Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Legend of the Mystical Ninja (Super NES, 1992)


On the sixth day of Halloween I'm looking at Goemon for the Super NES. A lot of people love Goemon. This is the first one I've gotten to check out. And all I can say is..... What horrifying box art. And is that Jack Black?

This game and I go back a long way because I was always intrigued by it, but never enough to get it or emulate it. Didn't see it for rent anywhere either, seemed kinda rare. 15 years or so ago I met this cool girl who had a small SNES collection we tooled around with, and this was the only game she had that I hadn't finished (or played). She wasn't a big gamer and only had a few things, all classics...and this. Ever since then I sorta made it this quest to eventually get to it. Turns out it's really short (I thought it was a beefy RPG) and can be finished in 2-3 hours. Will it be everything I hoped for?

Also, the box says ten levels, but Nintendo Power says nine levels. Someone is lying.

The title screen doesn't really tell me what to expect from this game. Nor does the box art for that matter. What IS Goemon?

Here's our hero, Goemon. Known in the US version as Kid Ying.

His accomplice (and the second player's character) is Doctor Yang. ...what is happening with his hair?

Something happened and a Ghost Woman is on the loose.

Doctor Yang wants to find this Ghost Woman and try to get into her pants. So we've established the motivations for this peculiar individual. Goemon is just sort of along for the ride and he's our main character.

The levels are called "Warlock Zones". Yep, all of them. I expected there to be a few different zones like in any other game with zones. Maybe a Samurai Zone, or a Yamato Zone, or a Bamboo Zone. However they're all Warlock Zones. Not sure why they didn't call them stages or levels, but it's unique.

I really didn't know what to make of this game. You move around in a sort of 2.5D side-scroller but also top-down perspective, fighting an endless stream of enemies that seem to never stop spawning. That endlessly spawning is pretty obnoxious and means you're constantly on-edge having to repel the relentless barrage.

Your main weapon is this pipe. Yeah, a smoking pipe.

Goemon is letting them have it with a damn weed pipe!

Get a few power-up item drops from defeating enough foes, and the pipe powers up to this yo-yo that reaches quite a bit further. That's the weapon you want, but it's hard to hold onto it. Get hit and your weapon downgrades.

This...Tanooki? guy warns our hero that danger is afoot. Which is good because it's time for our first boss:

Ghost Woman. This fight is a simple matter of knocking her projectiles back with the pipe. (Not the yo-yo, because I got hit and lost it).

After she's defeated, she turns into this purple cat, which then flirts with Goemon.

She suggests that he visit... The Cat Boss.

I don't know why or what's going on, but when a purple cat tells you to go see the Cat Boss, you sure as hell better go see the Cat Boss!

Between the action stages, you have town areas where you can buy powerups and play minigames. Lots of minigames. And this is kind of what makes this game actually memorable, not really the stages themselves.

Here's Whack-a-mole, which requires pressing the D-Pad and the four face-buttons to swing the mallet.

In a way, this game (series?) might be kind of the genesis of the Yakuza series' formula of having tons of side-diversions.

There's a dice-rolling minigame where you can bet your entire bank account if you want. It's very easily-exploited by reloading a save, and I quickly amass like $27,000. This may seem like a lot, but there really isn't much you can get with it. There's one big advantage to having lots of money, which I'll get to in a bit.

Our heroes pile onto a cruise ship and head for Shikoku Island. ...well, Goemon does, while Doctor Yang gets dragged behind on a kite?

I almost forgot to mention. While some game characters have a dash or a slide manuever, Goemon upstages all of them. He can duck down and do a Buttscoot to go under foes and dodge projectiles. How useful is this? ...not very. But By God how else are you going to get a gander at Goemon's firm posterior?


The next town area. While I like the shops and townspeople and minigames, the town areas would be WAY more appealing if they weren't full of enemies just like the action areas are.

Time to detour and take a look at the Nintendo Power coverage for this game, as I like to do:

It's a pretty solid rundown of the game and what you're getting here. Game is... very unique, and not really something I could see myself getting into at the time. They spend a page going over all of the side-diversions and minigames, which are absolutely the game's most memorable aspects.

Looks like the next stage has LANTERN MAN. Then there's a minigame-filled amusement park, and then we're Yamato Bound. There's also a giant octopus to fight.


The amusement park features the Gradius minigame. That might be the #1 thing I remembered about this game, and as a kid I thought this was so cool. It's like having two games in one! A game within a game!

Now bear in mind that in 1992, having two games in one was a pretty big deal. This was a pre Mario All-Stars, pre compilation era. Nobody would know what an "HD Collection" was for many more years.

This map is cool because it tells you exactly where each stage is located in the real world. ...assuming they got all of these right. Which is a big assumption to make, because they have two Zone IV's and no Zone IX... someone got confused.

They've got maps for about half the game, and it got to be on the back of the poster this month.

Stage V: Ninja Castle is the most annoying thing in this entire game and probably the part that really needed a map, but no dice...

After the next stage (...which is pretty much the same as the first) I find the CAT BOSS being held hostage by the nefarious Lantern Man. Why? What motivates Lantern Man to be such an ass?

I unleash the aforementioned reason it's good to have lots of money: You can throw gold pieces as projectiles. They do as much damage as your melee attacks (less than the yo-yo, but I can't hold onto it anyway) and reach across the screen, making it much easier to jump-and-shoot your way through the stages. Of course this rapidly uses up your currency, but I don't have to worry about that.

After blasting Lantern Man into oblivion with money, the Cat Boss is rescued.

Unfortunately, the ninja cats are in a dire predicament, because the princess was kidnapped and there's nothing they can do about it. Time for Goemon to swing into action I guess.

What a bizarre game. But I like it. And I see why that girl had it back in the day, despite not being a huge gamer. This strikes me as the rare kind of SNES action game that non-gamers might like.

Stage 3 is full of clowns. BLAST THEM ALL.

On a better note, it also has the Game Center, hosted by what appears to be Rika from Phantasy Star. There's only one thing you need to know about at the Game Center, and it's...

Gradius. Yes, THE Gradius. The original. No frills.

I go for the Laser powerup pretty quick. While this is awesome, bear in mind that this game is very difficult and there's no way to turn that down.

I usually go for two Speed-ups, then Laser, then Options. Missile + Double would probably give more coverage but yeah. The outset where you don't really have any powerups is the hard part.

This volcanic eruption probably ends a lot of play-sessions. I used Options as basically a shield here.

Unfortunately the game ends with the Big Core at the end of the first stage, there's nothing beyond that. Then again, the first stage is so difficult that this alone would probably keep people busy for a while.

Also worth noting is that this version of Gradius looks very nice, and I'm guessing it's based on the original arcade version. For comparison, here's the Big Core in the NES version of Gradius:

...yeah, there's a pretty huge difference between this and the Legend of the Mystical Ninja version.

After eventually conquering that, it's back to the actual game. Where were we? Oh yeah, there's a giant octopus boss. Man, this is so charming. Looks like something that escaped from Pocky and Rocky.

Next up is Stage IV...wait, what's the octopus doing to that building back there?

This next stage is full of killer mimes that run towards you on their hands.

Let's just move on quickly

Next boss is one I'm not gonna forget any time soon. First you defeat these two sumo, then...

...a giant face appears! He seems friendly enough...

...until you attack him. NOW he's angry! He gets bigger and bigger as he sustains more damage.


Once the face blows up, we rescue Ninja Woman, Yae. She's pretty cute. Then she just sort of sods off so we can continue onto the Ninja Castle.

The town area here is full of guys who fire bullets from their baby stroller guns.

.........what even in the blue hell? And what's going on with that guy on the left?

This game is the video game version of this gif of LaVar Ball:

The Ninja Castle almost feels like a rejected Mega Man level. It's brimming with spikes.

The worst part is this massive maze area where you swing around on these metal balls to try and reach higher points in the level. Took ages to get through and a lot of that consisted of falling way back down and having to re-do the climb.

Next boss is...a bunch of miniature guys on a hang-glider! Hamas? WHAT'S HAMAS DOING HERE?

...too soon.

Get past all of that and you face their boss one-on-one on the glider itself, which is kind of interesting because it moves around and tips over depending on where you stand.

Five stages down, four to go! Or maybe five. We still don't know whether it was Nintendo Power or the game's box that was lying to us.

Wait a minute... bombs? What is this, the Federal Patsy Store? Got any guns too?

Next our hero hits the to this oddball dude. They both sit there silently and awkwardly.

Next stage has these fearsome monkeys. "Fear me!" they belch.

These guys look like villains from Plok.

I'm running out of things to say about this game

The levels are pretty diverse at least. This next one is a waterfall area where platforms fade in and out of the water, and the most interesting part is: If you stand on them when they fade out, instead of dropping down, you actually get moved to the back of the waterfall and can jump around back there.

Next boss is this... guy with a giant backpack. Weird thing is that his weak spot isn't himself, it's his backpack. This guy looks like he could be Kabuki Mime Danhausen's Second Form.

Next is a ride on this small boat, before ending up face-to-snout with...


Next we find the displaced king of Japan. He sits there and cusses up a STORM.

His castle has been hijacked by the bad guys. Understanding him is a matter of buying a book from a local store which translates his words. All he does is tell you to break a statue to get into the castle, which means... this spot right here. It's just outside the castle and to the left. There was a statue here before. Well, break this and go in.

The castle itself has a lot of lava in it. Why does the king of Japan have lava in his castle? It's basically a Mario level.

This game never ceases to be humorous Here we've got some bamboo poles, and instead of giant spiders patrolling them like a regular game, we've got these weird-ass grown men shimmying their way up the poles. Man, this is seedy.

Next boss is this stack of Jolly Ranchers that's straight out of a Mega Man miniboss room. I thought this was the Level 8 boss, and it's tricky enough to be, but nope.

The level continues with this dangerous on-rails sledding section. Level 8 has gone on for quite a while already and it's safe to say this is by far the hardest part of this game. It makes the rest of the game look like easymode.

ANOTHER boss follows, but it only takes like 3 hits. Weird, this looks much more like it should have been the real boss of the level, rather than a gimme fight. With that, the Princess is rescued.

...Only to be immediately abducted again by these creepy weirdoes in masks. I guess this is the guy who deposed the true king and took over.

This is it, Stage IX, which is labeled as "Final Stage". It's pretty bland, basically just the Shogun's fort. This also means THE BOX LIED TO US. Unless it was counting the Gradius level as the 10th stage, which...I mean, if it wanted to, I'll give it that.

This level is much shorter and easier than Stage 8. After jumping around on some clouds (does this mean Goemon is pure of heart?) I arrive at...

The final boss, the hardest thing in this entire game. You have to take out two boss rematches before this (Lantern Man and Backpack Guy). Glad it wasn't a full boss rush, because this last fight is so nasty. Winning is a matter of knocking his arrows back towards him, which has to be at the exact level of his mount's head to actually do damage. This is pretty hard, especially with the arc the arrows travel at. I could see some kids struggling with this, and after a couple tries it makes you repeat the whole level again.

Even worse, he's got a second life meter and jumps around once his mount is defeated. This form is way easier, at least...provided you have any health left after the first one.

The Princess is saved (again) and we bring this weird, oddball game to a close. That was truly bizarre and I can't say it's really a must-play or anything. It's just too weird. The minigames, which I largely glossed over, are probably the star of the show because they're where you'll find the replay value.

Regardless, I finally checked off this box from 15 years ago and finished the last game in that set.


1 comment:

  1. That wasn't Doctor Yang's hair, it was bandana (surrounding his nose lol). In ancient Japan most of all thief almost wear like him.