You may recall a little while back that we saw the Atari 8-bit version of Mastertronic’s Ninja. Well, here’s the ST version!
It’s basically the same game at its core, though it runs a little faster and has much nicer graphics. It also has a new theme tune that plays in between fights. It’s a great example of the additional power the ST brings to the table over and above its 8-bit predecessors, even if it’s not the best or most imaginative game out there.
For the unfamiliar, Ninja is an interesting combination of action adventure, beat ’em up and fighting game. You must work your way through a series of screens, beating up anyone in your way in a series of one-on-one fights, and ultimately prove your worth as a ninja master. All in a day’s work, right?
Kick, punch, it’s all in the mind! Pushing diagonally backwards and up while holding the fire button to swing your sword, however? Somewhat less intuitive…
Enter Mastertronic’s Ninja from 1986. This was a game developed by Steve Coleman (who was previously responsible for Pharaoh’s Curse, which we’ll be coming to in a few weeks) that combines open-world 2D adventuring with a fusion of one-on-one fighting and beat ’em up mechanics to produce something altogether unique.
Ninja was a game of “firsts” for me growing up. It was the first time I saw a ninja and learned what it was. It was the first time I saw (and learned the name of) a lot of pieces of traditional Japanese architecture such as torii gates. And it was one of the first games I played where fighting mechanics were a little more complex than simply mashing the fire button to do a single type of attack. It’s still pretty fun, too… though it puts up a lot more of a fight than I remember!
Today’s Atari ST title is a good example of the general standard of arcade conversions during the 16-bit home computer era.
Technos Japan’s Double Dragon II is a classic of the beat ’em up genre with good reason, and the Atari ST port wasn’t awful — compare it to footage of the arcade original and you’ll see that graphically, at least, it’s surprisingly close.
Like many arcade conversions of the era, though, it was missing a few features… like the background music from the original game. There are many possible reasons this might have been the case — most likely it was either the fact that the ST’s sound chip was never really up to the job of doing sound effects and music simultaneously, or that many of these Western-developed home computer ports of the era were put together from scratch rather than being able to make use of the arcade machine’s original code and audio-visual assets.
Either way, it’s far from an amazing game from the Atari ST, but it’s a good time if you’re looking for some brawler action, or just to experience what an arcade conversion of the era was like.
Bruce Lee was an interesting game that included elements of the beat ’em up, platform game and action adventure genres, creating an altogether unique experience at the time that is still fondly regarded today.
I have very fond memories of this game, despite not being all that good at it when I was a kid. Rather than it being fast, chaotic action, it actually rewards somewhat strategic play; taking your time getting through the screens is usually your best bet, and defeating the enemies is also a case of waiting for a good opening to attack them rather than flailing wildly.
The game was developed as an Atari 8-Bit title originally before being ported to a number of other platforms, including Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and MSX. The Atari version is obviously the best, of course, not that I’m biased at all in this regard.