A Matter Of Being The Last Ninja

System 3.
You will forever have a very dear place in my heart for providing me with countless hours of entertainment.
I’ve already mentioned some System 3 games in previous posts but very quickly before I continue…
Myth, strangely about mythology, was an epic game that would make me jump and scare the brown stuff out of me, and Vendetta was a really high standard isometric view beat ‘em up game where you also got to drive a Ferrari!
I mention Vendetta as it plays a role in the next series.

The Last Ninja series karate kicked it’s way on to the scene back in 1987 and delivered a colourful isometric fighting game that also involved some clever puzzles. It wasn’t all about the hacking, slashing, stabbing, kicking, chopping, throwing, jumping, punching and whacking. Okay, mostly it was.

Being the only member left of a ninjutsu clan that was destroyed by Kunitoki, an evil shogun, your story takes you on a revenge mission to track down and avenge their deaths.

Playing as Armakuni I was first introduced to the series through Ninja Remix which was a re-release of Last Ninja 2 with new music and a number of bug fixes. It played really well. Whipping the nunchuks out to brain your opponent in New York was great fun.

Two things I remember about the Central Park level.
1 – Having to get the two halves of the nunchuks from inside the public toilets.
2 – Trying to precisely jump some gaps to get a Bo staff (big stick) and falling constantly to my death.

First bit didn’t quite make sense to me but then I guess they had to be hidden somewhere?
The second is probably where I spent most of my time in the first level. The fall was only about a storey high which surely isn’t enough for a ninja to die from, is it?
It has to be said that Armakuni wasn’t particularly great at jumping (or swimming for that matter) which made the fact that quite a few puzzles involved gaps a bit difficult to say the least. Maybe a little more time training with his master was needed.

You didn’t have to defeat every opponent on the screens you encountered. Running to save your health was a perfectly valid way of getting through the story.
Encounters were inevitable so getting hold of the shurikens made a hell of a difference in getting about the individual screens, and killing the juggling clown was a good idea.

Having played Ninja Remix I had to visit/play the entire series from start to end and for all the little quirks of playing on the C64 the experience was very engaging.

The music that was written for the entire series was superb in it’s quality and for the oriental tone it set. It had to be as there weren’t any sound effects on the C64 version but they made full use of the SID chip. During loading (good old tapes) it would kick in with a loading screen and the music would start off fairly sinister and then become a bit more playful and ‘fluffy’ from what I remember. A bit like switching between a Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan film!

The reason for mentioning Vendetta is that its game engine was developed on the back of The Last Ninja. The resulting improved engine was then used for Last Ninja 3.
For its day the graphics were highly detailed and colourful in each of the three/four games that were released, and I remember them fondly. Have a look at some of the screen-shots over at Lemon 64 or better still you can currently play the games through emulation and can get the first two on Virtual Console if you’re on the Wii. Thank you Nintendo.

Last Ninja 4 was rumoured as a 3D game but never came to light on modern machines, and in some ways I’m glad as I think it would have killed my memories. If someone cares to make it in the same retro style however…

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