With plenty of slapstick, gags, puns, and a number of jokes that were clearly lost in translation, Mystical Ninja impresses with its…hey, wait a minute. Okay, no, it isn’t the same game, but a lot of the humor, characters, and situations remain the same in this Zelda 64-esque title that…well, really could be a lot better…but is still very fun overall.
Available For: N64
Developer(s): Konami Computer Entertainment Osaka
Release Date: 1998
Archetype: Action, Adventure, Platformer, RPG
When I played the original SNES Mystical Ninja, I was totally unaware it was a series, what it was based on, or what the hell half the jokes were even about. Unfortunately, I was in the same boat when this one came out, but I desperately wanted to play it because I thoroughly enjoyed the SNES one. Sadly, this one just isn’t that great.
Oh, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad game! Just…well, it could be better. Let me explain. Ocarina of Time was released the same year and many consider it to be the absolute best Zelda game of all time. Now, if we’re comparing last generation’s Zelda (Link to the Past) to the last Mystical Ninja, you’re still coming up with two very different games that are very fun to play individually for varying reasons.
With Zelda, it’s because it’s an epic adventure chock full of puzzles, surprises, huge environments, and all kinds of challenging elements. With Mystical Ninja, it’s because you want a straightforward platformer with all kinds of goofy elements, edo mythology, oriental ambience overall, and it’s just plain fun.
It’s almost like comparing Contra to Metroid. Both are their own game while still having a few similar elements here and there, one of which is more arcadey than the other. But with this iteration of Mystical Ninja and the fact they were attempting to pull off what Ocarina of Time has done immeasurably better while retaining almost nothing that makes it its own other than having a distinct lack of quality, comparing these two titles side by side makes it an obvious pick.
Now maybe that’s not fair. After all, Contra and Metroid are still two very different games with very different elements, right? Well that’s just it. Ocarina of Time and this version of Mystical Ninja play almost identically with Mystical Ninja playing quite a bit worse. Another way to look at it is Banjo-Kazooie vs. Super Mario 64. They really ARE the same game in many respects, just with a few twists here and there.
In any case, why should you play it? Well, much like Hyrule Field in Ocarina of Time, when you’re not in a village or dungeon, the game is boring. I’m sorry, but that’s one aspect of OoT that you simply cannot deny. It has the absolute most boring Hyrule Field ever. This is of course in stark contrast to the last Link to the Past where everywhere was different and interesting and the dark world made it that much more interesting.
However, again, much like OoT, this version of Mystical Ninja has a tendency to shine in the towns and dungeons. Now no, it won’t be beating any records set by OoT, but they’re still fun all the same. Another shitty aspect of the game, though, is the back and forth. Often you’ll have to go waaaaaaay back and waaaaaaaay forth to get different hidden treasures that result in health upgrades and whatever else…and sometimes even for plot-related stuff.
Now I believe there is a way to warp eventually, so that’s handy, but especially initially this is a royal pain because the overworld in this one is also harder to navigate. We keep coming back to this, but why should you play it then?! Well, here’s the thing…it’s still got the charm and humor. It’s not really as solid as the former title and it relies more on lines than slapstick, but it’s still fun all the same.
Also, the robot battles suck. So, ah…yeah, there are certainly a lot of shitty elements, but at the end of the day it’s not a TERRIBLE game and if you enjoyed the last one, I say give it a shot.