So, the first game I want to talk about and present my RetroCopy theme for, is The Ninja for the Sega Master System.
The Ninja is one of the Master System games I grew up with, and I'm glad I did, as it's really a classic piece of Sega history! Actually, it's a port of a game called "Ninja Princess" in Japan, that was released both as an arcade machine, and on a few home consoles, including the SG-1000. The SG-1000 version was released in 1986, and so was "The Ninja" for the Mark III, which is quite unique. Not many games were released both for the SG-1000 and the Mark III/Master System, but Sega probably made a wise choice when deciding to make a Mark III-version as well, as the graphics here is far superior to the SG-1000 game, and just as good as the original arcade version.
A few changes (in addition to giving the game a new title) were made, the main one being that you are no longer a princess, but a male character who has to save a princess in the 1630's in Japan. The whole story is told using scrolling text before the title screen, which was not as common at the time. Back then, many games didn't even have a story! Being a child in Norway, I didn't understand much of it though, and even today, I think the text scrolls quite fast. Then we are introduced to a really nice title screen - one of the best for the SMS I think. And then the game begins.
You see a map which tells you where you are, which I liked. You can see how long you have to go to get to the castle, as well as other status information. As a child, I think I managed to get to one of the last few stages, but I never entered the castle. It's amazing how games I thought was really difficult back then seems much easier now!
Most of the action games I had were platform games, while The Ninja uses a top-down perspective, and in most of the stages you move upwards the screen. There are a few stages that are a bit different though, like a stage on floating logs and one with horses running towards you, which gives the game some variety. You can't jump though, so be prepared to use BUTTON 1 + BUTTON 2 a lot, as that makes you invisible for a few seconds - just enough time to avoid that flying knife or ninja star flying towards you! In this game both button 1 and button 2 are used to throw knives or ninja stars, but while one does so in the direction you are facing, the other always sends the knives or ninja stars upwards. This makes you capable of attacking when running away at the same time, which is quite useful.
I mentioned that you have two different weapons - knives and ninja stars. The ninja stars are far superior to the knives, and you get them by killing certain enemies. This makes the music change (the same music as in the introduction), and this will continue until you die and lose your ninja stars. Speaking about the music - it is really great! It's really a shame though that you rarely get to hear most of it, if you manage to keep your ninja stars. Then you will just hear that same music through the whole game. Just today I discovered that there is music in the game I have never heard before - at least I couldn't remember that tune (in the wall climbing stage).
Every stage end with a boss - which are almost identical to one another. Some of them have a different weapon, but it doesn't matter: they are all very easy to beat. Even as a child I didn't have too many problems with them. Perhaps that is one thing about this game that could have been improved.
The game is quite challenging though - but it's a realistic challenge. Some games from the 80s are so difficult they are almost impossible to beat without cheating, while The Ninja at least is beatable (even though I never managed to do so as a child). Speaking about difficulty, the Japanese version of The Ninja actually has more stages than the western version, and arranged in a different order. It also has a scroll system where you have to collect five scrolls in order to enter the last stage. If you don't have all five scrolls, you will be put back to the last stage where there is a scroll you didn't get.
I have fond memories playing this game as a kid, and it's really a good game. For 1986 home console standards the graphics are excellent, and the music is just awesome. It has a story (which not all games had back then), it has cool enemies, you get to throw knives and ninja stars ... What more could you wish for?
Download theme (to be used in RetroCopy v1.0):
http://www.retrocopy.com/blogimages/the-ninja.zip (1,6 MB)
My "The Ninja"-theme uses the background of the title screen as its background, with an effect put on top of it. I have removed the Japanese castle from the background, and instead use it as the left item of the theme. The right item is the map you see before every stage and when you lose a life. I think it's nice to have it there while you're playing, so you can see it all the time if you prefer to play in this "theme mode", instead of using full screen. I had to remove the arrow which points at where you are, although it would have been nice if it could have been there and changed position depending on which level you're playing. Also, I found out the Japanese Mark III-version of this game actually uses a slightly different map, which probably has to do with that it has more levels than the Western version of the game.
The Ninja's title screen