Last Ninja 2
ST Format Review
For this review I’m running Steem with a 1MB STE, running TOS 1.6. I’ve gone with Pompey Pirates 42. The menu is fairly plain with the artwork you see above and scrolly text moving far too quickly for me to be able to read it. The music is quite poor. This one comes with a Damocles mission disk and a game called Nova which I swear was a freebie on an ST Format cover disk.
So we get a credit sequence presented like a stage play with the curtain rising and falling. I can’t help noticing the huge amount of space taken by the bottom score panel and whatever that is on the right.
Wow – on first load this actually drew the screen like a Turcan wargame – where you could see the additional elements being added. Not sure if it’s an intended gimmick or really poor programming. The playable area is tiny however and the graphics look distinctly EGA. I had a look at the C64 version and the ST version really wasn’t as far ahead as it should be, and of course the c64 has better sound. Animation is smooth but then again there’s nothing else moving on screen. Controls are peculiar, with the sprite not changing its facing direction until you roll the joystick – otherwise it’ll backstep and sidestep. Picking something up involves holding down fire and using a downward diagonal.
So the screen draws weirdly again and I’m beginning to think it was an artistic choice. Odd, but ok.
A brief fight leaves my opponent on the floor – it wasn’t exactly riveting stuff, but perhaps my own lack of skill with the game played a part. Still, I couldn’t help feeling I’d rather be playing Double Dragon. I punch something at the end of the room, but nothing happens other than it changing colour. Back out to the rooftop I guess. One of the interesting things is the C64 version has less clutter which means you can more easily see where you can and can’t go – the extra graphical detail actually works against the ST version.
And a trap door has opened. I guess there’s an adventure element to this then. Looking around youtube I see there’s a spectrum version too – this game gives me the impression it was made for 8-bits first and then 16-bits later. That ties in with reality, with Last Ninja 2 first appearing 1988 and taking 2 years to arrive on the ST. Had it been released in 88 it might have looked a little less out of place but the truth is this game looks and feels out of date, in 1990 it just doesn’t hold up.
Falling down the trapdoor I am in another room, with another likely trapdoor. I presume I need to get it open? There’s a key on the floor to pick up using the convoluted controls, and a door at the back which seems like an obvious place to go. Trying to pick up the key I conclude it’s not to be picked up and head for the door, but sensibly check a youtube video. It turns out you need to be incredibly precise.
Numerous attempts to pick up the key fail. This is not great game design.
I give up and go outside where a guy wants to beat me up. Always one guy. Never a bunch of them like in Double Dragon – probably to keep frame rates sane along with the tiny action window.
He’s a bloody heap at my feet. Not sure a ninja should be quite this conspicous.
This is a bad game. A very bad game. It was clearly released way too late, it sticks far too closely to its 8-bit heritage. Frankly I’m a little puzzled by ST Format’s praise for its looks, as much as I’m confused by it getting a score of 86%, but then again some of the scoring back then was pretty random. ST Format’s score is the highest of the main 16-bit magazines, with CVG giving the ST version 77%, ST User giving it 72% and Games Machine giving it 70%. However, Amiga Power lay into it with 33% (source: https://www.mobygames.com/game/last-ninja-2-back-with-a-vengeance/mobyrank). I’ll go with Amiga Power on this one.