I’ve always been a fan of side-scrolling, beat ‘em up fighters that were prominent in the late 80s through the mid-90s. With their focus on smashing the enemies with your overpowered fists, using easy combos, and environmental destruction, what’s not to love? The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is a throwback to the original that sliced its way into gamers’ homes on the Super Nintendo. Making its return on the Nintendo Switch with a fresh coat of paint, updated audio, and new game modes, this ain’t your daddy’s brawler anymore.
Make no mistake, this is fundamentally the same game that was released decades ago: similar user-interface, same characters, and level design, but it’s been reworked and perfected. As with the original, the game isn’t focused around the story, but around action. With the developers taking what made it so popular and dialing it up to eleven, The Ninja Saviors feels like it was made for the Switch. You initially choose from three different robotic ninjas: Ninja (Yes, that’s his name), a bruiser of a robot that’s slow but makes up for it in strength and size. Kunoichi, a blonde, knife wielding robot who is nimble on her feet. And Kamaitachi, a barebones robot with blades on his forearms. Each has their own attack style, so choosing the ninja that suits your style best will make life much easier when you’re getting your butt kicked from both sides. After choosing your ninja, you set off to fight waves of baddies in zoot suits and stonewash jeans as they try to slow your efforts to reach the big bossman: Banglar.
Upon taking control of Kunoichi, I noticed how good the controls felt on the Switch. Tengo Project, the developers behind this fighter did an amazing job to make sure the controls felt tight and responsive, especially with the left analog stick. After kicking ass and manhandling every enemy that tried to stop me, I understood why this retro game was resurrected. With its high-res pixels and audio upgrades, it’s beautiful chaos on the Switch. Along with those upgrades, you get a helpful options menu for use with learning your robot ninja’s new fighting abilities. With a fully colored menu that showcases each robots’ attacks and specials, the game made it easy to pull off devastating moves mid-fight. With the story being simply a starting point for you to beat up anything and everything in sight, the game comes to life in the streets.
With waves of enemies always attacking and flanking from the left and right, I found that each character had more than enough combos and attacks to level a city block. When not taking damage, you can charge up a battery meter that, when unleashed, clears the screen of all enemies in dramatic fashion. Not even those stonewash jeans could save them. What’s unique about the ninjas is that the developers don’t handicap them with attacks that make them feel feeble and underpowered. In fact, the number of combos available and the ability to charge up a battery meter made me feel like a mobile tank.With a Streets of Rage and Final Fight style of gameplay but all the action taking place on one plane, the game gives a sense of depth with interactive objects and enemy attacks launched from the background. Grabbing motorcycles, cars, gas tanks, and other sizable objects is a staple for side-scrolling action games, and there are plenty of them to help level the playing field.
As I plowed through waves and waves of enemies, I reached the boss at the end of the first level, and like all side-scrolling fighters – timing and using the right attack is key. Each level increases with difficulty as you defeat waves of enemies that look like they belong either behind a desk or in a circus. With health pickups being scarce in the game, knowing your fighter and their abilities is key to surviving. Each enemy possesses a unique fighting style, that when coupled with other enemy’s styles, proves to be a challenge. The baddies like to throw knives, punch high, and kick low, just to keep you guessing – and it works. Often, I found myself trapped in a corner waiting for the right moment to unleash a barrage of offensive blows. But that’s what these types of games are all about. Feeling the pressure as mounds of bad guys attack and then unleashing hell on Earth upon them.
The level design is also straight from the 90s but offers multi-tiered action and challenges. Reaching the mid-way point of a level, you jump up or drop down a level, just to give a sense that the world is larger than what it is. Each boss battle challenges how well you know your ninja, and if you die, no worries, you can choose another and start the level over. Upon the final battle with the boss, you are pitted against every enemy that you encountered in the game. With lasers, knives, guns, and missiles at their disposal, you’ll be digging deep to win.
After completing the game, there’s something special that will bring players back for more. With a harder difficulty and new characters to unlock, there’s plenty of meat still on the bone. Though there’s no skill tree, leveling up, or boosts, the game is a blast when playing in single player mode. But what makes this beat ‘em up a class above the rest is the multiplayer and online ranking. With you and a friend in the streets, reigning blows down on anything that dares to stand, you’ll be more than challenged.
Not only is the game still challenging, but the enemies increase and will force you to rethink your strategy. With a friend taking a side and you taking the other, you’ll find that the baddies don’t stand a chance. This stops them from flanking you and gaining an advantage that’s difficult to overcome when playing alone. Online ranking speaks for itself. Challenge players from around the world and see if you can clear a stage faster than anyone else.
The Ninja Saviors – Return of the Warriors
The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is a refreshing take on a classic game. Its fast paced action and beat ‘em up styles feels like a natural fit on the Nintendo Switch. With its updated graphics, audio, and game modes, it makes this game perfect for a quick fix for action and chaos.