Approximate Release Date: June 30, 1992
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja steeps itself in Japanese cultural aesthetics, surprisingly so given the standards of localization of the day.
That’s not to say there weren’t changes, though. Most immediately obvious is the change in name of the two player characters – Goemon became Kid Yang and Ebisumaru became Dr. Ying – but that’s pretty much it. And really, only fans of the long-running Japanese-only Goemon would notice. The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is the first in the series to come to the United States, and only two more – Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon and Goemon’s Great Adventure, both for the Nintendo 64 – would ever be localized for western consoles again.
So, it’s fortunate that The Legend of the Mystical Ninja came to the United States at all. It probably helped that the game is very good and seamlessly combines platforming and beat-’em-up gameplay. I’ve always described the game as River City Ransom meets Castlevania. Much of the game is wandering around towns, beating up the townsfolk for cash and buying goodies in shops. Every once in a while the story will dictate you enter what amounts to a dungeon. This is where the platforming comes in, and usually results in a boss battle at the end.
Not enough praise can be given for how these two halves integrate with each other. In most games that try to mash together disparate gametypes it often seems weird and half-baked in some regard. Check out my article on ActRaiser for a prime example of this. But the difference with The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is how the controls are the same in both halves, which not only makes the changes in challenges easier to adjust to as a player but also implies a great deal of thought went into unifying these parts by the developers. Both are integral to the experience, and it’s evident just by picking up the controller.
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is one of the great Super Nintendo games that gets ignored in favor of the many, many fantastic Nintendo-developed games on the system, and that’s a shame. It’s not groundbreaking, but the light-hearted tone and mish-mash of genres makes The Legend of the Mystical Ninja special and worth playing. It’s one of the best cooperative games on the system, too!
Tomorrow: Hopefully Super Soccer Champs is more original than its name is. I’m doubtful.