My Top 5 Games of 1992: #2 The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES)

Developed: Konami
Published: Konami
Genre: isometric/side scrolling action platformer
Platform: SNES, Wii Virtual Console

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, like most of the 1991/1992 games that I've talked about so far, is another of the earliest games I recall playing. I can't for the life of me remember how I got the game. My parents may have just bought if for me on the recommendation of a retail employee. Regardless of who is responsible for it coming to be in my possession, I'd like to thank that person wholeheartedly. If it wasn't for them, I may have never played this absolutely batshit insane game.

In The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, you take control of either Kid Ying or Dr. Yang, who I will refer to by their original and much less racist sounding names, Goemon and Ebisumaru, because as you may know from my Persona 4 article, I love typing out ridiculously long Japanese names just to confuse the reader a little more.

They battle through 9 ridiculously difficult levels full of crazy villagers, evil ninjas, carnival workers, ghosts, thieves, and all kinds of animals. Our heroes start out just trying to rid their village of ghosts, but soon find out that a princess has been kidnapped by ninjas. Being the bad dudes that they are, Goemon and Ebisumaru head out to rescue her.

I've seen killer umbrellas in multiple Japanese video games at this point, so I guess that's an actual myth over there.
Each level starts out with an isometric beat 'em up section, each in a different village, and for whatever reason all the villagers in the game want Goemon and Ebisumaru dead. You can earn money by beating up the crazy villagers which can be spent on items like armor or pieces of pizza that automatically heal you when you run out of health. There are a good number of minigames you can spend your money on too, but most are just for fun and only reward money if anything at all. You can also use your money as a projectile which I find to be much more useful than normal attacks attack.

Enemies also drop scrolls, which can be used to perform magical attacks (which I almost never use,) and lucky cat statues which upgrade your weapon. There are three weapon levels, each providing more attack range that the last. Getting hit reduces your weapon level by one, so the more your screw up, the harder the game gets. Great design choice! Why not just give power-ups that last for the rest of the level like in Castlevania?

The beat 'em up areas are probably the most difficult part of each level; unfairly difficult in a few. The villagers spawn endlessly and get in your way all the time. The worst are ones that have projectiles like guards that throw what appear to be lanterns or drunken assholes who throw bottles of sake. Dunno how that one got by Nintendo's censors.
Here's probably the craziest example of the insane villagers: Babies with guns. Seriously.
After dicking around town for a while, you then head into the second part of each level where the game turns into a side scrolling platformer. I think level 3 is the only one that doesn't have a side scrolling area (and also no real boss.)  There are almost no health pickups in these areas though most of the time having a piece of pizza in your inventory is enough to get you through them.

At the end of each platforming area are bosses which start out pretty easy, but from level 5 on, you'll get your ass handed to you regularly. Most of the bosses are pretty hilarious actually. They include a ghost that spins plates at you, a demon with a huge rack of lanterns on his head, a creepy transforming face, A giant kite ridden by a bunch of ninjas, a huge kabuki dancer who shoots flower petals and poison gas at you, a dragon (the only normal boss of the bunch I guess), a couple of huge toys, and a boss rush on the last stage that ends with a fairly easy final boss.
I really have no clue what this is supposed to be.
The game looks great, though there isn't much to say. Huge bosses are always a plus for me and just about every boss in Mystical Ninja fills half of the screen, so it wins a lot of points there. The death animations of pretty much every enemy are really hilarious. Well, I say animation, but it's really a single frame sprite that flies back a few feet and disappears, but you get the idea.

The music is also really good, though most of the songs are really short with some as short as 10-15 seconds. One song that's relatively long is the title screen music which is just so happy that it warms my heart every time I hear it. The sound effects are okay, but there aren't that many of them. I think every enemy in the game makes the same sound when they die, so you'll be hearing that, along with Goemon and Ebisumaru's damage sound, a lot.

My only real complaint about the game is that there are two levels that require you to buy an expensive item to proceed, forcing you to grind for money if you didn't save up beforehand. I guess that's one way to extend the game a bit but having to deal with the psycho villagers for longer than necessary is pretty annoying.

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja is truly an underrated gem of a game. I almost never see it listed in lists of the best SNES games or best games of the '90s, which is a complete shame. An even bigger shame is the fact that only four other games in the Mystical Ninja series have made it to the U.S. I suppose it's just too niche of a series for Konami to invest in translating, but at least we got a few over here. You can get Mystical Ninja on the Wii Virtual console, and I encourage anyone who loves zany Japanese folklore tropes to download it.

My game of the year for 1992!
Easily my favorite adventure of a certain green clad elf.

I'll leave you with the Mystical Ninja title screen music. This song just gives me such a hopeful feeling; a feeling that there's something to look forward to in the future.Video brought to us by YouTube user Paineity.

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