The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors Review

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If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you might have noticed those toys that have started popping up based on the cartoons and characters of our youth. Whether it be the Teenage Mutant ‘Ninja’ Turtles, Transformers or ThunderCats, these toys are created to look exactly how you remember them, complete with the same packaging and accessories as the original. As much as these toys look like the ones from your youth though, they’re not. They’re created to look how you remember them, not as they actually were – trust me, 2019 Lion-O looks a heck of a lot better than the 1985 original. It’s a range of toys built upon our rose-tinted expectations of the past, and honestly, they work brilliantly.

The same is true of Natsume Atari’s, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors, a subtle, but very successful remake of the rather brilliant 1994 SNES game, Ninja Warrior (or Ninja Warrior Again as it was known in its native Japan). Why was it called ‘Ninja Warrior Again’ you ask, well, beyond the traditionally bonkers naming conventions you often find in Japan, Ninja Warriors on the SNES was already something of a loose reimagining of the distinct, three screened 1987 arcade original from Taito.

So yeah, third time’s a charm for this relatively niche but clearly much-loved brawler. Why the game keeps getting remastered (rather than the creation of a more traditional sequel) is quite beyond me, but as somebody new to the Ninja Warriors/Ninja Saviours series, I’m very glad that they’ve decided to persevere.

While Natsume Atari’s latest take really is a shot for shot remake of the SNES game in many respects, a host of minor but notable upgrades to the visuals, the successful implementation of a two player mode along with the introduction of two new playable characters combine to make this a worthy homage to one of the SNES’ lesser known classics.

Well, I say ‘classic’ but that might actually be a bit of a stretch. The Ninja Warriors was a perfectly decent brawler back in ’94, and thanks to the subtle but successfully implemented improvements, it remains so in 2019. Beware though, at the price being asked, this really is one for fans of the original. It still plays perfectly well, and with its distinct characters and surprisingly nuanced combat (by the genres’ standards), this latest stab at Ninja Warriors will prove an enjoyably interesting curio to just about anyone with a passing interest in the genre and/or retro gaming in general. With its commitment to recreation rather than any sense of revelation though, this really does remain a niche remaster for fans of a decidedly niche brawler.

The problem is, as perfectly pitched as the subtle improvements to the already fantastic sprite-based visuals might be, by design, this is still a SNES game to the core. I’m sure fans of the original will appreciate that commitment to authenticity, but for others, it invariably means a game with relatively limited appeal in the long run. Again, that will be fine for some, just don’t go in expecting much more than traditional old school 90s brawling.

Don’t get me wrong, the core gameplay remains as solid as ever – the three original ninjas are all surprisingly unique (both visually and in terms of their play styles) while the two additional ninjas added for this latest release provide a genuinely compelling reason to revisit the game once you’ve completed its relatively small number of stages. The actual mechanics are classic brawler gameplay, but the three button control scheme belies the fact that this is one of the more varied and mechanically deep examples of the genre. There is nothing mind blowing here, but the unique collection of special abilities available to each character really do open up this otherwise straightforward brawler to quite a bit of experimentation.

Yes, it remains a touch too easy, but by today’s standards, I’d argue that the difficulty is actually quite well balanced. The problem with that is, by reducing the brutal difficulty for which the genre is known, the limited amount of actual content comes in to much sharper focus. There are time trials of each completed stage for those looking to challenge themselves, but on the standard difficulty setting in particular, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is actually a bit of a cake walk and can be completed in next to no time at all – something that is fine for a budget price throwback.

It might be aimed squarely at fans of the SNES original, but if you’re a fan of the genre, this somewhat overlooked 90s brawler is well worth a look thanks largely to the fine work done by developer, Natsume Atari. Yes, by sticking so closely to the original, the game invariably comes with all of the shortcomings inherent to brawlers of the time, but that approach also ensures a purity to the games’ design that is so often lacking in the feature-packed games of today. Those with fond memories of the original will invariably find much to appreciate here, but even newcomers will likely find this carefully crafted remaster very easy to like.

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@bonusstage.co.uk.

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The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors Review
  • Gameplay - 8/10
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  • Graphics - 8/10
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  • Sound - 8/10
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  • Replay Value - 8/10
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Summary

It might be aimed squarely at fans of the SNES original but if you’re a fan of the genre, this somewhat overlooked 90s brawler is well worth a look.


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