Super Ninja Boy is every bit as amazing as its title suggests.
It’s a co-operative two-player RPG that allows the second player to drop in and out in any given town. Do we even have that today? I don’t know, but it’s amazing.
It’s an RPG whose battle menu is limited to ‘BOUT’ (fight) or ‘RUN’ (flee). Choose ‘BOUT’ and you’re immediately thrust into a side-scrolling beat-’em-up, that’s every bit as fun as River City Ransom. Have these two genres ever met again since? I don’t know, but it’s amazing.
But by far the most amazing thing about Super Ninja Boy is its relative obscurity within the annals of videogame history. I’d never heard of this game prior to writing this review – had you? And yet, as far as I can surmise, it’s pioneered two great ideas in the RPG genre that to my knowledge are yet to be replicated.
I can only offer a few possible explanations for this. One is that ardent RPG players back then may not have had any friends, and thus were unable to discover the joys of friendship, human communication, and co-operation via Ninja Boy‘s two player mode.
Another is that RPG fans were only interested in playing RPG games. It’s possible that the exclusion of a menu-based battle system (though curiously still present for boss battles) was perceived as a dilution of a ‘key’ genre staple rather than a welcome reprieve (or dare I say – “innovation”?) from the same old, same old of practically Every Japanese Role-Playing Game Ever™ – then and since.
I have only two legitimate criticisms to level against Mr. Ninja Boy, and these are they:
- The graphics are a hodge-podge of art styles and assets stolen from its more well-remembered contemporaries. Namely, the map screens from Dragon Quest, caves and treasure chests from Phantasy Star, and the manga stylings of River City Ransom – thrown together.
- You’ll be lucky to walk three seconds before being pulled into yet another random battle encounter, and it’s a bit of a pain in the ass. You might want to think of this as “incidental grinding”, or you’ll probably be driven to agoraphobia.
But hey, this game charmed the pants off me. It’s cute and it’s wild and it’s set in Chinaland with aliens in it – what more could you want from an RPG?