The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Gabriel Jones 30.08.2019

Review for The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors on Nintendo Switch

Sometime in the future, the entire planet will fall into the hands of the dictator Banglar. His merciless cruelty has done uncalculatable damage to society. The people's only hope is a resistance movement led by the enigmatic Mulk. However, all of his plans thus far have failed. The sad reality is that Banglar's army is unstoppable, and they obey his every command. In a last ditch effort to topple the dictator's regime, Mulk approves the construction of killer androids. Taking the form of ninja, just one of these assassins is as powerful and dangerous as a thousand soldiers. Clearly, the world will never be the same, once this ultimate weapon is unleashed. Take a look at the remake of Natsume's classic, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors.

Much like Natsume Atari's previous effort, Wild Guns Reloaded, The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors takes a Super Nintendo classic and expands upon it. Bigger and better than ever, this is one title that you won't want to miss. Sure, usually the praise is saved for towards the end of the review - what has changed? Well, this is another one of those occasions where there's a lot of ground to cover, so it's unnecessary to leave the audience in suspense. Single-plane brawlers are a rarity, and this is a masterful example of one. Every element is sensible in its concept and implementation. It understands the importance of videogame logic, and remains immensely satisfying from the first minute to the last.

Predictably, a second must be spared in order to cover the facts. After choosing from one of up to five playable characters, one or two players must fight their way through eight stages of side-scrolling action. Enemies of all shapes and sizes will attack from either direction, and they all utilize skills that fit their appearance. Although the androids are gifted with sizably long health meters, they only have one life. It's game over if that meter is exhausted. In lieu of a traditional scoring system, this tracks the time. Your chances of reaching the top of the online leaderboards are dependent on how quickly you can complete the mission. This makes seemingly minor details, such as how most attacks knock the player-character down, more noticeable. All those seconds spent on one's back can really add up.

The best way to describe these ninja is that they don't have strengths and weaknesses. Think of them instead as five different ways to play through the game. Everything from their abilities to their movement mechanics is wildly diverse, so the optimal approach requires a specific mind-set. The full extent of their arsenal is governed by a battery meter, which recharges over time. When full, a screen-clearing bomb can be unleashed. New to this edition are the special attacks, which are performed by holding up, and pressing the attack button. Learning how and when to implement them will make for faster and more efficient killing. In short, everyone has a lot of toys to play around with.

Screenshot for The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors on Nintendo Switch

First some words about the Ninja. Yes, having someone named "Ninja" in a crowd of ninjas is pretty confusing. Anyway, he's a large dude who pummels his adversaries into hamburgers. Whether it's by fists, grabs, or nunchaku, very few can handle a prolonged assault. His slow walking speed is a liability, but it's made up for by the inclusion of jump-jets, since, with the push of a button, he can quickly move from one side of the screen to the other. Naturally, his strategy revolves around power and crowd-control. Ninja can swing foes around by their legs, knocking down anyone nearby. The nunchaku covers a wide arc, even hitting those who dare to approach from behind.

Before discussing Kunoichi, here's a moment to look at the Risk-versus-Reward mechanics that govern this. Risk-versus-Reward is a concept as old as time itself, but since there aren't any bonus points to earn, one has to be rewarded in a more fitting manner. When faced with an enemy, the typical response is to punch them in the face. Sure, that's a fine way to deal with them, but let's say you take a couple extra steps and grab them instead. If you take the extra risk and get close, you're rewarded with an opportunity to throw them into other enemies, clearing the way and buying a moment's respite. Even in scenarios where it looks like another foe will attack from behind, it's still a good idea to go for the grab. This is because the ninjas are invincible during throw animations. It's the little touches like these that make combat so thrilling. By executing the riskier option, you're in a better position than if you just stayed back and threw that punch.

Moving along, successfully mastering the Kunoichi means taking advantage of both her mobility and her throwing stars. While the projectiles are pretty weak, so are most grunts. A swift elimination via kunai is a fine way to get them out of her rather luxurious hair. Her charged katana slices will knock down rows of enemies. Evasion is also an essential tactic. By holding down the block button and jumping, ninja can somersault. This protects against almost any attack. Combining all of these tools is essential to survival. Oh and yeah the block button probably could've been mentioned earlier. There is a bit of a learning curve at hand, and it takes a while to develop the muscle memory needed to perform some techniques.

Screenshot for The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors on Nintendo Switch

Kamaitachi is a very technical android. First off, his crouch-walk is actually faster than his normal-walk. Secondly, he's got a spiral slash that's great for destroying anything in the air. Then there's his attack-speed, which is pretty fast. As long as one is effectively gauging their distance, it's easy to get the first strike. Afterwards, it's all just a matter of eviscerating everyone with a flurry of combos. Just like any other good beat 'em up, success isn't simply a matter of walking up to an enemy and hitting them. There's a lot of skilful movement and manipulation involved. Very often you are completely surrounded, so the only way forward is to "herd" the bad guys. Usually it's just a matter of watching how they behave and move, then forcing them to group up for easy disposal. There's always a pattern. Anyway, Kamaitachi's flexible and devastating attacks make him fun to use.

Despite her diminutive size, Yaksha is anything but quick and nimble. She is full of surprises though, most notably her extendable claws. With the ability to grab enemies from afar and send them packing, this little ninja can play a mean game of keep-away. Her effectiveness at close-range can't be underestimated either. Something as simple as a slide kick into a judo slam will get rid of pests. Yaksha is a threat at any distance, but can't do everything at once. If you mistime your attacks or perform the wrong moves, then you're going to eat a lot of fists.

On the opposite end of the size spectrum is Raiden. This 32-ton behemoth is ridiculously slow, and hits pretty dang hard. Enemies have a habit of getting close and aiming for the mecha's vulnerable knees. Keep them at bay with powerful sweeping attacks. Also, consider grabbing two hapless soldiers at once to deliver massive amounts of pain. If that wasn't enough, this ninja can transform into a tank, which adds machine guns and a cannon to his repertoire. Mastering two sets of attacks is a tall order, especially with this bulky fellow, but the raw destructive force is totally worth it.

Screenshot for The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors on Nintendo Switch

All eight stages are linear and feature minimal gimmicks. Most of the challenge comes from managing a limited supply of health, while dealing with various combinations of enemies. Keep in mind that they'll always have the advantage in numbers, so proper screen management is a must. Focus on the largest threats first, taking care to avoid as much damage as possible. Boss battles function in much the same manner. The big bad at the end of each stage always has friends close by. While the fights are never fair, all five playable characters have the necessary skills to get the job done. It helps that the bosses don't have huge gobs of health. Just look for an opening, and strike.

Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors features a very good hard mode. Rather than simply upping the amount of damage everything does, stages tend to include more soldiers to crush. Advanced foes also show up earlier and in greater frequency, making for more complex battles. All told, it's not a huge jump in terms of challenge, but players will have to work harder, in order to keep their warriors alive. Aside from a few annoying segments, both difficulty levels are consistent and superbly-balanced.

Admittedly, explaining this game's greatness is oddly difficult. There's a subtlety to it that's not easy to pick up on. Nothing really stands out and says "this is awesome, isn't it?" Instead, there's pure consistency. The various elements play off of each other in a way that mirrors the golden age of arcades. With every play-through, you'll gain more of an understanding as to why these elements work the way they do. This is the sort of understated brilliance that defines the best titles. There is finesse and flow to every action. Wrong decisions are accordingly punished, and success is determined entirely by your reactions.

The diverse and fascinating cast of playable characters can't be praised enough. Mastering them will require a lot of practice, but they'll never let the player down. Their skill-sets can be adapted to fit a multitude of circumstances. The generous amount of invincibility frames on their strongest attacks ensures that players will always make full use of them. This detail is one that far too many games tend to ignore. It's no fun using some abilities if they leave you open to attack. This definitely isn't the case here. There's a certain thrill to performing devastating manoeuvres, and then watching as enemy bullets pass by harmlessly.

Screenshot for The Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Altogether, Ninja Saviors: Return of the Warriors is an exemplary update to the 1994 original. Both the new and returning characters have impressive move-sets. Discovering how to implement these techniques is very rewarding. The eight stages aren't especially creative, but they all have strong fundamentals. If players want a spot on the online leaderboards, then they have to take as little damage as possible, and accurately gauge threats. While it is fun to mash on hapless grunts, targeting elites is the only way to survive. This is one beat em' up gem that you don't want to miss.

Also known as

The Ninja Warriors: Once Again

Developer

Natsume Atari

Publisher

Taito

Genre

Brawler

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date 15.10.2019   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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