Natsume has re-released The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors for a third time, but, this time, we have new playable characters, enhanced graphics, performance, and the addition of two-player co-op. The bigger question is, does it justify the third time being a charm? Find out in our review.
+Intuitive controls make for an easily learned experience
+Enhanced graphics, music, and gameplay elements
+Newly added characters
-New levels have not been added
-Repetition does set in regardless of newly added characters
When I was nine years old, there was a game that, well as an adult – I’d forgotten the name of more than once – played constantly. My dad would take me over to our local Showbiz Video on the weekends if my grades were good enough to allow for a video game rental. By now, you may see a trend, my dad is a big part of my gaming experiences, but anyways.
One particular Friday night, we’d noticed a new game we’d never-before-seen had released. The box art had instantly caught our attention, causing us to both lean over and admire the unique designs of three robotic ninja’s. With a nod of my head, I’d affirmed that night I’d wanted to play Natsume’s latest beat ’em up title they’d just released.
Since it was already winter, snow was still on the ground in February of 1994, we decided to make our way home where we did two things: Picked up some Pizza Hut for dinner and made our way home. Now, here we are, 25 years later with a re-release of the SNES classic for the Nintendo Switch that, well, I wondered when the PR team reached out to us if I could relive my childhood.
So what did I do? Well, there’s not much guessing. I got a Pizza Hut pizza, went home, and docked the Nintendo Switch and reverted into my nine-year-old mentality.
The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors isn’t actually the first remake
From the very start, it’s hard not to admit that Natsume paid a lot of attention to detail when it comes to remastering timeless classics such as The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors. Now, you may like to point out that this isn’t the first time this happened, which you would be correct. This is actually the third attempt since we had re-releases before.
In reality, my childhood favorite just happens to be one of those: A re-release. In 1987, TAITO and Natsume had also released the original release of The Ninja Saviors. With its cyborg aesthetic, a big deal in the ’80s and the ’90s, the trend didn’t break, but the game didn’t also seem to do all that well – not when competing against coop titles like Marvel’s X-Men and a variety of other popular titles.
Enter 1994 and we have my favorite release of the game, now, here we are in 2019, and well, we have another re-release of the exact same game, but with a few new additions that weren’t possible back then due to hardware limitations. This time around, I had to wonder, is this the version I’d been waiting for since the 16-bit era?
The answer is actually a mixed bag of answers. Especially since the game itself is presented in your typical retro-esque style of an imagined 1990’s dystopia where the world has begun to collapse, a rebel leader by the name of Mulk has enlisted – well – your robotic ninja’s to shut down the evil dictator that has taken over the country. It’s a cheeky take on the 80s and 90s and it still works to this day.
The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is a classical rewind with several major improvements
Just like it was back on its days on the SNES and the ’80s arcade cabinets, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors pays respectful homage to its former selves. It brings back everything we’d known about the retro ’80s atmosphere clear down to the side-scrolling action to throwing hordes of enemies on the screen, then moving on and then bruising your way through another bulk of enemies, using your ability to block, jump, and unleash powerful combos without taking damage.
Gameplay-wise, nothing has changed. It’s superficially the same as other beat-em-ups of that very era and like its former selves. However, unlike some others such as say Streets of Rage or Cyborg Justice. It’s a game that’s all about moving side to side, moving towards the next boss without sustaining much damage, if any at all. The game itself is a game that also angles on the person playing the game’s abilities – to again – block, unleash combos, and use special moves against their foes.
Just like its framerates and stability, the graphics have been reworked completely, pulling out the 16-bit assets, even more, making the backgrounds pop more than they did 25 years ago. Now, they’re beautiful, gorgeous really, and within the first few hours, it’s hard not to appreciate settings such as beach-city that has been bombed all to hell to underground bases where you get a chance to see the city’s inner workings come to life.
It’s a real delight, but nothing as near as delightful as one of the overall enhancements: Music. Just as you’d expect from a remaster such as this, music remains, for the most part, untouched, allowing it to really thrive in modern-day standards. It shows just how well Taito’s band Zuntata did way back in 1987 and how well it lives up to the beat ’em up standards of the 2000s compared to the ’80s.
The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors does have newly added features we need to discuss
One of the biggest additions, which is one I approve the most of, is two newly added ninja’s. It’s hard to not appreciate a feature like this, especially since the game itself is 24+ years old if you consider the fact it did have an arcade cabinet release. With that being said, the now 24+ years old game has a lot of life to it, a lot of replay power too, and the newest additions work just as you would hope.
They don’t feel forced at all and their additions are actually quite welcomed. Truth is? We’re not going to spoil these two for you. They’re unlockables through playing the game, which means, you’ll want more story that’s not spoiled, versus the story that actually is by this review.
With that being said, another feature I’d wished I had as a kid was the ability to play with my dad rather than handing over the SNES controller when I died. Now, that’s possible, as Natsume did add this feature in with the re-release of their game, allowing for two-player co-op mode on the same exact couch. One player uses one Joy-Con and the other uses the other Joy-Con to jump in and out of combat. It’s a real delight if I might say so myself.
But this doesn’t mean that improvements aren’t great. There are still some issues that will begin to crop-up sooner or later than you would alone, which is something I’d already experienced once.
Yea… There are some grievances with this re-release.
One of the things I can’t help but point out is something I shouldn’t. Bosses are hard. Not just hard, but really hard. Some players may find, just as they did in 1987 or 1994, that this game can be brutal. By brutal, I mean restarting the entire stage or even game because you got your face kicked in more than once.
While that is something worth pointing out, it’s not the issue. It’s the amount of repetition that does begin to set in after a few hours with The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors. I found myself doing a few stages here and there, placing my Switch in its carry case before taking off for the night. Sure, I like the game, it’s decently balanced to those who have played games like it before – but it brings back challenges some gamers may not be ready for.
Another issue is the lack of stages. Just like I had an issue with as a kid, there’s just not enough stages, there’s only eight total, which means you can wrap-up your time with the game rather quickly. I’d been happy to see brand-new stages added in, ones exclusive to the brand-new ninja’s they tossed our direction. Regardless, just like it was 24 or 32 years ago, it’s still a fun title, but it is worth pointing out those drawbacks.
A’ight, I’m out. – The Conclusion
For me, being able to relive my childhood as an adult has been fantastic. I have Nintendo, Capcom, Sega, SNK, and now, Natsume, to thank for that. Whether it’s time with the Blue Blur himself, the Maverick Hunter, or now – the Saviors, I have a lot to enjoy. Natsume and ININ Games have made sure of that.
The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors
Platforms: Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Publisher: ININ Games
Release Date: Available Now
To be honest, this is how I wanted to remember a game of my childhood: Huge, beautiful animations, characters that are bigger-than-life, groups of enemies being pummeled left and right, and huge, beautiful, backdrops I wish I could explore. For me, this is an essential Nintendo Switch release that anyone and everyone should at least take the chance to experience.
Our review is based upon a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game for review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.