One of my favorite games as a child was Wild Guns. I remember how the first boss’ pose on the box art was instantly drew me in. I’ve always been one to love odd titles, and as I left blockbuster and arrived home with my rented copy, I knew that there would be plenty to love.
Then Wild Guns Reloaded came along. A remaster of one of my most played SNES games? I’ll take 2! As I played Wild Guns Reloaded I couldn’t help but feel the magic once again. But this wasn’t just me relieving childhood memories, Reloaded offered a bunch of improvements in all aspects to establish itself as the definitive way of playing Wild Guns.
So how does this all relate to Ninja Saviors? TENGO PROJECT, the creators of this game, are the very same development team that created Wild Guns back then, but also a beat ’em up called The Ninja Warriors. The Ninja Saviors is THE Reloaded remake for The Ninja Warriors, and it is every bit as definitive as fantastic as Wild Guns Reloaded is!
Publisher: ININ Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release date: Oct 15, 2017
The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is a remake/remaster of the arcade and SNES title The Ninja Warriors. It is a 2D beat ’em up that is surprisingly deep but also very rewarding. You play as one of 5 android in a mission to overthrow Banglar’s empire.
Classic arcade gameplay
The Ninja Saviors is quite an onion of game in terms of gameplay. It seems very simple from the outside, but the more you play it, the more layers you discover.
At a first glance, you’ll notice that you only have 3 main actions. Those actions are attack, jump and bomb. Not only that, but also the game plays in a strict 2D layout. No lane switching like 1994’s Power Rangers game, and no pseudo 3D like other beat ’em ups such as Final Fight.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t do much to peel away at this layers and dissuade you from having a very simplistic first impression. But I’m not the game and I will peel this onion for you!
Peeling the gameplay onion
The Ninja Saviors has what I call “The SNES learning curve”. Games weren’t used to being as verbose with their tutorials as they are in modern times. Back then we would discover new actions thanks to mistaken inputs that we then analyzed.
By pressing the attack button multiple times, you will perform your character’s unique combo. There are 2 variations, which are the standing combo and the crouching combo. The kicker is that you can seamlessly switch between these 2 combos to control the flow of the battle.
For example, Ninja’s standing combo ends with a wide nunchuk attack that deals damage in both direction and makes you invincible. His crouching combo ends with a forward lunging kick. Deciding whether you want a wide area of effect or an advancing strike is a decision you can make in a split second, as you can switch from standing to crouching at your heart’s contempt.
Each character also has a special attack that they can use by inputting Up+attack. These attacks consume a little bit of your meter, but also offer additional combat options. Ninja can do more nunchuk attacks, Kunoichi has a ranged shuriken strike, Yaksha has a ranged command grab, etc.
Attack from the air
Jumping is when things get a little more interesting. Jumps can either be neutral jumps or moving jumps. Your jump determines which attack you can perform. For example, when neutral jumping, Yaksha will flail her arms for a multi-hitting attack that covers both sides. Moving jumps will have her perform a flying kick which is good for briefly stunning enemies and performing a combo upon landing.
But that’s not all there is to jumping, as pressing directions during the jumps will unlock even more attacks! By pressing Up+attack in the air, your character will also perform a unique special moves that consumes a little bit of meter. Pressing other directions + attack will also perform different moves depending on your characters. Since this is technically a review and not a guide, I’ll let you figure those by yourselves.
Close and personal
As if your options weren’t enough, by getting close to an enemy you can perform a throw on them. Pressing a direction during the throw will produce different results. Throws are excellent at chucking enemies into other enemies. Once you start thinking of enemies as additional props, a whole new avenue of combat opens up before your eyes.
Of course, it’s not all attacking and being crazy, there’s also defense. Although not immediately obvious as there isn’t a block button, you can block attacks by holding attack. While blocking you can move freely, although you can’t switch your blocking direction, but it still works as a way of strafing and repositioning.
If you do find yourself in the need to quickly reposition, just hold your guard and jump. Doing so will allow you to somersault in either direction, whilst retaining the direction of your guard. How cool is that!?
Perhaps I overextended, but the summary is to experiment different directions and states for your attacks. Find what works in which situation and become a master of war. I never expected to get this depth of a beat ’em up, but I was pleasantly surprised.
I also found there is a unique attack that involved the basic ground combo and a full meter gauge. Once again, I’ll let you discover that one as it is pretty sweet.
The enemy forces
So, is it really important to understand all the nuances of combat to beat the enemy? Probably not. Perhaps you can get away with just mashing the attack button, but the enemies won’t just let you wail on them while they watch helpless.
There is quite a bit of variety to the enemies you will face. While there is plenty of cannon fodder, there’s also more troublesome archetypes for you to face. From the speedy kunoichis to the big and bulky grappler and the very annoying wolverines, you will find yourself constantly switching your offense to correctly respond to the threats.
The Ninja Saviors will take you through 8 different stages in order to reach Banglar. Each stage will offer plenty of variety to keep you entertained, from dodging a chopper salvo to rumbling in an enclosed elevator.
To make things more spicy, a boss will be waiting for you at the end of each level. It is during this moments that your combat prowess will make or break your run. Growing up I always felt lie beat ’em up bosses were unfair, but I finally understand that it is perfectly doable to beat them unscathed with proper knowledge. Even if the boss fights are short lived, I feel like they are real highlight of a level, but more importantly a graduation test where I put everything I learned on the table and challenge the master to see if I got it.
That’s not to say that this game is impossible if you are just mashing. The Ninja Saviors is very generous with checkpoints and will let you retry as much as needed. The only real punishment is that you miss out on being able to publish your time of the leaderboards, but nothing beyond that.
The replay value
I feel like this is the point where a lot of people are discouraged, as 8 stages sound like a very short game. A typical run lasts around an hour. If you are the type of gamer who beats a game once and moves on, then this probably isn’t for you. I consider games like Ninja Saviors to be like a movie, while 50+ hour games are akin to a series with several seasons. You won’t be able to binge a movie like you would binge a series, but a movie is something you can enjoy from time to time and it remains awesome.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a reason to keep paying this game. For one, the game offers a competitive incentive in the form of online rankings and time trials. Your best time in each stage is recorded for each character, so it is encouraged to replay all stages and shoot for the moon.
You can choose to replay individual stages in time attack mode, or do a full game run and see what your end time is. The only caveat is that you can’t die during either.
For the more seasoned beat ’em up veterans, there is also a hard mode complete with its own leaderboards.
The new ninjas
Remember when Wild Guns Reloaded announced it will feature 2 new characters, one of which is a doggo? I might be seeing a trend, because Saviors also features 2 completely new characters.
The first newcomer is Yaksha. She has whip-like arms and offer a very interesting style that blends short range jabs with long range command grabs. I don’t mean to say that there is a ninja that is clearly better than the rest, but Yaksha is secretly the best.
And then there’s Raiden. Oh boy! I’ll admit I never saw a screenshot with Raiden before playing the game (Or rather, I didn’t notice him). There was something that stood out on the character select screen: his 4m height. I figured this was in line with unreal weight classes, such as Ninja weighting a lot, but I was very wrong. Raiden really is 4m, he takes the whole screen and is pretty much the equivalent of playing a boss character. His range is massive, his movement is sluggish and even struggles to turn around. I love it!
These days I don’t really pay much attention to HD remasters, just because of how they end up being just up-scaled graphics and filtered sprites. But then again, if you played Wild Guns Reloaded, you should know better than to underestimate TENGO PROJECT.
The 2 things that struck me the most were the animations and the sound quality. The new animations are just beautiful. Every movement is fluid and seamless. Be it the ninjas or the enemies, everything oozes the love that was poured in it. I had the pre-emptive thought of playing handheld only as pixels don’t hold too well on 55″ screens, but give this game a shot on the big screen! It’s all beautiful pixels!
The soundtrack has also been fully upgraded to give it a modern sound. If nostalgia is your thing, you can also the “Again” and “Arcade” soundtracks. I believe those are the SNES and arcade soundtracks respectively. Despite all my childhood memories and fond love of the SNES sound chip, I have to say the new soundtrack easily trumps the other 2.
If it didn’t seem obvious before, I really enjoyed this game. It managed to single-handedly fix every negative experience and misconceptions I had with old beat ’em up titles. I used to think they were repetitive and bland, perhaps some of them are, but I stand corrected that the ultimate form of the genre is simply amazing.
This is by all means my current favorite beat ’em up on the Switch and quite possibly of all time. Each of the 5 ninjas offer a unique style that warrants a playthrough with each. The soundtrack never gets old and has successfully reached the “I will listen to this OST during work” status. I guess some might nitpick the duration. I don’t represent any sort of majority, but I found the length to be the perfect bite size that lets me revisit the game as long as I want.
Simply put, if you like beat ’em ups or SNES era games, then why are you still reading this? Go and purchase the game!
Ok, I’ll tell you about the secret move. Press Up+attack before the final hit of the ground combo while having a full meter for a fantastic move.