Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
Reviewed by Raymond Almeda
Mystical Ninja is easily one of the most unique titles to come along
for any system in quite a long time. To put it mildly, this game is
bizarre. Mystical Ninja combines classic action RPG elements with
a modern 3D environment; but that's only the beginning of this
games claim to uniqueness.
Mystical Ninja is certainly the most Japanese-influenced game to
appear on the N64; it boasts more pronounced Japanese cultural
influences than most Japanese imports. If the game has a caveat,
it specifically involves those influences. American gamers who
are turned off by direct Japanese-English translation will have
serious problems with Mystical Ninjas offbeat humor and cultural
references. But RPG-seeking gamers who appreciate radical creativity
and quirky Japanese humor will be very pleased with this title.
Mystical Ninjas weirdness is firmly established from the opening
cut-scene. A giant peach-like spaceship appears from nowhere to
hover ominously above a Japanese village. The giant peach emanates
a beam which transforms the traditional Japanese castle into a
European castle. Naturally, the village is terrorized. Someone's got to
do something! Enter our hero, the spiky-haired Goemon.
Goemons mission is to track down and confront the mysterious bad
guys, restoring the castle to its original form. Along the way, he is
joined in his adventure by the rotund Ebisumaru, the shapely fem fatale
Yae, and the intimidating mechanical Ninja Sasuke. Although the game
ostensibly "stars" Goemon, players can alternate between these
characters at will.
As with most RPGs, each character gains unique skills and weapons
that are necessary to complete the quest. For example, Ebisumaru
obtains a shrinking magic that reduces his size; he can therefore
walk through small holes. Yae may obtain a flute that summons a
magical dragon. More interestingly, each character has his or her
own distinctive mannerisms. The slightly overweight Ebisumaru is
hilarious: his moderate speed jog looks like a schoolboys skip. When
running, Ebisumarus arms flail wildly by his side.
The gameplay is consistent with traditional action RPG fare. Gamers
must wonder throughout the Japanese countryside, visiting different
towns and related places, carrying on three-sentence conversations
with assorted locals. Naturally, there is no respect whatsoever for
private property rights; Goemon barges into pretty much anyones home
or place of business without asking permission. Overall, Mystical Ninja
follows the traditional Zelda formula, and theres nothing wrong with that.
But Mystical Ninja has a definite sense of humor. I particularly enjoyed
some of the sly jokes dropped by Konami developers throughout the
adventure. One citizen made reference to the traumatic Japanese to
European castle transformation and asked, "Does this make me a model
EU citizen?" Another storekeeper cracked a joke about being a nihilist!
And from time to time, an absurd audio laugh track is inserted within
text-based dialogue. It all makes for an unforgettably strange (and
pleasantly unpredictable) experience.
The game even contains joke references to its very existence. On one
occasion, Goemon encounters a couple of guards who are always standing
at alert on a bridge. One of the guards observed that it is actually rather
exhausting to be constantly standing alert on a bridge, waiting for
someone to finish a game.
The graphics of Mystical Ninja are good, if not excellent. The game is
occasionally hampered by graphic clipping and slightly choppy animation,
but these minor annoyances in no way affect gameplay. Despite these
small flaws, the graphics are often very good. While they lack the polish
of Super Mario 64, the game nevertheless feels comparable. Goemon
wanders across wide-open spaces that do not utilize any artificial N64
fogging. Its a great feeling to scale Mount Fugi and always be able to see
the ground from its apex.
Mystical Ninja also includes many impressive polygon-based bosses.
Although the assorted smaller enemies are more odd than intimidating
(ie. they often resemble short, fat Japanese dolls), the larger bosses
are quite memorable.
From time to time, Goemon is transformed into Goemon Impact, a
giant robot (a robot who, incidentally, has dreams of becoming an
American movie star?!). Goemon Impact battles some giant bosses in
a very different style of gameplay. Defeating the bosses is usually a
matter of finding the right formula of moves.
The sound in Mystical Ninja is very good. Particularly enjoyable are the
small touches, such as the different Japanese comments of the characters.
Each character has his or her signature remarks that are made when
jumping, fighting, and so forth. There are also some excellent samplings
of ambient sound interspersed throughout the game, such as waves
washing upon the beach.
The music of Mystical Ninja naturally has a very Japanese flavor, and
is superb. These excellent tunes will be ringing in your head long after
you have turned off the game.
Mystical Ninja is a thoroughly pleasant surprise for the N64. Any N64
owner with a longing to play a great Action/RPG should look no further
than Konami's premier adventure. Bear in mind that, because of the
games pronounced Japanese influences, its unique style is not for
everyone. But gamers seeking a distinctively creative adventure are
going to love it. Mystical Ninja is not the second coming of Zelda, but
it is an extremely entertaining game.