header.jpgNinja Senki DX is/was one of February’s PS+ games. After For Honor’s outage last weekend, I was looking for something to do while I waited for the servers to come back up, so I decided to try Ninja Senki DX. And I’m glad I did.

Ninja Senki DX has a very simple story: The princess gets killed by a mysterious white ninja, and it’s up to you to hunt him down and get your revenge. Ninja Senki DX is like a classic NES or Gameboy classic sidescroller, not unlike Mega Man. You’ll jump, double jump, shoot throw ninja stars, and maneuver through 16 stages killing everything in your path all the while collecting coins in mythological Japanese style environments.  Each stage is populated with a number of Japanese monsters, ghosts and enemy ninja, and the design never failed to keep me interested.

preview_ninjasenkidx02.jpgEvery few stages you’ll face a boss, rinse and repeat until you’ve beaten the game. It’s a pretty simple “run to the right” sidescroller, and functions very similarly to classic NES Mega Man, down to the “3 of your projectiles on screen at a time” rule. Pretty much everything about Ninja Senki DX is a homage to classic NES sidescrollers, from the simple pixelated graphics, to the rockin’ retro-style music, to the challenge factor.

In fact, Ninja Senki DX is actually pretty challenging. As stated above, you can move left and right, jump, double jump, and throw shiruken. That’s it. Levels are peppered with various monsters of varying mechanics, such as simple kitsune that run back and forth, to frogs that hop in an annoying arc, and daruma that shoot painful glowy donuts at you, among many others. The platforming gets pretty difficult too, especially towards the end as you start dealing with platforms that only move when you stand on them, flame jets, and insta-kill spikes.

Hayate, the hero, has 5 HP. That means five hits (or falling into a pit or some spikes) costs you a life. Hayate starts with 3 lives, and the penalty for dying isn’t actually too dire; you merely have to start the level over. Luckily, collecting 1000 points by either collecting the koban(coins) or killing enemies will restore your health or give you an extra life if your health is already full. Another simple mechanic that works well and gives you an incentive to explore and assassinate enemies. preview_ninjasenkidx03.jpgThe game also introduces new platforming mechanics well, like the ability to double jump infinitely on water, or dealing with disappearing platforms. While you won’t see anything mechanically other platformers haven’t done before, what makes Ninja Senki DX really stellar is that it does all of these things exceptionally well. Finally, based on how well you perform throughout the game, there are three different endings – just another incentive to be the best ninja you can be, and add some replay value.

That said, there is one somewhat major gripe I have with Ninja Senki DX, and that’s the smallness of the screen. Not a whole lot can fit on the screen in Ninja Senki DX, and a lot of the enemies move very quickly or have fast-moving projectiles, meaning if you haven’t played the game or the level before, you’re going to get ambushed and take a hit. It creates this sort of faux-difficulty of trial and error. If the screen region was just a bit larger, it would be a much easier and less frustrating game, I think.

Finally, there’s probably one nagging question in the back of your mind… DX. What’s that? If there’s Ninja Senki DX (which typically stands for deluxe), there’s gotta be a regular Ninja Senki… Right? Right. In fact, if you go to NinjaSenki.com, you can download the original Ninja Senki for free on your computer. The differences are numerous. Firstly, DX adds a plethora of new modes and ways to play. The biggest of which is the ability to actually save your game. Yep, the original Ninja Senki (now named Hardcore Mode in DX) did not have a save feature, meaning you had to beat the game in a single sitting, and each game over costed you 100 points. DX also adds a Boss Rush mode, and the ability to play any level in any order, both of these modes only available once you’ve beaten the game, of course.

preview_ninjasenkidx04.jpgAdditionally, extra UI has been added to the HUD to tell you how many coins you’ve collected and enemies you’ve killed, which is nice for completionists, and the new challenge mode that gives each stage 4 challenges: one for collecting all the coins, one for killing all the enemies, one for completing the stage under a preset par time, and one for completing a stage without taking any damage. Finally, there’s a secret mode that allows you to play as one of the enemies, but I haven’t tried that out yet. Other than the addition of trophies/achievements, Ninja Senki DX also has remixed music from the first game(which you can choose to play with or with the original tunes), and also redesigned many of the enemies from the original game. While the enemies are functionally the same, many enemies in the original Ninja Senki were simply recolors of the playable ninja character. They decided to remove these bland design in favor of much better ones, so that’s a huge plus. One thing that got removed from the original Ninja Senki that I’m sad to see go however, is the blood effect. Whenever you killed an enemy or got killed yourself, a small explosion of blood droplets would shoot out from the body, in an effect that I actually really liked. I’m sad to see it go, and be replaced with a simple flash.

The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Fun, fast-paced NES style sidescroller.
  • Enjoyable level and enemy design.
  • A multitude of modes, challenges, and endings creates good replay value.

Cons

  • There’s really nothing here you haven’t seen in other platformers before.
  • The smallness of the screen creates a false difficulty due to fast moving enemies and a trial and error style approach to problem solving.

Final Score: 8/10

Ninja Senki DX is a good game, no doubt. Any fan of Mega Man and other NES sidescrollers will feel right at home in Ninja Senki DX, but it fails to bring anything new to the table, and the smallness of the screen will create more frustration than challenge.