Developed By: Ratalaika Games Published By: ININ Games Categories: Retro, Compilation, Platformer, Adventure Release Date: 02.21.23
When I saw that Strictly Limited Games and ININ Games were releasing a Ninja JajaMaru Kun release in the west, my first thought was that we were just getting a translated version of the City Connection release, much like how we got translated versions of the M2 and Gotch developed Cozmic Collection titles. This is not the case, while you’ll see a similarity in games, this is now developed by ININ mainstay, Ratalaika Games! And with that comes the same front end, which I have to admit is a downgrade from the panels of the Japanese collection.
Lets talk about presentation actually. As of the time of writing this, it’s staggeringly poor. Especially compared to that Japanese release. The art gallery is anemic, which compared again to the Japanese release is depressing. One piece of art per game? On top of that, in the main menu, none of the games display what the title screen looks like, just the collection’s key art. Is this going to be patched? Not exactly the best first impression and seems like a step down from even other Ratalaika joints, including the Wonder Boy sets, which were phenomenal. Ratalaika usually nails it on emulation though…right? They sure do.
Determined, Stubborn Ninja
Starting with Ninja JajaMaru-Kun. This is a single screen arcade style point collecting game. You know, the kind that has only a few stages that loop, but with stronger and meaner enemies. You control the tiny little ninja Maru, on a quest to rescue a princess. A tale as old as time, but it was the 80’s. You have little tiny shuriken and you need to kill everything in sight! To get onto higher planes of the level, you need to smash through brick ceilings. Breaking bricks can also net you some powerups. The most common will probably be red orbs that speed you up. You’ll find the occasional cart that you can ride, which just allows you to run enemies over and a real menace. An invisibility potion for invincibility or a shuriken for faster throws help too. You also can find stuff that just gives you an extra life or raises points. If you hit three different power ups or four extra lives, you can hop on your giant frog and raise some real hell, big guy is hungry after all. Be careful however, some bricks have bombs in them which can can you.
So you might notice, running into enemies won’t kill you and it won’t kill enemies. Both of you will just get dizzy. Maru needs to get struck by a projectile or bomb to truly die, same with all of the nasty creatures you face. Use this to your advantage, it can definitely help.
If you get enough of these dropped petals in a level, you can do a bonus level, which switches to a bit of a vertical shooter, which just spices the game up enough once in a while to forgive the fact that despite there being a decent stage count, they just loop with new enemies after a few stages. But that’s what a lot of games did in this style.
A Grand Adventure
The princess was kidnapped…again. But this time, in JajaMaru’s Big Adventure, it’s a side scroller! A lot of the characteristics return, but a bit turned on their head. The bricks holding on to goodies and bombs? Check. The not dying from bumps? Checks. Frogs? You know it. There’s even the vertical shooting sections, these time they’re the boss fights. Fun, seems like a proper follow up as how Super Mario Bros was to Mario Bros.
Into the Stars
We now arrive at Operation Milky Way. A game that has barely anything to do with the series at large. You play as our trusty, red Ninja and finally Princess Sakura and you jump and uh…oh, big frog power up. That said, I liked this game. First off, Princess Sakura not being just a damsel is nice, and considering this is an NES game, pretty surprising. The sprites are big and colorful too!
You’ll notice one thing right away Outside of a power up, there isn’t really projectiles. You have your hammer, but you don’t even really attack with it. The B button is to charge a run, which can the lead into a flying roll. You can however bop enemies on the head with your hammer, as a bounce like in say…Castle of Illusion. Early on you’ll run into a little portal, which can be a bit of an issue to get into. You’ll need to roll jump and press up into one, which is pretty cumbersome for an otherwise simple game.
Regardless of this barely being a JajaMaru game, I like it. It’s nice to finally have it in the west too, since it’s original localization, which billed it as an entirely different game was cancelled.
Time to Get Super
A Super Nintendo game? Well it’s gotta be Super Ninja Kid! This truly feels like an evolution of the older games. And hey, it even has great sprites again.
Where do I start? I love this game. I mentioned how nice the sprite work is, but I really dig the music too. It gives me Kirby 64 vibes for some reason. Let’s get into the gameplay now that those are out of the way. It’s a point a to point b platformer again, with the generic stage themes like volcano, icy cave, beach, etc…BUT, the levels are pretty big, with all of them having a bit of exploration, which can lead to some health upgrades. And yes, there is a few minecart segments.
So you defeated the boss at the end of a level. Looks like you got a new weapon or power, lets test those out. You could just shoot Shuriken, but wouldn’t lighting bolts or bombs be nicer? Bombs are extra helpful since they have a bit of a vertical arch which the others don’t. Magic is very much like the spells you can use in Shinobi 3, like rings of fire or duplication. Didn’t mention this earlier, but you’ll get that magic gauge filled by collecting those little souls from enemies, a series tradition. All and all, this is a good time…even if it’s disappointing to have princess kidnapped again.
WE’VE COLORIZED THE GAME
Finally a game that was released in America! It’s Maru’s Mission. Actually, this is Ninja JajaMaru: The Great World Adventure! And now we have an honestly impressive DX, colorized edition. The game itself though? The most noteworthy part is the theming of each level, with Romania being full of Universal monsters. You still gotta grab the souls, but they just keeping adding up and adding up. This is your HP and you’re going to want a lot for boss fights. Levels all feel samey though and geometry is funky at times to get you blocked in.
Also to note, the game crashed quite a handful of times…which was fixed by rewinding? It was so confusing. Apparently this was in the actual game too.
We’ll Have More Next Time
So this collection might feel…a little weak? Well good news, this is part of a set of three JajaMaru Kun titles, which include a pair of RPGs and a brand new game. I want to say that it’d be better to think of these games as one entity, as it is physically and can be downloaded digitally, but by itself, Retro Collection does fall short. Even if I do like the games. And I guess to be fair, this is much cheaper than the usual ININ bundle.
Buy Now: $14.99 (also a part of a retail, physical edition from ININ games that includes The Great Yokai Battle +Hell)
*Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of review