GBAtemp Exclusive GBAtemp Recommends #109: Little Ninja Brothers NES

Discussion in 'GBAtemp & Scene News' started by chavosaur, Mar 28, 2017.

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Do you like the more personal approach to the writing, or would you rather a mini review?

  1. I like the personal approach

    8 vote(s)
    57.1%
  2. I prefer less personal story and more general info

    2 vote(s)
    14.3%
  3. I like a little of both

    4 vote(s)
    28.6%
  1. chavosaur
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    chavosaur Austin Trujillo

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    gbatemp_recommends_revivla_logo2_build-1.png
    Welcome to the 109th issue of the GBAtemp Recommends Revival Project! This project is a revival of our once-weekly feature where we share our favorite games and applications with you. The titles we recommend may be "old school" games, a piece of Homebrew, a ROM hack, sleeper hits, application, etc., but one thing's for certain, we think they are fantastic and deserve your attention!

    So before we begin, I want to talk about how I personall will be approaching the series now vs. how I was trying to change it when it was semi-regular. The series will still follow a mini-review format, but I figured it'd be more fun to put more personal story as to why I'm recommending it in the first place when I'm the one writing about it. Others may choose their own methods and that is perfectly fine too. Variety is always fun!

    I also used to do this series by picking games that I figured would be slightly obscure but some people probably had played because they were still kind of big franchises. But I worked at a retro store for almost a year of my life, and I got to try some funny games that many regular gamers probably had never touched. And there are a lot of hidden gems that even, "TOP 50 HIDDEN GEMS ON _____," fail even to cover. Now then, onto the topic at hand!

    On this entry, we're going to take a look at an NES game that became very near and dear to my heart. It's not often you even hear anything about co-op 8-bit games of the NES era, which is why today we'll be discussing:

    LITTLE NINJA BROTHERS

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    Storytime. It's a Wednesday in late May. The sun is beaming outside, the weather is beautiful, and I'm cooped up inside my workplace with my buddy without a single customer in sight. And when the customers are away, the employees would play as was always the case.
    We'd just played at least 17 consecutive Melee matches and were getting worn down on bad mouthing each other, so I decided to walk about and straighten up some of the games in the case for a bit.

    Usually whenever I straightened up the cases, I would also take the opportunity just to see if anything piqued my interest enough to want to pop it in and try it. I waltzed over to the NES case after alphabetizing PS1 for the millionth time and started straightening the cartridges up. All of the games that were in the case were either higher-dollar games, games that people had the potential to steal, or obscure and hard to find games. So after fixing up all the Mario's and Megaman games, I happened across the title pictured above: Little Ninja Brothers. The artwork looked kind of cool, and the game was apparently worth $45, so I had to know what the fuss was. (It has since shot up to $60, so the value is on par with your average game today.)

    I threw it into our NES we had set up for testing carts on this old Magnavox CRT, did the classic cartridge wiggle just to get the game to read, and fired it on.

    Screenshot+2017-03-28+01.34.00.png
    Now growing up, I had an NES at my grandparent's house, and I don't think I ever used the second controller port. I was almost convinced that port was just a backup in case you messed up your first port or something because I never even saw many two player NES games. When I grew older and started working at the shop, I figured 2-player games were mostly regulated to taking turns with the controller like in Super Mario or for some of the clunky racing games. So seeing this pop up in the game had me incredibly interested in how the hell this was going to work, so I popped in another controller and told my co-worker to sit down and play this game with me.

    Screenshot+2017-03-28+01.40.50.png
    Yeah I was able to tell right off the bat that this game was going to be silly. The art style is already endearing and the writing is that perfect level of 90's cheesiness. The premise of the game follows these two young ninja brothers, Ryu and Jack, who have just completed their training under their master. Their land has just come under attack by an evil clan, and it is up to them to protect their homeland.

    Neat setup, so I was curious to see what the actual game was. Keep in mind, I didn't have a boxart to look at as this was just a standalone NES cart with some front cover-art, as tends to be the case nowadays with retro games.

    Screenshot+2017-03-28+01.42.17.png
    The first thing I was greeted with after the intro was this little overworld hub that was almost remenicent of the original Final Fantasy. Only I had control at first so I started wandering around and came upon the first village in the area. The map zoomed in and featured a smaller hub that showed some NPC's and other little buildings much like early Pokemon Games. I was able to waltz into stores and buy some interesting items and find out a little more about the story. The game was screaming RPG to me and I was already getting hooked.

    I ventured into a tent and started talking to an NPC that was going to teach me something called the Dragon Kick. Sounded pretty cool to me, and I figured I'd just do some side-quest for him to learn it or have to purchase it from him. Instead, he prompts me with this training exercise where I have to pop 20 balloons on a track using the kick by pressing the b-button and a directional input to use the kick. Wondering how this would work in an RPG, the screen then faded out and I was presented with the games first, "Mini-game."

    Screenshot+2017-03-28+01.42.58.png

    Well there was my buddy finally! And not only that, this certainly wasnt what I was expecting right out of the gate. The game has you phsyically controlling your character to run on this little track and put in the combo of the dragon kick to pop balloons. It was a really fun way of teaching you how to use the move and introducing you to how the game will teach you future moves as well. I would learn later that the game was heavily focused on mini-games to teach you all sorts of neat combos for the combat segments of the game.

    And the splitscreen actually worked well for the game, which was also a shock. Both me and my buddy could simultaneously control our characters and the screens were there own seperate entities. He could lag behind me but not get eaten by the screen because he was on his own track, and we were able to sort of compete against each other for score.

    We both managed to hit the 20 balloons, and we learned the Dragon Kick. Awesome. The NPC's in town had mentioned traveling North to find a special stone to continue the story so I left the little town and returned to the main overworld and started making my way north.

    Again, not entirely sure what I was expecting, I began walking through a little forest area in the overworld when the screen flashed black again and I was greeted with this.

    Screenshot+2017-03-28+01.45.41.png
    First random encounter of the game. I could finally see how this game really worked. It once again gave off this aura of RPG in the options of fighting or running, and we certainly weren't going to back down from a fight, so I hit start. The screen faded out and I was ready for another weird mini-game or just an RPG menu to pop up. Instead it faded into this:

    Screenshot+2017-03-28+01.46.54.png

    This is where my love for the game began. It's a hybrid of an RPG and a side-scrolling beatemup. While my buddy is not pictured here, we were both able to freely roam the screen and use button combos to beat up the enemies. I could use my newly learned Dragon Kick to fly right into their faces with my foot and knock them out. I could punch them, and even pick up rocks and throw them at them. After we killed everything on screen, we were granted some EXP, and returned to the hubworld.

    I kid you not that the next few hours were spent playing this game with mild frustration when a customer did come in and needed help. I'd played co-op beatemups before in arcades and I like my RPG's on my own. This was like the 1989 equivelant of Castle Crashers and it was incredibly endearing.

    4bc9a224-d066-432a-a822-6294580438b0.png

    The story is genuinely fun, the new combos arent anything crazy but are still fun to obtain through mini-games and very satisfying to use in combat. And this was an NES game. This was the last place I expected to find this level of depth. It has all the rpg mainstays, from hotels to stay at to heal wounds overnight, side-quests and random activities, gear upgrades and new weapons and so much more. You can even get skateboards at one point in the game to make traveling a little quicker, and can be used in combat. If that doesn't scream 90's, I don't know what else possibly could.

    Don't get me wrong, the game has its quirks in physics and execution from time to time. It can feel a little floaty at times, and like any NES game it gets brutally difficult as you reach the endgame.

    That being said, if you asked me what my favorite retro games are, I always include this game in my list now. The co-op memories I have of the game only make it that much more endearing, as me and my co-worker probably spent two weeks playing the game off and on to completion with password saves.

    Genre: RPG/Beatemup
    Release Year: 1989/1990
    Developer: Culture Brain
    Published By: Culture Brain
    Released For: NES, Wii U Virtual Console (PAL ONLY.)

    If you enjoyed this week's edition of GBAtemp Recommends! Please leave a comment in the thread. This helps us monitor feedback and ensures we keep posting these articles in the future!

    And if you'd like to see one of your favorite games get recommended, PM me your suggestions! I'd love to see what games you have in mind!

    If you would like to see the original archive of our previous entries, you can look at our archived content here. The archive is slightly out of date at the moment and needs to be readjusted as the numbers got messed up at some point, but it will be fixed as soon as I have the time to.

    And again, this probably won't return to being a weekly feature, but it will be more regularly updated hopefully! Thanks everyone!
     
    Last edited by chavosaur, Mar 28, 2017
  2. Sonic Angel Knight

    Sonic Angel Knight GBAtemp Legend

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    This game is hard, I know cause i tried playing it and i watched the mexican runner play it, and it was long. I even tried the SNES and gameboy games, both again hard. Maybe cause i wasn't playing co-op mode but the SNES framerate was just awful and lots of stuff was confusing without a manual to understand. How the boss battles are done like final fantasy while regular fights are like battletoads. Fighting to level up is a chore, and random encounters are too often, remind me of breath of fire on snes. But is a fun experience, just one of those early rpg games that wasn't easy. :P
     
  3. chavosaur
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    chavosaur Austin Trujillo

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    I found that co-op makes things easier early game and is close to essential late game. I've seen people solo the game but having my coworker play with me saved my ass a multitude of times late game when theres a ton of tough enemies!
     
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  4. Sonic Angel Knight

    Sonic Angel Knight GBAtemp Legend

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    Yeah i kinda figured it was one of those games, where co-op is how the game is easier. More like contra. Then sometimes games like battle toads is what makes co-op harder especially if players aren't in sync to actually get progress made. :P

    I mean is a cute, and fun game just it wasn't a easy one. Trying to play this one i didn't last very long before i gave up, then the snes one i did try but i lost my password and didn't wanna start over. Snes game i played more, but i hated the framerate and some other problems but it was still better than NES and Gameboy. The gameboy played more like nes game, but didn't have those mini games where you play against the other ninja you didn't pick. I always had to struggle to figure out how to beat him since without manual no one knew what to do. Lol :ninja:
     
  5. Joom

    Joom  ❤❤❤

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    This game reminds me of Kid Niki, both equally challenging.
     
  6. Kolyasisan

    Kolyasisan Advanced Member

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    Heh, played it a lot on our pirated dendy cartridges but with Mario and Luigi there. We were going all-out war when playing it trying to get the most score/exp. Grand times.
     
  7. Joom

    Joom  ❤❤❤

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    Aw man, someone that actually owned a Dendy.
     
  8. raulpica

    raulpica With your drill, thrust to the sky!

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  9. chavosaur
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    chavosaur Austin Trujillo

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    Haha unfortunately none of these screenshots are mine, I had to find as many as I could since I don't really emulate anything myself. So they're all over the place :P
     
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  10. Zense

    Zense GBAtemp Regular

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    Who would've thought gameplay this innovative would exist as early as on the NES? What I mean is that this game takes inspiration from genres that were just recently established and combines them elegantly.

    This is definetly a game I would love to play coop, though the only problem is to find someone else who enjoys retro games. Maybe if someone updated this game to today's standards I would be able to play it with my friends.

    Man, I wish I could work at a retro store if that meant I would get paid to play games...
     
    Last edited by Zense, Mar 29, 2017
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  11. Sonic Angel Knight

    Sonic Angel Knight GBAtemp Legend

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    What's wrong with the ratio, it looks fine to me. :unsure:

    Also kid niki is way harder than this game, except for kid niki 3. or dare i say Super mario 14? :creep:


    Though, i only played this game on emulator, i remember playing probably one of the worst ninja games on real nes. (NO IS NOT NINJA GAIDEN ALTHOUGH I COULD SAY SO) Is called ninja kid. It was a localization of the japanese game called gegege no Katiro. Some tv show by toei japan, it was basically the worst game with the name ninja on it for NES. Worst than wrath of the black manta. Is one of those games that either never ends (cause you keep playing and never beat it) or you just don't play too long cause is hard and boring. :glare:
     
    Last edited by Sonic Angel Knight, Mar 29, 2017
  12. Taleweaver

    Taleweaver Storywriter

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    The...emperor of Chinaland? :rofl2::rofl2:

    Man...no wonder China hates Japan. This sort of shit goes a LONG way! :P

    (also...if that guy was blonde it would've been a pretty decent prediction of 2017's USA ;) )​
     
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