NatsumeAtari is no stranger to games, having created many well-known titles in the 1980s and continually working to release games for virtually every home and portable console released since then. The Ninja Warriors for the SNES was a follow-up to a 1987 arcade game, and now on the Nintendo Switch we have what is best described as an updated remaster of the home console version with the The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors. With a clear dedication to the original source material and attention to detail in the combat system, the game looks to impress new players and those fueled by nostalgia.
Gameplay Trumps The Story
The game is not without a story, as players learn that the world is stuck in an abysmal dystopia controlled by an evil dictator and a rebellion that fights back with our playable characters, a group of android ninjas. There are more details, but the story is not developed as each level progresses and the focus are clearly on the non-stop action.
Rich Gameplay For Each Character
In 1994, when The Ninja Warriors was on the Super Nintendo, the game was known for its precise controls. That same attention to detail has been placed in this remaster. Unlike most side-scrolling games from its time, and even today, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors brings back memories of Alien vs. Predator, the 1994 beat ‘em up game developed by Capcom, thanks to the variety of attacks a player can make, all of which differ based on which character one chooses.
Rather than having only a simple attack and jump, players can dash forwards, do different air attacks, throw opponents into each other, and use an ever-building meter to dish out a single massive screen-wide attack, or several smaller special moves.
Unlike Alien vs. Predator, or other beat ‘em ups like Final Fight and Double Dragon, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors limits the battlefield to a two-dimensional plane that forces players to be attentive to attacks from behind. Although players can block all normal standing and crouching attacks by holding down the attack to enter a guard position, they can only face left or right and are vulnerable to attacks or projectiles from behind.
The Gang's All Here
The original playable characters are back and feel exactly as they did in the 1990s. The android Kunoichi is the lightest of the three characters, weighing only 65 kilograms, which means this character can jump around the screen with ease. Ninja, the least creatively named of the bunch, weighs more than ten times that at 700 kilograms. As a result, that character requires what looks like a massive jetpack to get even slightly off the ground. Kamaitachi, meanwhile is the balanced character between mobility and power, but all three allow for distinct playthroughs.
These original three characters are joined by two new ones, whose inclusions are a nice touch, especially when one wants to play the game with a friend. They are not unlocked right away, and players need to earn them by defeating the game on both levels of difficulty. This adds to the replay value of the game, since the original three characters are different enough that players need to carefully consider how to use the strengths of each individual toolkit.
Hard Mode Delivers What The SNES Lacked
Back in 1994, there were no patches or updates to a game, nor was there anything close to DLC for the Super Nintendo. As a result, players often felt a need to get the biggest bang for the buck, and a criticism of the original game was that it was too easy and did not offer any long term replayability. This concern has been alleviated now with the inclusion of the Hard mode, which makes opponents more aggressive, and as stated, demands a player more carefully consider what to use from their toolkit.
The remastering of the art and the familiar musical tones are sure to be pleasing to any player, but even more for those who played the original games. Developer NatsumeAtari has certainly put in the effort into recreating the classic feelings from the 1990s, which looks and sounds like an alternative timeline in the Terminator series.
Despite doing so many things well, there is no online multiplayer. Simply put, releasing a great game in 2019 without the ability to play with friends online is an unacceptable omission. While the game looks and plays great, limiting play to local co-op is a relic from the past that should not occur now, especially at the price point that the game is being sold for. There is a ranking leader board to measure one’s performance in terms of point scoring, but this is insufficient compared to true online multiplayer.
A Satisfying Remake
As the Nintendo Switch continues to climb in popularity, more and more games are being released that are either heavily inspired form an older game, or like The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors, remastered with some tweaks to the original formula.
There is no doubt that the game has been made with great attention to detail in the core fighting mechanics, art, and music. Including two new characters is also a fantastic reward for completing the hardest mode of the game. If online multiplayer had been added alongside everything else, it would be the perfect addition to any Switch owner’s library. For now, it will most likely only be picked up by old-school fans of the series and those who crave beat ‘em ups.
4 Out Of 5 Stars
A review copy of The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors was provided to TheGamer for this review. The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is available now for the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch.