NINJAS!

Ninjas were pretty big business when I was a kid. Of course, they've never really disappeared. I mean, I know it's their job to disappear, but I'm saying they've always been around in popular culture in one form or another. You with me? Cool.

When I was younger, there were more video games with ninjas than you could shake a bo at. As the years have passed I have played and collected a fair few of them. Here are some of the more noteworthy ninja sims of my past...

List items

  • At the time this was an amazingly atmospheric game. It was also chock full of obscure puzzles, fiddly controls and aggravating water hazards. Yet everyone I knew loved it, including me. I've not revisited it in a long while, and I'm sure if I did I'd tarnish the memory of its already flawed gameplay.

  • Second verse, same as the first. System 3 made a prettier game here, but didn't really change the core elements that made its predecessor a frustrating wonder. What made it cool? Three words: toilet chain nanchaku, mutherfuckers.

  • I played a lot of this game as a kid, but never really got the knack of how to fully conquer it. There's loads to do, and multiple (optional) missions to complete before escaping in the helicopter. The more of these objectives you get done, the bigger the score you get when you leave the complex. I only ever managed to escape without doing any of the other stuff, and even then I only did that a handful of times. Things I did a lot instead: drown in slime, get killed by guard dogs, jump around like a maniac, use switches because I liked the sound, throw bricks, wonder why the train rails looked like McDonald's symbols.

  • ...or Dragon Ninja as it was known in my neck o' the danger-filled woods. The arcade game was okay fun for a while, and I've put more than a couple of coins into it in the past. The Commodore 64 version, however, is the one I spent the most time with. It's a pretty sloppy conversion, although there's still some fun to be had. The in-game soundtrack is also noteworthy for using just a single channel of sound for the drums, bassline and other little blips. Clever stuff.

  • I don't know how well this game was known at the time, as I never saw it mentioned in magazines, but it always seemed a bit like an unacknowledged gem to me. Good one-on-one battles combined with random placement of items and enemies kept replayability high, even after beating it.

    Actually, I've just looked up the old Zzap!64 review, and they gave it a tiddling 25%. Pffft. What would they know? Hacks.

  • A revered classic. One of many games cycled through the arcade machine down at the corner store when I was growing up. For some reason, I always loved the look of the wee POW rockets when you fired them. Man, that game got bastard tough later.

  • I haven't played a single Tenchu title since the original and from the sounds of it, I'm better off that way. Despite its problems, though, this first outing was a corker.

  • Played this a couple of times in an arcade at Byron Bay. It had three big screens bolted together side-by-side, giving you a mad huge widescreen effect and the ability to see enemies streaking toward you from a mile away. This was the game's only exciting feature, and even that wore off pretty quickly when you trudged through the mediocre Kung Fu Master action. The C64 version obviously doesn't have the 3 screen novelty, but as such stands out as a solid conversion of what was a pretty bland game to begin with.

  • Even at the time it seemed like a pretty wobbly cash-in on the ninja craze, but it didn't stop me from shovelling a bunch of coins into it. Actually, a lot of the SNK titles that graced those lots-in-one cabinets seemed to be very dodgy, but still managed to grab their fair share of my pocket money (see also: The Super Spy, Cyber-Lip).

  • Otherwise known as Shadow Warriors for us PAL peeps. I used to love this arcade game, even if I never really got very far. Especially worthy of note is the Continue screen which, if you fail to jump in, sees your hero take a buzzsaw to the chest. Yeah boy.

  • Hey, y'know the game Commando? Yeah, well add ninjas to that. And what do you reckon the name of the game would be? See, I knew you weren't just a pretty face.