Review by hangedman

"Obscurity can be a blessing."

Cue The Vapors - I think I'm turning Japanese.

Really, I've played some fringe, hole-in-the-wall, and unheard-of-by-anyone games. This is one of them. I'll be pretty blunt in this department: the game blows ass. Really, this game is the absolute bottom of the barrel in terms of collision detection and the chances you have against the other enemies in the game. Aside from that, it's made by Jaleco, so you can practically guarantee that this game is going to be a big bowl of awful. You know those races where they have a guy with a pistol? Imagine if they fired into a runner's back to start that race. Meet Gingya Ninkyouden.

It's really too bad that this game has awful gameplay, because I actually had some drive to get to the end of the level and on to the next stage. If you're familiar with my reviewing, you'll know that I play a lot of abysmal games just to satisfy my morbid curiosity, but this game is the ultimate end-all-be-all of the unhealthy curiosity games, at least until I can find some other game that beats it out. I really don't want to see this game, because Ginga Ninkyouden is bad enough.

''I'll save you!''

From what I surmise about the story, you play a goofy-looking Japanese James Dean sort of character, with tight black pants, a semi letterman's jacket, and a slick haircut. Your job: save Sailor Moon. I kid you not, your ultimate goal seems to be to save a Sailor Moon looking schoolgirl from the clutches of some robot that looks like he came out of the Thundercats reject pile. Ouch. What little story there is presents itself in the language of its creators (i.e. Japanese), of which I only know a few phrases (like ''number one'', ''hello'', and ''bukkake'') so I'm really not sure if there's a higher purpose.

Frankly, ladies and gents, this game needs a higher purpose. The entire game is riddled with what feels like scores of inside jokes. Aside from the familiar-but-not protagonist, every enemy is some weird character based loosely on something else, like the Kamen-Rider style moto-psychos, the Stallone-looking guy with the bandanna, and the guys with chainsaws and hockey masks. When the enemies aren't some odd possible pop-culture reference (which popular culture being referenced is a good question...) they're a universal sort of bizarre, like men in bathrobes, pigs that wrestle, and turtles that shoot laserbeams.

And even though this game blows, it's these enemies that cause you to keep playing. I swear to god, you can't walk three virtual feet in this game without some unusual thing attempting to kill you, be it a samurai, monkey, or giant killer bee. There are about 20 different enemies per level, some enemies only show up once and are never seen again afterwards. This medley of freaks is enough (possibly) to extend your play. For a while, at least.

This while is highly variable as well. Your first impressions of the game will be surprisingly accurate: it's impossible. It took me several, several tries to make it to the first continue point in the first level, and I couldn't get past level 4 no matter what I did or which god I prayed to. No amount of cursing got me through level 4, and no amount of concentration did the trick either. This game can bite my ass. It's too damn hard no matter what angle you look at it from.

''One death is a tragedy. One million deaths must be caused by Ginga Ninkyouden.''

Difficulty is one thing I can tolerate, but not this kind. The strength of the game comes in the form of your controls never being at all effective. Interesting indeed, as you only have two buttons: jump and punch. In the unusual shooter mode where your character takes up a quarter of the screen, it becomes shoot and shoot. As it stands, your James Dean wannabe is a great big chunk of pathetic. His punch doesn't extend beyond his foot in his regular stance, his jump kick has yet to kick anything without hurting him in the process, and his skills of evasion are about as sharp as a brick. Essentially, your character sucks about as much as this game does.

Your suckiness doesn't really ever go away, even with the power-ups you get: a knife, and then a bigger knife. If you think that this knife is going to save your ass, guess again. The knife extends your attack range to just outside of your fighting stance, and the second knife makes you attack at about the same range... but you cut things in half now. Viva la difference.

To make matters even more user-unfriendly, every enemy attacks you at full force, in waves, constantly respawning from the sides of the screen. They'll walk right up to you, hit you, and walk away. Pretty much every enemy in the game has the same attack pattern: get close to administer the single smash of justice, tiring your patience one punch at a time. Believe me when I say that it wins.

It wins so much. Jaleco wants your money as fast as you're willing to put it in. The fact that this game is impossible despite the fact that it gives you three lives and generates health pickups with almost every enemy beaten should say something else. Even though you have multiple tries to get through a level, and you can theoretically regain all of your health by fighting enemies, this game won't let you have the satisfaction. So many enemies... worthless control.... awful offensive capabilities. What's to like outside of the characters?

What IS to like?

It sure as hell isn't the gameplay. Shifting the focus away from how incredibly awful this game's sense of challenge is for a minute, Ginga Ninkyouden has some great visuals, and all of the freakish cast is colorful and consistent with one another. The sound is decent too, with voices and grunts as well as catchy level music. Even the premise is neat, what with all the pop-culture fused with old-school anime designs. Too bad the core of this game drags all the other aspects down into a watery grave.

I read a long time ago that relatively few Japanese games are ported to the US, usually because of cultural differences and variances in taste from the two audiences. If Ginga Ninkyouden wasn't brought over because of these culture-issues, then it wasn't brought over because it was an awful game. As a lover of anime and one able to recognize a pop-culture joke when I see one, Ginga Ninkyouden appeals to me on some level. Everything else gives me a throbbing headache. I don't know if there's anything past level 4. I don't think there is, honestly, and if Jaleco put in a level 5 and onwards, they should have known they were wasting their time.

OVERALL: 2 / 10
Let's hope this game stays buried.

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Reviewer's Score: 2/10 | Originally Posted: 03/10/02, Updated 03/10/02


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