Review by KFHEWUI
"Mystical Ninja is an ugly mess of a game"
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon is Goemon and the gang's only outing on the Game Boy. Everything is fine and dandy until one day pirates called Black Ship Gang arrive in Edo. They quickly start stealing and creating a ruckus so Goemon and his friends must stop the pirates.
The story is not that great however it is one of the better aspects of the game. There are cut scenes at the end of each level, and there is a plot twist to the game that is oddly specific and instead comes off as cheap.
Mystical Ninja starring Goemon came out late in the Game Boy's life and sadly the game reeks of rushed development like it was hastily thrown together and released. It is a 2D adventure game similar to Legend of Zelda except not as complex or enjoyable. There are five levels that compose the game and before the start of each level the player can select one of three characters: Goemon, Ebisumaru, and Sasuke. Sae does make an appearance in the game however she is not playable at all. Despite the cosmetic and weapon differences, the characters all play the same with no character having an advantage over the other. Each character has two weapons while the primary weapon is different for each character, the secondary weapon for each character is shurikens. For Goemon his main weapon is a pipe while Sasuke has a kunai and Ebisumaru uses a broom, but when the player has full health, they will shoot a projectile from their weapon and this projectile is more powerful than shurikens.
Each character has only one life with no way to gain another life but to add more fuel to the fire, there is no continue system meaning each level has to be beaten in one attempt. Since there are five levels this would make the game unplayable if it were not for a password system however the password system has some issues. Each password is composed of fourteen characters yet instead of using letters or numbers, the developers went with random objects like knife, fan, and old man to name a few. Why not use a simple four character password instead? Trying to remember four random letters is easier than fourteen random objects and considering this is a portable game, it really hurts the portability factor by having to carry pen and paper around just to write passwords.
The player starts off with only six health but over the course of the game, they can increase it by finding life crystal which increases the health bar by only one. Sadly trying to find health is very rare since health can only be obtained by either staying at an inn or buying food from a store. Only problem with this is that the stores are far apart and just trying to get to the next one can feel like a marathon. This would not be a problem if it were not for the technical issues of the game.
First off the hit detection is clumsy and only a direct hit to the dead middle of the enemy will register. Some of the enemies like the ninja will fire a shuriken then quickly disappear and trying to get a hit in is very tough yet thanks to the fact that enemies do not drop any items, the player is better off avoiding enemies as much as possible instead of trying to take a few cheap hits. Second issue is the collision detection and on some screen there are narrow passages to travel through, but it is very easy to get caught on an invisible edge of the corner. This can lead to some cheap hits. One of the biggest issues is the length of each level, and the levels are about twenty to forty minutes in length. Having only a single life and no continue system can make the game feel like a real grind, and when taking the technical issues into hand, the game just is not fun one bit.
Not only are the levels long but they also suffer from dull and repetitive design yet there is only a small hand full of different room designs. This means going through the same dull room multiple times in a level; it gets to the point that it is very easy to get lost and backtrack to the start of the level. Though there is a lack of different rooms, graphic wise it actually does not look too bad. The only major flaw is how barren each screen looks most of them consist of a few buildings, grass, and a person or enemy. There are a few cave areas which look better since they include pits and spike pits or maybe it is a lava pit. Sasuke and Ebisumaru do not look too bad however Goemon looks awful and he has an afro or it could be a pot. Enemies in the game are plain and generic as possible including skeletons, bats, cannons, moles, and ninjas, but one nice little detail I like was the cannon animation which looks like it bloats up and the nozzle pulls back slightly before expelling the cannonball.
Each level has at least one and sometimes two bosses in them. The bosses are not great at all and are not too difficult to beat except for the second phase of the final battle. This fight involves Impact (robot), and in this fight the boss will show up in one of three positions: left, center, and right. When he shows up, he will either go left or right. When he shows up on the right and goes right or on the left and goes left, there is not enough time to hit the boss so cheap hits are unavoidable when he appears in these two locations.
It might seem like a relief to have an easy boss however like Admiral Ackbar said, "it's a trap!" Going back to the one life and long levels, the developers came up with one devilish trick at the end of the level, and this is trick ruins the entire game. After beating the boss, the boss will challenge the player to a mini-game and losing the mini-game is an instant game over so the entire level comes down to a cheap mini-game however beating the mini-game is near impossible. The challenge is a 100 meter dash which running is performed by repeatedly mashing "A" however no matter how fast or hard the player tries, winning is impossible. So the original vanilla version of Mystical Ninja is pretty much unplayable however I must mention that the virtual console version of Mystical Ninja can be beaten by a cheat. There is a way to use auto fire which will make the challenge laughably easy.
Sadly there are more mini games over the course of the game including an arrow mini-game, concentration, face matching, tug-a-war, whack-a-octopus, and quiz. Each mini-game has a serious issue like the quiz gives the player only five seconds to read the question and answers then select the right answer, but there is not enough time. Ten seconds would have made the quiz bearable. Tug-a-war is just like 100 meter dash while face matching is a three by three grid that the player has to match all the tiles to have the same face but of course there is only thirty seconds. The whack-a-octopus suffers from clumsy controls which feel sluggish. It does not help that the game uses every button on the Game Boy including start and select plus A, B, and the D-Pad. Back when the game was released there were no sites with cheats so that meant the player was stuck and was screwed out of their money, and they were better off taking the game back.
Controls for the most part are solid and responsive with a simplistic layout, but the only time they felt clumsy is during the whack-a-octopus mini-games. One issue I have with the controls is definitely the awkward jump system. Hitting jump while standing still will have the player jump straight up, but hitting a directional button and jump will have them jump in said direction. Most of the time the player will jump right over the edge into a pit or water and take damage however this is where it gets strange. When the character's shadow appears on the platform, the player has to quickly hit the direction button in the opposite direction of where they are jumping to stop the jump. It is so awkward and never fells natural.
One area where the game excels is the soundtrack, while the rest of the game is a painful experience, the soundtrack is very good and completely enjoyable. Each level has a different tune that fits the vibe, and the cave areas have an ominous sounding tune that is foreboding. Sound effects on the other hand are minimal and completely underwhelming and thinking about it now, I cannot recall any of the sound effects off the top of my head.
There are a few other issues with the game like the money system. The only use for money is to buy healing items or shurikens however there are more than enough shurikens to be found in chests. This leaves healing items but since the stores are so far part, the player usually ends up with a massive amount of money, and I ended the game with over eight hundred coins. Another major issue is the replay value which is zero. There are five levels and only one difficulty meaning there is no reason to replay this game at all.
Mystical Ninja starring Goemon is a painful and unforgiving mess of a game, but if it were not for the game breaking mini-games, this would actually be a decent game. Instead this is a game that is worth avoiding at all costs, and there is not a single redeeming quality to this pitiful game.
Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 02/11/13, Updated 04/29/13
Game Release: Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon (US, 04/30/98)
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