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Old 10-07-2009, 03:35 PM   #9
Lurking Forever
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Bad Konig, Germany
Posts: 3,565

Not stub but replaced because it was splitted:
Last Ninja Pack

This is one of the best games ever made for the Commodore 64. It was quite revolutionary in 1987 and is a legend today. Followed by two sequels and a remix, The Last Ninja was the first in the series. If you've never heard of it, now you know a little more. For everybody else, well, come on - it's The Last Ninja; is there really anything more I could say?

I guess I could, since there will be youngsters that have never heard of this game. Besides lovely graphics and great music, this game had many innovations. It was one of the first isometric games ever made (maybe even the first, I'm not sure). You had eight directions to move, plus you could jump and perform various moves and attacks with your arms and legs or with several ninja weapons. You could even block. Maybe the existence of your character's inventory wasn't that revolutionary, but I never saw a game before this one in which you could really "pick up" items. In every platform game, you just moved across an item in order to pick it up. But this was different.

The story is as follows: You are Armakuni, a member of Ninjutsu, left to guard their shrine while the other members go to the island of Lin Fen. Every ten years, they go there to receive instruction from the Koga Scrolls. However, the evil Shogun Kunitoki has called creatures from the Nether World and destroyed your comrades, so he can bring his own guards and learn the power of Ninjutsu. When he was a child, Armakuni went to the island by using a secret passage. Now he must do it again, but it is not as it used to be. So he (with your help) must travel alone through the unknown, avenge his brothers, and retrieve the Scrolls. (I shortened the story very much.)

The PC version came out a year after the C64 version. Everything looked like it did on the C64. Well, almost everything. The game was a little rough. This is very bad, since you'll have lot of trouble picking up some objects (your ninja must reach out his hands exactly on the object) and jumping over water, lava, or mud. Jumping is the worst; you'll have to step perfectly on the stone to jump to another one. Your ninja moved smoothly on the C64 (with a joystick), but here you use Numpad, and the ninja keeps on moving until you press another direction key or 5 to stop. Jumping over rocks is simply too hard. You'll even find it difficult to turn your character in another direction.

If you manage to handle the controls and you don't turn away from hard games, you'll like this one. Even now I run a C64 emulator to play it again. I can never forget the first level, when you go down and actually pick up a katana from some rocks. Although the game looks good, you'll have some problems playing the PC version, and that's a real shame. Also, the PC speaker's limitations left the game without the great musical themes by Ben Daglish.

The second game is more colorful, with some logic puzzles and (almost) without levels that drive you mad. It's not legendary like the first game, but is still very fun to play. Armakuni finds himself in 20th-century New York without a clue as to how he got there. Feeling that his old enemy Kunitoki has something to do with it, Armakuni isn't planning to take it easy. But Armakuni must be careful; a different time brings different problems.

The programmers tried very hard (and mostly successfully) to make every level interesting to play. Some of the logic puzzles require the use of items (the easiest example would be using a key), but most require nothing more than pressing buttons, turning your ninja in exactly the right way to climb a ladder, and so on. The PC version of the second game has smooth animation and better gameplay, so now you can easily play with the cursor keys, jump precisely, and pick up objects without having a headache. So, it turns out that the second part is much, much better on the PC. Don't think that it is easy, but you will have less trouble as you become better and more familiar with the levels.

In front of you is a cult game (and its sequel) that probably won't be forgotten. There is a third part for the C64, but it wasn't made for the PC, since the PC versions of the first two parts were never very successful. It's too bad the PC had so many limitations at that time. Both games look (and sound) much better on the C64, so you probably won't experience all the fun these games could provide. Still, I give the games the highest mark, and all those who have really played them will agree. For the rest of you, my advice is to try it. If you don't like it, at least you'll know that you played another old legend.

by marko river
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