Ninja Senki DX is an Action/Platformer that kicks off with Blue Ninja’s girlfriend being murdered and he immediately sets out on a quest for revenge. Starting up the game you can choose either New Game or Hardcore Mode, the latter takes away the option to save the game and is better suited for a second playthrough. There is no more story to be found and you are thrust right into the action, whichever one you choose. The gameplay is very simple with only two buttons, one for jumping and the other for attacking via throwing shurikens.
It is very reminiscent of the 8-bit era from the simple controls, graphics and the forced 4:3 ratio it runs in. Running through the levels you’ll run across various enemies which require a varying number of hits to take down. There is no enemy respawns and you can just as easily run past them if you are not trying to perfect the game. Easier said than done however, in true retro fashion enemies are placed exactly where they inconvenience you the most. The fact that it’s in 4:3 makes it all the easier to get blind sighted, making it a game where you should be taking it slow if you don’t have the level memorized.
The controls are very tight and responsive so once you get a feel for it, it becomes delightfully faster paced and helps for that one more go feel whenever you repeatedly get done in by a level. This is not an easy title, you will need fast reflexes and precision to overcome the 16 brutal levels. You start off with two lives and a few checkpoints will be scattered about a stage should you die. Losing all your lives will take you back to the start of said level though you thankfully have an infinite supply of continues at your disposal.
Your character can take five hits before dying and will be pushed back a few feet, that can very easily spell death when near endless pits. The only way to refill your health is to gather enough points by killing or collecting coins found throughout the level. If you are already at full health when reaching that unknown amount of points, you will get an extra life instead. The platforming starts off simple enough but will soon demand pixel perfect precision over pretty dangerous level layouts. It is thrilling to nail these jumps but does get slightly annoying when instakill spikes come into play.
Your biggest threat will be a lake of water found in a single early level which thankfully never appeared again. There were no prior indicators that you can skip across the water and it is quite the challenge getting across it as one slip up means death. Every level is short so getting back to where you were will take no more than a few minutes. This really helps you want to keep trying as you know that wherever you died, you were probably close to the end. Ending the level is as simple as touching a magic door though every two levels you will have to fight a boss.
These are when having a few extra lives will come in handy as you discern their patterns. They are all challenging and fun to fight, though the most generic one that resembles a cannon of some sorts is reused three times with no differences minus the mob it spawns. Aside from that boss, there is a nice variety of creatures to face, requiring different strategies but always end in you frantically mashing the attack button in hopes that they die before you do. The last boss is definitely worthy of that title. I probably spent as much time trying to take him down as I did getting through the rest of the game.
Depending on your skill level this can be a rather short game but in all likelihood will still give any gamer enough challenge to put it at a few hours. Every two levels the background will change, adding a few new enemies and traps to overcome to help things from getting repetitive. It could very well have been extremely repetitive considering there are no items, different weapons or anything beyond coins and jumping/fighting your way to victory. As much as I was frustrated in a few sections, I somehow could not put it down until I played it from start to finish.
In a rather unfortunate turn of events, they grew the bad habit of reusing small chunks of the level with the same enemy placement as if they just copy and pasted the area to make the level longer. They occur right after one another which only serves to make it stand out even more and is very bizarre facing the exact same scenario three times in a row or more while making your way through the level. It is not game-breaking but that alongside the constant reuse of bosses did detract from the experience. The timer to the bottom left is simply for extra points, it will not instakill you as soon as it hits zero like most other games of this genre.
Finishing the game nets you a boss rush mode if you feel you are skilled enough to take down all the bosses with only three lives. A neat little feature is the ability to change the music back to its original form instead of the remixed soundtrack this DX version defaults to. As I went into this game completely blind I was quite surprised that this wasn’t an NES game or something similar, instead the original was a free 2010 title for the PC. There are a lot of throwback games but few capture that 8bit feel of yesteryear quite this well. It does face some problems for retaining that legitimacy such as the 4:3 ratio though if you are a fan of 8bit games or are feeling up to the challenge for a simple yet balls to the wall hard Action Platformer this is a great choice.