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 1630s 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 BUTTON1+BUTTON2 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 heared before - at least I couldn't remember that tune (in the wallclimbing 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?
Note: A controller with an auto-fire option is recommended. Locate the round tree on the right side of the first screen of level 1. Eliminate the first Ninja that appears. Approach the tree and shoot it for approximately fifteen minutes. Complete the level with 0% to receive ten lives and a large amount of bonus points.
Get a hit ratio of 100% and you will receive 50000 bonus points.
-Scroll one is found on the first round after killing the transforming Ninja.
-Scroll two is found on round four, shoot the bottom of the statue five times.
-Scroll three is on round six. Cross the last bridge on the left and walk strait to the tree above the first samurai home next to the wall.
-Scroll four is on round 8. Go into the top of the last garden on the right and repeat the process you used to find scroll three.
-The final scroll is found on stage nine. Keep to one side while reaching the top of the wall but don't kill the ninja immediately. Wait for a while and the green scroll will appear. Collect this and you will receive instructions on how to enter the temple.
Continue (Japanese version only)
On the Game Over screen, don't press anything. The game will return to the Sega Mark III logo; during the logo, press UP five times, then DOWN three times (if playing as Player 1) or UP three times, then DOWN five times (if playing as Player 2). When you start the game you will continue from the stage you died on. This cheat only works in the Japanese version of the game.
The time is Japan's colorful past. But right now you have your hands full of trouble and Ninja darts. The darts are your secret weapons. The trouble is caused by the arch-tyrant Gyokuro, a merciless warlord who holds a princess prisoner in the subterranean vaults of his Ohkami Castle. Can you save the princess? Defeat the cruel Gyokuro and his henchmen and bring peace to the Castle Country? You have your hands full. But you also have your darts, your Ninja combat skills, and your feeling that a Ninja is invincible. Remember, too, you are fighting for a beautiful princess!
Throughout your journey to the Ohkami Castle, you'll battle evil Ninja Warriors Once there, you must destroy their leader, Gyokuro. Only then will you be able to save the princess from her prison inside the castle.
Sauvez la princesse! Soyez son héros! Elle vous attend dans le château Ohkami où l'abominable Gyokuro la retient prisonnière. Courez, courez à son secours! Mais la partie sera rude, les troupes de Gyokuro vous attendent, armées jusqu'aux dents.