Everyone has that one character they love in video games. Classics like Mario and Link are hot choices, as well as modern characters like Nathan Drake or Commander Shepard. My favorite character is a little more obscure than some, perhaps: Goemon, of the mostly Japanese exclusive Ganbare Goemon series. Only four of the series were localized for the US market (five if you’re in the UK). That’s why today I’ve chosen to talk about one of my favorites, Legend of the Mystical Ninja on the Super Nintendo.
In my experience there are three kinds of people when it comes to this game: those who love it, those who’ve never played it, and those who have never heard of it. Not many negative things are said about the game. It’s truly great at what it does, and what it does is some of the best platforming ever experienced in a game. The physics are tight, the levels are tough but fair, and the levels are very cleverly designed. But the game isn’t content with letting you hop right into the platforming action. You’ve got to explore the towns first, building up coin, armor, and health through various means provided by the townsfolk. These aren’t your typical safe haven towns though. The towns are populated by all sorts of brigands and rogues, so you must battle through them in an overworld setting not unlike many action adventure games of the era, such as A Link to the Past. It’s a fun way to keep the game play varied and it works really well.
The setting of the game is feudal Japan, but with a twist. This isn’t the Japan you’ll read about in history books. This is a Japan populated by ghosts, clockwork robots, and eccentric, over-the-top villains. The story is pretty zany and never takes itself too seriously. The graphics are bright and colorful, and when combined with the wacky setting serve to give the game a Saturday morning cartoon feel. It works, but don’t let it fool you. This game can be downright brutal in the later levels.
The music of Legend of the Mystical Ninja is a joy to behold, and some of the best composed for the SNES, in my opinion. Sure, the zany tunes aren’t going to illicit the emotions of, oh, say, Final Fantasy VI’s opera scene or anything, but they do a great job of capturing the feel of the game overall. It never lets you forget that you’re in a crazy, alternate Japan where seemingly anything goes.
You’ve already figured out that I absolutely give this game a Snag. I have nothing ill to say about it. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes platformers, odd settings, or just plain having fun. The game is easily found as well, with both the cart being fairly common (and not terribly expensive) as well as being available for download on the Wii U Virtual Console. Trust me, pick it up and lose yourself in it for a few hours, and even though the curse words will flow, you’ll be glad you did.