Ninja Master's: A Reality Check by Bobak!
Ninja Master's is one of the lesser known fighters on the Neo Geo. It came out in 1996, only to quickly fall in the shadow of Samurai Shodown IV and then The Last Blade a year later. Ninja Master's is a fine game (despite some serious panning in major game mags), but isn't at the level of the latter two -hence the game sort of quietly vanished. Since that time there is a cult following around it, and some people claim that it's one of the Neo Geo's greatest secrets. I take the middle road: The game isn't as bad as in the original reviews, but the game isn't as great as some would lead you to believe. It's just a no-frills feudal-Japan fighting game on a system that has many titans in the genre.
Incidentally, if someone can tell me what the possessive "Ninja Master's" is purporting to possess I'll credit you here: There is something under the title, but I'm Japanilliterate.
The average here is "Great." The graphics in Ninja Master's range from good to excellent. While some of the backgrounds are really drab, some of the cut-screens are suitable for framing. Since the game is credited as SNK/ADK, I'd almost be willing to bet money the better graphics were designed by the SNK crew (if there was one). The characters are all well designed (not as well animated as the could be), since this game came out a year the magnificent Last Blade, it wouldn't be totally fair to compare graphics -but watching Ninja Master's almost feels like watching an early test in "serious" medieval-Japan fighting games on the Neo.
Appropriate. Ninja Master's' music has a nice and moody traditional-Japanese style that fits the tone of the game. A few tunes are very well done. The sounds and voices are also well done. If there were one caveat it would be the overall subdued feel of everything. In a way it fits the brooding nature of the ninja -but at the same time the music/SFX never really crescendos, an effect that can really elevate the action on screen. Good but not great.
Dial-a-combo for damage. If there's one thing that makes Ninja Master's weak its the over-reliance on combo button pressing. I've never been a fan of this sort of fighting system because it takes a lot of the speed and fluidity out of the fights. Nearly every attack creates a string of hits that can take you, as the player, out of the action. There is a nice variety of combos, but they overwhelm the rest of the technique. Case in point: after hitting a road block against one particular opponent, I just started pressing 'weak-punch' over and over and it threw off the combo-centered CPU. Not a good sign in a fighting game.
There is a nice concept of fighting with and without weapons (your character can pull their weapon out the holster or hand-to-hand), but both version just offer combo after combo without the skill that usually goes along with it. While not a fatal flaw, it certainly causes the game to pale under the shadow of other great Neo fighters.
This game is a great early attempt at a 'serious' feudal-fighting game. Unfortunately, being a great attempt is not sufficient to being a great game. In many ways, Ninja Master's feels average -and with the Last Blade and Samurai Shodown series on the same system, rightfully so. I don't think this game should be totally written off, but I do think a player shouldn't go in expecting the "Great Game" others have raved about. It isn't here.
Bobak!: is himself a Ninja, but he isn't allowed to tell you that. So please do not let anyone -in fact, just forget it was brought up...
More Reviews of This Game:
by Kazuya_UK - Courtesy of Kazuya's
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