Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
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"Ninja Garden?" trilled PATRICK MCCARTHY, "ooh, lovely - I love Japanese flowers." What a twerp.
Hack-and-slash supremo Ryu Hayabusa, ninja megastar, fancying a bit of a holiday after his latest megadeath-dealing adventure, returns home to his village in the forest to find that his family and friends have all been rendered into expertly-sliced fillets, the sacred Bushido has been nicked and his much-prized collection of 1940s Matchbox lorries has been sprited away. Poor old Ryu. He doesn't have much luck really, does he? You'd think he'd have a hard job getting a family in the first place really, what with his reputation and the Japanese obsession with luck. He's so obviously a 'breedin Jonah' that any sensible family and village with an eye for survival would avoid him like the plague.
Let's examine your motives for the part off Ryu, almost as if you were at a Lee Strasbourg 'method acting' masterclass. We'll go through your traumas one at a time, shall we, and examine your character's emotions?
This raises three little doubts in your mind. Either:
You decide not to bother — you can probably buy some more lorries somewhere. You telephone for a mini-cab and get the first train to Tokyo, where you buy a shiny suit and start a career in advertising.
Then you 'step outside the role' for a second, remember that you've just spent 30 quid on this game and might as well play it. So off you go.
Yes, young man, I can tell you how to get to the Castle Of Darkness. Unfortunately you'll have to fight your way through seven levels of impossibly impolite maniacs to get there, but basically you take the first right at the chip shop, go through your local forest, right over the skyscrapers of Tokyo and on through the old streets of Osaka, then turn right up Mount Fuji to rescue a geisha who knows where the Bushido is, then right again at the traffic lights and across the ice floes to beat the Ice Ninja, loft through the caves full of lava (and piles of bat poo) and finally up the road into the Castle Of Darkness to find the Sacred Scroll and defeat the Shogun of Darkness. Or you could get a number 8 bus from the depot.
Still, it's too late now, and all that's left for Ryu to do is pack his sharpest sword, his pointiest shurikens and a flask of hot cocoa into a bag and hit the road through the forest, pruning the heads off any people foolish enough to doubt his masculinity. He's a proud man, Ryu.
Ryu is rather hot when it comes to the 'have at thee varlet' department. Apart from the usual sword-based decapitating and shuriken-dominated spiking-from-afar, he has a wealth of weapons to collect and use, all of which take different amounts from his combat points total.
There's something nice and traditional about a ninja game - right back since the dawn of computing history there have always been ninja games. There was even one for the abacus. This one more or less sticks with the traditions. There are loads and loads of stupid enemies to hack and slash, some cleverer ones who dodge about and some stubborn ones you have to slash more often, the odd bast that is really quick and lots of bombs and traps to avoid, and of course, some mean end of level wazzocks. (Is that a technical term? Ed.) The graphics are pretty smart for a Master System game, and the animation and control over the main character are both very good. You can leap about from platform to platform with reckless abandon and there are loads of different special moves to help you in your task. This is to the Master System what Revenge of Shinobi is to the Mega Drive. I love it.
NINJA GAIDEN: Out now from Sega on Master System, £32.99