don't rush out and spend $30 on it (though if anyone out there is actually charging that much, you can feel free to kick them in the teeth) but it's a worthy purchase consideration for the Wii Virtual Console or that aforementioned hypothetical Steam compilation I hope someone gets around to.

What is Irem even doing these days? Oh, they've gone back into full-time Pachinko machine production. Figures. Well, you have my assurance that at the very least this particular Irem product isn't completely balls.

The TurboMento-12
January - Ninja SpiritApril - NeutopiaJuly -October -
February - Dungeon ExplorerMay -August -November -
March - The Legendary AxeJune -September -December -
11 Comments
11 Comments
Edited by Mento

You thought I forgot, didn't you? Or, perhaps more accurately, you didn't remember me saying anything about doing TG16 games or weren't aware in the first place. Well, I stated in my 2013 Resolutions blog that I would break out and beat a Turbografx-16 game every month this year for a bit of retro Turbo action as a way to address my unfortunate unfamiliarity with NEC's 8/16-bit hybrid console, since it skipped Europe entirely back in its heyday. I've mentioned the site a few times, but the very excellent internet documentary/entertainment series Chrontendo has been experimenting with a spin-off feature called Chronturbo that details the early games and history of the maligned console and I've rediscovered an interest in going back and playing a few of its best received titles.

For the record, I've been purchasing these games for the Wii's Virtual Console with all these free points I get for Club Nintendo from buying new games (though my new copy of Pandora's Tower didn't seem to come with a scratchcard Club Nintendo slip, so maybe they've stopped doing the points thing over here?). I'm still holding out for an official TG16 compilation though, possibly like the ones for Mega Drive games on Steam since that'll make it way easier to capture screenshots. Let's pretend we all live in that world, so I don't have to explain where all these pictures came from. Yes? Agreed.

My first game for this feature, tentatively dubbed TurboMento-12 (because, you know, twelve months in a year), is: Ninja Spirit, Irem's Arcade game answer to Ninja Gaiden which received its best home version on the TG16. It got a few releases on home computers too, but we all know how ass those tend to be. I know I do; I owned a damn Atari ST. Try playing anything originally from the Arcades on that business and see how much fun they are (N.B. The Amiga/Atari ST had a lot of strong points, don't get me wrong, it's just Arcade ports were not one of them).

Anyway, enough digressions. I'ma briefly take you through the entire game just below. It's... it's not a particularly long game. The Ninja Spirit that burns twice as bright burns for half as long, or something.

C'mon, Give This Feature a Chance! Where's Your Christmas Ninja Spirit?

So this is how it starts: Not with a bark, but a whimper. Or rather, not with a whimper, but a howl? Anyway, the dog is the player character. We just assume the form of Corpsey McHeapenstein over there, since he's our deceased master and we're kind of pissed about him getting ghost murdered out of nowhere.
This is what you'll be spending most of the game doing: Running in a straight line and tearing shit up with sweet ninja powers. Currently, I have one shadow clone (like the ones introduced in Ninja Gaiden 2) and an upgraded katana that fires those blue circles that block projectiles. It's mostly a defensive weapon, so it's good for beginners.
Here's the first boss: Asura. He's friggin' enormous, but those energy shots can be easily deflected with the upgraded sword. My Protip is to just jump up there and keep slashing his face. Sometimes the subtle path is not the correct one.
Where's your Wrath now, explodey Hindu deity person? Ya Burst ain't shit, son.
Here I am on the second stage rocking two shadow clones and the shuriken: Shurikens are the surest way to kill absolutely everything that pops up, since they fire in three directions when upgraded and that means nine shurikens per toss with two clones. It's like the Spread shot from Contra, only even more insanely OP.
Second boss is this tree-climbing Wolverine mofo. He moves quickly and unpredictably, but at least he doesn't take up the entire screen.
By the way, everything explodes in this game. Welcome to the late 80s/early 90s.
I skipped most of the third level but you can see what it's like here: Gigantic crescent moon, cool field of long grass waving in the wind. The third boss is a one of those slow-moving but hard to avoid fellows. I have no idea how a 10-foot tall ninja conceals himself, exactly.
What I do know is that 10-foot tall ninjas explode spectacularly. Best tactic is to jump over him and hammer him with projectiles as you arc over.
It's such a ninja feeling, when you're bisecting dudes on the ceiling.
These purple assholes are the worst. A little elaboration on how health works in this game: For each life, you have five hit points (seen at the top right). Hits from enemies reduce them by one, usually, except in rare cases like this chain-whip-wielding purple perp here who will simply insta-kill you instead. Also, there's hundreds of them and they ninja teleport in without any warning. It's one of the few cases in this game where you stop effortlessly killing everything in your path and need to use a little more caution. Ninja caution.
Bombs are your best friends here: Though they don't spread out like shuriken, upgraded bombs are thrown very quickly and the explosions take out enemies just out of reach, like those black ninjas in the rafters or the little pokey guys who appear below.
Even with the bamboo spike traps down here, it's a darn sight easier when there aren't purple chain ninjas insta-shanking you.
Then the game throws a Double Dragon "Fuck you!" your way with this entirely incongruous descending ceiling trap. Stopping for anything gets you squished. I mean... obviously. What is this, the Cube?
No, these are the Cubes. These sentient Ninja dice (citation needed?) will try to crush you between themselves and the wall, so they become slightly easier to read once you figure this out. Bombs make short work of them, but you need to destroy all four weak points on both of them.
Apparently those things were powered with something explosive. Who knew? The ways of the ninja are mysterious indeed.
This next stage forces you to ascend this cliff vertically, which is a neat touch. I mean, this was in Ninja Gaiden as well, but it's a nice change of pace. Except when you miss a platform and fall gently to the bottom, that's when you start pining for the horizontal once more.
Get to the top of the cliff and OH GOD KITE NINJAS.
You know what happens when a kite gets struck by shuriken? Same thing that happens to everything else: They explode. Also Ben Franklin discovers electricity. Ninja electricity.
Some sweet parallax scrolling here. True fax: The Turbografx-16 was the first console capable of true parallax scrolling. The NES faked it and the Genesis came out an entire year later in Japan.
The boss of this stage is this creepy zombie character. Or rather, it's fifteen of these creepy zombie characters one after the other (and occasionally simultaneously). They move slow, but they strike suddenly and, of course, a single slash is enough to kill you. Fortunately, you can just jump on this rock and fire downwards. Hey, I didn't say I was an honorable ninja. Fuck that, I'm a dog, what do you even want from me?
The seventh and last level is this suitably creepy cave dungeon, but despite some odious gas erupting from the walls, it's nothing too bad.
The bad part is this descent into the underworld. In a The Sorrow-type twist, the souls of dead enemy ninja pop up and insta-kill you as you fall. You've got to pick the right path past them all as you fall at terminal velocity for something like 30 seconds straight. And there's more than a handful of these guys, let's just say. Hell, I probably went through a couple hundred of them on the way here.
Persevere with that horrible trial (in all honesty, it took me like 15 minutes, so it wasn't exactly a Sisyphean exercise) and you'll face this mummified Buddha type fellow here, which I seem to recall was named Daisoujou in the SMT games. It's probably the same guy: How many different pointy-hat mummies in the lotus position could there possibly be? (Though, curiously, Buddhist monks who mummify themselves in this way are basically that religion's equivalent of Catholic saints, so why this one hated a ninja enough to kill it during the opening cinema is anyone's guess.)
Anyway, what they don't tell you about the human body after it undergoes the mummification process is that all your organs turn into plastic explosives. It's why pyramid tour guides always look so nervous.

After Mummies Alive! is comprehensively turned into Mummies Not Alive!, the dog (or wolf, I guess) changes back to its animal form, its task complete. His ninja master is avenged and only half a million other ninjas had to die in the process.

That's Ninja Spirit: It's a lot of fun, and hasn't aged to become this hard-as-nails completely inaccessible 8-bit game like so many others of its era. You have infinite continues (one of the few Arcade games to graciously leave that part in instead of imposing a hard limit) and its more difficult sequences just take a bit of trial and error, or luck. Sometimes it's as simple as trying a different weapon or not just wading through everything with your clones. Overall the game took about an hour to complete, so maybe don't rush out and spend $30 on it (though if anyone out there is actually charging that much, you can feel free to kick them in the teeth) but it's a worthy purchase consideration for the Wii Virtual Console or that aforementioned hypothetical Steam compilation I hope someone gets around to.

What is Irem even doing these days? Oh, they've gone back into full-time Pachinko machine production. Figures. Well, you have my assurance that at the very least this particular Irem product isn't completely balls.

The TurboMento-12
January - Ninja SpiritApril -July -October -
February -May -August -November -
March -June -September -December -
Moderator
Edited by Mento

Also, since I forgot to mention it in the article, you can watch a GameCenter CX episode featuring Ninja Spirit over here.

I'll admit, it's probably the reason I decided to start with this one instead of something like Rondo of Blood. I suspect that game might take me a bit longer.

Moderator
Posted by MooseyMcMan

Ugh, Rondo of Blood. I may be in the minority here, but I did not care for Rondo of Blood at all!

Posted by Video_Game_King

Christ, I feel like I've played Ninja Spirit before, but I don't think I ever have.

And I might as well say that Ninja Gaiden also got a TurboGrafx-16 release, and I remember that being pretty good. Imagine the NES version with prettier colors.

JUST the 80s/90s for gaming explosions? Hasn't Goldeneye taught you that 90s gaming was nothing but explosions? Hell, Final Fantasy IV had an entire level dedicated to explosions (the Underworld), and that got released to hell and back in that decade.

I'm pretty sure the bisecting quote is a line from one of Nanako'Sho's tracks. (Man, I really wish I could quote directly from your blog page. I look like a mad man just responding to lines at random without quoting them in this post.)

I'm pretty sure explosions with kite experiments is a core tenet of early American history.

Edited by Alkaiser

I remember this game! It was mad awesome, I should go on Virtual Console and buy-

Oh wait. Damn. They took it down. Along with R-Type and Bloody Wolf. Thats a bummer.

Posted by Kidavenger

@Mento said:

The bad part is this descent into the underworld. In a The Sorrow-type twist, the souls of dead enemy ninja pop up and insta-kill you as you fall. You've got to pick the right path past them all as you fall at terminal velocity for something like 30 seconds straight. And there's more than a handful of these guys, let's just say. Hell, I probably went through a couple hundred of them on the way here.

I had this game as a kid, and this is the part I always rage quit, wish I had know it was so close to the end.

Great game though.

Edited by Mento

@Alkaiser: Oh seriously? That's crappy timing. Though considering R-Type was Irem's big hit, maybe they really are gearing up for some sort of compilation. I can dream, at least.

Moderator
Edited by Alkaiser

@Mento said:

@Alkaiser: Oh seriously? That's crappy timing. Though considering R-Type was Irem's big hit, maybe they really are gearing up for some sort of compilation. I can dream, at least.

I think it has something to do with the licensing issues. I looked it up on wikipedia and apparently all the TG-16 games that were taken down were all being licensed by Irem or Data East.

Oh what the dick. I just checked again and they delisted Third Lightning. Goddamnit. A couple weeks too late I guess. Looks like I'll have to scope out the cartridge for that one.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@MooseyMcMan said:

Ugh, Rondo of Blood. I may be in the minority here, but I did not care for Rondo of Blood at all!

But it has all of that music and also it only came out in Japan. Those two things spell legit right there. Also it's the only Turbografix exclusive that I can name off the top of my head as being good.

Posted by Sarumarine

This was cool. The only Turbografix game I played on a real life system was Adventure Island I believe.

Posted by skrutop

@Kidavenger said:

@Mento said:

The bad part is this descent into the underworld. In a The Sorrow-type twist, the souls of dead enemy ninja pop up and insta-kill you as you fall. You've got to pick the right path past them all as you fall at terminal velocity for something like 30 seconds straight. And there's more than a handful of these guys, let's just say. Hell, I probably went through a couple hundred of them on the way here.

I had this game as a kid, and this is the part I always rage quit, wish I had know it was so close to the end.

Great game though.

Seriously, fuck this part. I never beat it.