It has been over two decades since the game The Ninja Warriors graced my screen with its pixels. It was a game that I enjoyed on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System as a child, that eventually fell to the wayside in favor of other beat’em ups such as X-Men Mutant Apocalypse. Never would I have believed that NatsumeAtari would bring back their brawler, originally published by Taito, from the glory days of the 16 bit era. Is The Ninja Saviors – Return of the Warrior everything that The Ninja Warriors was and more, or is this a case of nostalgia gone wrong? Let’s find out in our The Ninja Saviors – Return of the Warrior review.
After more than two decades, I was impressed by how much I remembered the original Ninja Warriors. The three main characters refreshed my memory of my time battling it out with man and machine alike. What I forgot about Ninja Warriors and by extension Ninja Saviors is that the game starts out quite slowly. While hordes of enemies rush in to be punched, sliced, or thrown to their demise, basic movement and attacks haven’t aged well. Where Ninja Saviors makes up for that, is in the special attacks and leap maneuvers. Despite the seemingly simplistic controls and limited range of motion, the move sets for each character are deceptively complex. Each character has abilities and special moves assigned to specific directional combinations. Depending on the situation, you could find yourself in need of a high mobility leap attack to surprise an opponent, or a wide area of effect attack that will hit opponents on either side of you. The combinations not only allow for some depth in single player, but it gets compounded when you team up with a friend in multiplayer.
Many of the characters are reminiscent of the era whence Ninja Warrior began. You’ll kill hundreds of knife wielding humans wearing bland military outfits, but any beat’em up gamer from the 16 bit era would have seen identical enemies across many games. In most cases, the difficulty on normal mode is manageable, with very few enemies requiring more than a “Ninja Smash!” mentality. Levels are scant of many real challenges, but in the event that you do happen to die, you can simply restart from the last checkpoint unscathed.
As you complete stages you also unlock timed trials, new difficulties, new characters and you’ll even gain access to a leaderboard. While the two new characters and timed trials are nice additions to the original game, much of the original format hasn’t changed. The Ninja Saviors – Return of the Warrior is certainly a fantastic reminder of where the beat’em up genre hailed from, and how it can still be challenging and relevant today. NatsumeAtari didn’t overwork or remaster a title that worked well in its original form, but I would still have loved to see a roster that was more expansive, or maybe even new skins on the existing characters. In many ways, Ninja Saviors is as good of a nostalgic tour as any beat’em up SNES fan could ask for.