ADK’s Ninja Combat is, as we’ve previously established, a game that is fun in principle but somewhat lacking in execution due to its extremely questionable difficulty balancing.
Two years after Ninja Combat helped to launch the Neo Geo, ADK returned to all things ninja with a spiritual successor. Enter Ninja Commando, which brought with it a shift in perspective from side-on to top-down, and a much more reasonable challenge for your average player — albeit one that still gets pretty tough in its latter levels!
Ninja Commando has been rereleased a few times over the years, and also forms part of the ADK Damashiicollection for PlayStation 2, which is the version we’re primarily concerned with today. Let’s take a closer look!
SNK had some top-notch arcade hits throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and many of them came home in one form or another.
One great example was Ikari Warriors, which saw several different home ports over the years. The one we’re concerned with today is Elite’s Atari ST version, which remains surprisingly true to the arcade original despite lacking SNK’s iconic “loop lever” control scheme.
It’s a solid top-down run-and-gun that still holds its own well today, and back then it demonstrated that the ST was more than capable of providing a convincing “arcade at home” experience!
What happened to ninjas? I feel like they were unironically cool in the ’90s, and that they were everywhere.
Perhaps they simply learned that being highly visible is not an especially desirable characteristic for a ninja, and thus deliberately relegated themselves to the world of overly tryhard “wacky!” memes alongside pirates, dinosaurs and zombies. Put them all together and you get LOL SO RANDOM, yo. And these days, everyone wants to ignore that nonsense. The perfect cover.
Anyway, here’s Shadow Dancer for the Mega Drive, a 1990 release from Sega and one of the first games I ever played on the system.
Proper “spy games” are something I don’t feel like we see a lot of any more, perhaps since fascination with the concept waned somewhat with the end of the Cold War.
That said, there are tons of awesome “spy games” from back in the day that we can still enjoy, and Rolling Thunder, a 1986 arcade game from Namco, included on the Nintendo Switch version of Namco Museum, is a great example.
Initially appearing to be a fairly straightforward, early example of “run and gun” gameplay, spending a little more time with Rolling Thunder reveals a tightly designed game that shows first impressions aren’t always entirely accurate.
“The eight soldiers get to attack the wicked terrorists!!”
So ran the promotional blurb on the arcade flyer for SNK’s Shock Troopers, a well-regarded installment in the Neo Geo library developed by Saurus and originally released in 1997 to both home- and arcade-based Neo Geo systems.
This is not by any means a unique setup for a video game, particularly an arcade title from the era, but what makes Shock Troopers truly special is its execution. And its presentation. And, well, everything.