Ninja muggers in central park!
Producer: System 3
Shurikens: £12.99 cass, £14.99 disk
Author: Mev Dinc, graphics by Gary Thornton, music by Brian Marshall
Long ago, in 12th Century Japan, mystical warriors called Ninja were almost wiped out during a purge by the evil Shogun, Kunitoki. A single ninja master, Armakuni, survived to continue the teaching however. Yet, strangely, during one of his subsequent training sessions a pulsating light enveloped him and magically transported to him to a strange new place. And so he must resume his battle with his ancient enemy, Kunitoki, in present-day New York, amid the strange surroundings of 'gigantic shapes covered with mirrors' (skyscrapers).
And so the adventure begins in the odd setting of a bandstand in Central Park, with beautifully detailed drums and music stands lying around the place. Armakuni starts out without any weapons whatsoever to help him. Yet even in this weird, new environment, he is safe in the knowledge that his ninja skills will see him through. Indeed, Central Park soon turns out to be littered with martial arts weapons such as shuriken stars, a staff and a sword.
Combat is controlled in the usual beat-em-up style with combinations of directions and fire accessing a variety of moves. When unarmed, Armakuni can only kick or punch his opponent, but holding a weapon allows him to stab and slash them.
Apart from simple fighting, Armakuni must solve logical puzzles to progress further through six multiloaded levels (even on the 128K) at the end of which he will finally get to meet his arch-enemy, face to face.
20,000 special limited editions (worldwide) of Last Ninja 2 come in a huge (A5-ish) box, complete with a soft plastic shuriken throwing star (even that proved almost lethal to the office cat! - get well soon, Tiddles) and a black ninja mask (which Lloyd has taken to wearing instead of his usual paper bag.)
All this flashy packaging doesn't automatically mean that the game is great but thankfully Last Ninja 2 lives up to the hype. It contains some of the most beautiful isometric graphics ever seen on a Spectrum. This creates a wonderful environment in which the puzzling action can take place. And puzzling it certainly is; especially at first, when even getting off the first screen is a problem.
But perseverance reveals a truly awe-inspiring game with great attention to detail in both graphics and gameplay. My only niggle is that the control system is rather awkward (especially if you haven't got a joystick), but even this fails to spoil this oriental masterpiece.
Graphics: an intricately-detailed isometric landscape with well-animated ninja sprites
Sound: an ear-wrenching oriental title tune plus a few ingame effects
Options: choose between three joystick/movement modes
This is a superb game. The graphics simply dazzle with the hero well drawn and beautifully animated - I especially like the way he draws his weapon. All this obviously makes the fiddly controls all the more frustrating until they're mastered. Once they are, the highest priority is finding weapons because facing a shuriken star-wielding baddie with bare hands is no fun. The puzzles all have logical answers and half the fun is racking your brains trying to solve them. Last Ninja 2 is a great game which deserves to do well.
Last Ninja 2: the long awaited sequel to a game which unfortunately never appeared on the Spectrum. Has the wait been worth it? The first thing that strikes you is the difficulty of the control methods available. You have a choice of three different modes but they are all impossible to master and your ninja ends up looking like a drunk. The programmer has obviously spent the majority of his time developing the graphics. They are excellent, but what is the point having great graphics and difficult, monotonous gameplay? Every few seconds you are killing someone, which involves pressing the same key over and over until your enemy dies (probably from boredom). But despite the terrible controls there are some challenging puzzles to be worked out making the game worth persevering with. Last Ninja 2 is worth buying for the excellent 3-D graphics, but if you have a short patience I won't see you liking the controls.
Life's a major downer for Armakuni lately. There he was in 12th century Japan, having a whale of a time as a ninja master, when an evil Shogun named Kunitoki threw the proverbial spanner in the works, wiping out most of Armakuni's chums...
As if this wasn't enough, a great pulsating light enveloped him to present day New York. Strewth! Wotta pain! Thing is, that rascal Kunitoki has made his way there, too. So the battle continues...
Finding himself in Central Park with nothing more than his raw ninja skills, Armakuni soon finds himself in a spot of bother. All the parities are out to get him, as are the local coppers!
He runs around the many screens dodging or confronting attackers while searching for scrolls, keys and weapons. If he can escape the park, it's press the play button time (yes, it's a multiloader, even on 128K) and on to five other levels.
There's the streets of downtown Manhattan, the sewers, an opium factory and an office (gasp, surely not such a dangerous and despicable place as this!) before the final confrontation in Kunitoki's retreat.
There's tons of arse to kick, all in 3D perspective, and the moves at your disposal are numerous. Consequently, control's tricky to master.
But don't panic if you can't stop performing backward somersaults and jumping off high ledges at first. In time, the way of the ninja comes to you, revealing a truly amazing game.
Even by today's standards, the graphics are quite something. Armakuni's acrobatic movements and weapons certainly bring out the kung-fu in you. The vast map of scenery is detailed and realistic, and there are nifty sounds and tune into the bargain.
Last Ninja 2's a scream once you've sussed out those overwhelming controls so git yen black belts on and kick some butt!
New York, 1988. In the shadows, without a sound, someone is walking through the streets un-noticed. Central Park is nearby, he can feel it. Yes, he can see the top of the bandstand. He knows that below it is the entrance to the sewers, the only way to get into Kunitoki Shogun's headquarters undetected. It's the only way to get The Orb, the seat of his power, the only way to destroy him. And he must destroy him for the sake of his family whom the Evil One murdered, and honour, which demands that he do it on behalf of the Good Lords who sent him forward in time...
That's how it begins, the amazing story of a lone ninja's attempt to destroy an evil magical Shogun called Kunitoki. Back in the 17th Century, the Shogun killed an entire family, just to exert his authority. What he didn't know was that the one member he didn't murder was a powerful ninjoa, the Last Ninja in fact (Oops!). After discovering this was the case, he phased himself forward in time to 1988 in order to escape. But old Ninja had some powerful friends, and these good magicians helped him to follow Kunitoki through time to New York... Meanwhile, in New York Kunitoki's in his element. He has used his almost magical power to set himself up as a drug baron, and hides himself away in a skyscraper/fortress near Central Park. Ninja has discovered that a secret entrance into the fortress exists in Central Park, and as the game starts he is searching for a way in.
So what happened to the much advertised Last Ninja 1? I hear you squeak. Well, it's quite simple really. System 3 didn't think it was up to scratch, its quality control is that good, that it took the decision not to release it until it was perfect. Which meant that the sequel project overtook it, and it turns out that this will come out first. All that effort just to bring you a good game, eh? Makes you break out in a sweat just thinking about it, dunnit? Still at least we have the brilliant new Ninja II to contend with.
Ninja II is a superb feat of programming. It's a six level multiload, with each level taking up the whole of a 48K computer. It's taken Mev Dinc, the programmer, a full six months to get the game from first code to a finished state, and it's easy to see why. The game is fully 3D, and packed to the edges of the screen with fiendish puzzles, the like of which I've never seen. There are objects to collect and manipulate, energy to be gained and fights to be fought. I'd like to see someone try and map it, too. The trail leads us down into the sewers, through Central Park, into a factory, up, down, left, right... all over the shop! (If you can do a map, I'd be interested to see it!) It's a big game, in all senses of the word, and if anything this year has got HIT written all over it, this has. If you like quick, flashy beat 'em ups, then it'll suit you fine, but if you really want something big and fleshy to get your teeth into (fnar) then Nina II is the only game that will do. Available August 25th.
Somersaulting out of last issue's Superheroes compilation, the ultimate ninja comes back for seconds. Transported from ninth century Japan to twentieth century New York by his mortal enemy Kunitoki, our hero remains unflappable despite the dual terrors of this modem day world. One is the tremendous culture shock. The other is that his sharply-cut jumpsuit has been unfashionable for eleven hundred years. Swearing revenge by all the tailors of the Orient, the implacable one sets out to track down his nemesis, using the many and varied objects he finds on the way. With six puzzle-packed levels and groovesome 3D graphics, this is a smashingly playable, tough but fair arcade-adventure. Get it.
Just who are these people who say there's nothing more you can do with the Spectrum? Panda pooh. The Last Ninja 2 is as good a game as I've seen on any computer, and all the colours and sampled sound effects in the world wouldn't alter the fact that the Spectrum version is wonderfully playable and looks fab.
Last Ninja 2, you say? What happened to Last Ninja 1? Apparently, it was a bit of a bish and System 3 wisely decided not to market the Spectrum version, though it was a hit on the Commodore 64. There's a chance that LN1 will appear on the Spectrum now that they've sorted out the problems.
LN1 was a fighting/strategy game set in ancient Japan, in which Mr Ninja took on the evil warlord Kunitoki. Last Ninja 2 looks very much the same, with a large playing area in the top left of the screen, and displays of your current weapon or object, timer, score and fighting strength. There's a choice of joystick control modes - normal, directional, and so on - so you can choose the one with which you feel most comfortable. Options include a variety of fighting moves such as punches, kicks, ducks and leaps, and you can also pick up and use objects, selecting the current object with the keyboard.
What's changed is the setting; instead of ancient Japan, you are now plonked in the rough-and-tumble of modern New York, transported through time to take out the evil Kunitoki, well-known ninja-slaughterer and stealer of Orbs of Power.
The first thing you'll notice is that the backgrounds and characters are fantastically detailed and realistic. You start off in Central Park, complete with bandstand, park benches, fences, trees, paths, lakes, streams; it's all there. It's a multi-load game, with 16 or 17 screens for each of the five loads, so that's lots of screens.
Your ninja character is excellently animated, and because all the graphics are monochrome there's no problem with colour clashes. The game combines fighting and puzzle-solving, so while it's good fun to kick senseless the guards, punks and corrupt cops who attack you on the way, a major element is working out how to find and use objects. How, for instance, do you kill the giant crocodile in the sewer? Could it be something to do with the bottle? Can a chicken really save you from a black panther? Where do you find extra food? And just how does that pole help you to cross a stream?
Your eventual aim is to find Kunitoki and reclaim the stolen Orb of Power. Since he has set himself up as overlord of a drugs empire, this involves you fighting your way through the park, the sleazy backstreets of NY, the sewers, a drugs factory, and Kunitoki's gothic headquarters. If you find the end point of each level - usually an obvious door or other exit - a menu comes up asking you if you want to load the next stage. Usually, but not always, any objects you find relate to a puzzle in the same stage. However, some relate to later levels, so before you move on, make sure you have found everything there is to be found.
Clear? Though there are no sound effects, this doesn't really detract from the game. There is a theme tune which plays in pause mode.
Last Ninja 2 is a massive game with massive packaging; a huge box, a 64-page novella/manual packed with juicy clues, and loads of ninja-style novelties. Considering the derivative dross some companies are churning out at £9.95, it's a bargain even at £12.99, because it will keep you playing for months. Even if you complete the game, you can play again trying to get a higher score - read our little boxes for some handy hints.
Programmer Mev Dinc, he of Gerry the Germ, Prodigy and Knightmare has done a superlative job. Gary Thornton's graphics are excellent, and even in 48K mode the music of Brian Marshall is catchy and entertaining. Buy this game or a big Japanese will poke you in the eye.
Label: System 3
Author: Mev Dinc
Reviewer: Chris Jenkins
The Shogun is dead. Snuffed out by The Last Ninja. That was over a century ago and, ever since, peace has been the order of the day.
Strange things are afoot though. Evil is growing in force once more, in 20th Century Manhattan. It's the Shogun again, resurrected by a modern-day ninja gang. Time to dig up the man in black and send him out amid the streets to do battle once more.
In trying to live up to the original classic, Last Ninja was always going to a tall order. However, the programmers took the challenge head-on and come up with a cracker of a game. Using the same graphic style as the first game, Last Ninja 2, is a beautiful sight to behold with gorgeous detailed sprites and backdrops. The same control method found in the original game has stayed the same, which is a pity as it can be very difficult to accurately position your character on some of the more tricky screens in the game. That said, The Last Ninja 2 is generally an improvement on the original - and it isn't often you can say that about a sequel, is it.
Like the prequel, Last Ninja II - Back With A Vengeance is a six-part arcade adventure calling on all your reserves of skill, fighting prowess and lateral thinking. A massive multi-load, the player begins in Central Park, moving on through Downtown Manhattan, wading through the sewerage system before taking out the bad boys running the Opium Factory, then finally breaking up the party in the Office Block and meeting fact-to-face with your arch nemesis in his retreat.
Label: Hit Squad
Price: £3.99 Tape
Reviewer: Paul Rand
GARTH: I really love the graphic presentation of this game, it's detailed and it shows what the Spectrum can do given a chance. However I definitely don't like the gameplay, but then I'm a simple sort of chap, unlike Paul Rand, who's more complicated than an Airfix Eiffel Tower.
System 3 goes Hnya!
You just can't keep a good Ninja down, especially when he's Armakuni, the chap who you helped to defeat the evil shogun in Last Ninja. It was only a temporary victory though, as Kunitoki has risen again, more powerful than ever.
Instead of the green and pleasant lands of the original, this time around the no-good Shogun has picked the towering skyscrapers and tough streets of New York to spread his wicked ways.
Our hero has to find his way through five different areas, each taking a load, until he reaches the baddies' retreat.
Knife-wielding muggers, punks and other Ninjas block progress on the journey to the evil Shogun, and even the police join in the battle! At the start, you fight with fists and feet - there are a few unarmed moves available, but careful exploration should soon lead to a weapon, which makes the whole fighting process a lot less painful. Sometimes it's worth avoiding battle altogether to preserve that all-important life force.
A puzzle element to the game consists mainly of finding objects and fitting them to obvious situations... nothing to really stretch the brain. The real problems come with the over-complicated control system which makes even simple tasks like picking up objects and leaving rooms difficult.
Last Ninja II is a curious mix between a beat-em-up and arcade adventure. Fans of the original will probably enjoy it, but rather than an improvement it's more of a scenery change.
Reviewer: Robin Alway
Atari ST, £t.b.a., Spring
Amiga, £t.b.a., Spring
Spectrum, £12.99cs, £14.99dk, Out Now
Amstrad, £12.99cs, £14.99dk, Imminent
C64/128, £12.99cs, £1x.99dk, Out Now
IBM PC, £t.b.a., Spring
Predicted Interest Curve
1 min: 60/100
1 hour: 90/100
1 day: 85/100
1 week: 70/100
1 month: 35/100
1 year: 8/100
MACHINES: Commodore 64, Spectrum, Amstrad, Atari ST
PRICE: Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amstrad cass - £12.99, disk £14.99
VERSION TESTED: Spectrum
The Ninja is back. It is not surprising really that the game which was designed to be the Ninja game to end all Ninja games - literally the last Ninja - should lead to a sequel.
System 3 hit on a unique blend of arcade entertainment and adventure style puzzles in Ninja. Beat 'em up fun and problem solving were the two vital ingredients - but very moderate doses of both.
After you've had played Ninja for a while, you soon tire of beating up the guards and want to get down to the serious business of solving the adventure, getting through all the levels, and seeing the end game screen.
Ninja II takes the same basic game design system - but improves on it. In fact it improves on it a great deal in every department - from graphics to game puzzles the whole thing has been improved upon.
As Paul Hogan said recently: "The trouble with doing sequels is that they have to be 150 times better." System 3 has oobviously taken Crocodile Dundee's words to heart as they have crammed numerous innovations into this sequel.
Six levels of game play chart a tale in which the Ninja must seek out the evil Shogun and destroy him once and for all.
Level One - sees the Ninja commence his quest from the band stand in the middle of Central Park. One of the first puzzles to work out is how he can get underneath the band stand to progress through the game.
The park is full of its famous pitfalls - muggers, vagrants, and even a bent copper or two.
The corrupt police force is something you discover very early in the game. Konikun has the force under his influence - which is another reason why you, the Ninja, must defeat him - to restore the force to the proper authorities.
From this opening level it is clear that programmers, Mev Dinc, John Twiddy, and artist Hugh Riley, have done System 3 proud.
The detail in the park is excellent. My favourite screen is the one with the juggler, a slightly menacing character with knives rather than clubs - and who knows he may decide to throw one of them at you.
The Spectrum version is only two colour due to the 3D scrolling nature of the game design. It is not possible to achieve this effect on the Speccy in full colour. It does not lose that much though - all of the detail is there.
Level Two takes our hero on to the streets of New York with drug stores, big yellow taxis, more muggers and some mad motorcyclists who don't have a great deal of respect for Ninjas.
Again the streets are patrolled by policemen who may have a go at you. By winning three punch ups in a row you can effectively kill a policeman. This is not advisable. As John Twiddy put it "cop killers are not popular". In other words, it makes the rest of the force pursue a shoot to kill policy.
The hamburger joints come in handy here - providing you with vital energy. Be careful not to scoff one in the seedy port of town though - as you might get food poisoning.
Level Three takes you down to the sewers where you encounter the rats. Ever since I read James Herbert's book about these vicious rodents I have been petrified by rats. They scuttle horribly towards you in the bowels of the city and your Ninja has to be fleet of foot to avoid them.
As in all other levels there is a puzzle to be solved.
Level Four. You are now in the basement of the Shoguns office. The office level forces you into combat with one of the bent policemen.
Not giving anything away but this level features the Access Cord and a lift which places you in the heart of the Shoguns office - which is really an opium den. Your aim here is to find a secret passageway that will lead you to the roof where a helicopter is about to take off to the Shogun's island fortress - otherwise known as the next load.
Ninja II is one of the best sequels I have seen. It works because the designers were brave enough to stick to the same basic concept.
Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £12.99, Diskette: £14.99
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £12.99, Diskette: £14.99
ARMAKUNI, WHAT ARE YOU?
The highly-acclaimed classic martial arts game, The Last Ninja, was released shortly before TGM's time, but was very well received in our sister magazine ZZAP!. After much anticipation, Last Ninja 2 finally leaps onto the street. A limited edition version (20,000 copies) comes complete with Ninjitsu mask and plastic shuriken. The latter freebie is causing controversy in high streets (refer to this months TGM Report for the full story), but System 3's latest is sure to be greeted with open arms by games players.
In times long passed, on the sacred island of Lin Fen, the last of the Ninja, Armakuni, defeated evil Shogun, Kunitoki. Unknown to our hero, Kunitoki gained a potent magic orb which allows him to control time.
More than a thousand years hence, Kunitoki is a powerful and corrupt New York business man. He uses the orb to influence all who date cross him, even the city's police are or his side. He gains even greater riches from extortion, prostitution, robbery, and his own opium factory.
In their wisdom, the ancient Ninja Gods have brought Armakuni to the 20th century to track down Kunitoki and defeat him once and for all. This is a far from easy task, as there are many of Kunitoki's minions trained in martial arts who fight to the death to defend their master.
CAUSE A NINJARY
Beginning at the bandstand in Central Park, you guide the Ninja in an isometric 3-D environment, picking up weapons with which to fight and aiming to complete sections within a time limit. Two fighting moves are initially available. They increase when weapons such as shurikens, swords and nunchakus are used.
Two energy spirals display strength remaining, one for you and one for your opponent, as well as in combat, this is also worn down by leaping off tall buildings or being run over by passing vehicles - one of your five lives is lost when it is extinguished.
The game is played over six sections. After leaving Central Park, the streets of the Big Apple are explored, then the smelly depths of the sewers investigated until, finally, the opium factory is reached. At the top of this building a helicopter is caught to whisk you to the final confrontation on the Shogun's island.
The slightly slow play of The Last Ninja has been improved by a wider variety of scenery and characters, and the inclusion of object-orientated puzzles makes exploration a highly absorbing experience. Combat is a little limited and soon mastered, though the control system as a whole can be cumbersome at first.
Overall, Last Ninja 2 would make an excellent addition to any arcade-adventurer's collection.
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