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Legend of the Mystical Ninja – SNES

Legend of the Mystical Ninja – SNES

sneslegendofthemysticalPlatform: SNES

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Konami

Release Date (NA): June 30, 1992

Genre: Action-Adventure

Nerd Rating: 8.5/10

Reviewed by: InfiniteKnife

 Known in Japan as Ganbare Goemon (which loosely translates to “Go For It, Goemon”), Legend of the Mystical Ninja is one of those games we rented as kids, loved, and continued to rent every couple of months when there wasn’t something new released. Personally, there has always been an attraction to Japanese titles like this one because of their overall fun, charming feel, and this one stands out among the best.

Goemon and Ebisumaru, who are named Kid Ying and Dr. Yang in the US version, respectively (though Yin/Yang are Chinese and the game is Japanese…lazy translators), are the protagonists. The two characters are actually based on 2 legendary thieves that acted much like Robin Hood in that they would steal from the rich to help the poor. Legend of the Mystical Ninja is completely rife with references to Japanese history/folklore and it would take forever to list it all, but if it’s something that interests you as it does me, this will be a really fun game experience for you.

All levels have this intro, which makes it feel more episodic.

All levels have this intro, which makes it feel more episodic.

The adventure starts innocently enough as our heroes are asked to investigate some odd occurrences in their small town involving a ghost woman in a temple. As the plot unfolds, Goemon and his portly partner find themselves working with a clan of ninja cats to rescue the Emperor’s daughter, Princess Yuki, who is believed to have been kidnapped by an army of clowns and mimes, traversing 9 areas that range from mountains to a carnival. I know what you’re thinking and yes, this is a wild game, and it is awesome.

The game can be played solo or 2-player co-op, with both characters having the same attacks and abilities with regard to functionality, but different in presentation. For example, each melee weapon has the ability to be upgraded twice by collecting gray cats dropped by downed enemies, which increase the reach and damage. Goemon starts with a short pipe that turns to a yo-yo, and Ebisumaru begins with a flute and ends up with a party blower. There is also a thrown weapon attack that each character can use but it depletes your money with each use.

Such violence in such a quiet town....

Such violence in such a quiet town….

Gameplay is interesting here because each level has 2 distinct areas. The first is a free roaming ¾ over the top view that allows travel in all 4 main directions, and later is a full 2D side scrolling level. Combat is possible in both, but is more the focus on the latter areas, whereas the free roam is more about exploration, information gathering, and houses the more RPG-like elements of the game. At the end of each level, there is a boss, followed by a cutscene that moves the plot along.

Paper lanterns aren't the most menacing looking thing until a bombs start falling out.

Paper lanterns aren’t the most menacing looking thing until bombs start falling out.

In the earlier, non-combat focused level areas, there is a lot to do. RPG elements show in the form of armor and accessories available for purchase in shops that add bonuses. Armor increases defense, helmets prevent some damage from falling objects and attacks from above, and sandals increase running speed and jumping strength. A cool note about the sandals is that they can be bought in bulk and their benefits stack, so you can end up being able to jump pretty far after collecting a few. They do deteriorate after time and being hit removes one from your inventory. In addition to buying armor, there are also inns you can rest in and the amount you’re willing to pay reflects how much health you regain and is depicted by your character sleeping in increasingly comfy quarters. There are also saunas which heal you fully.

Sandals, pizza, and bombs. Everything I need......

Sandals, pizza, and bombs. Everything I need……

You are also able to collect healing items in the form of Japanese dishes like sushi and noodles, some of which will heal you automatically when you get below a certain threshold. In addition to food, scrolls can be collected which act like a form of mana to power your special abilities that can be trained, called Judos. Each character’s abilities perform the same functions but look different. They start with an animal mount that can be ridden and used to headbutt enemies and cap at a huge attack that clears the screen of baddies.

At this point, you may be thinking to yourself, “Wow! This game seems awesome and fun as it is. It couldn’t possibly get better!” and that is where you are WRONG because I haven’t even talked about the myriad mini-games you can play in Legend of the Mystical Ninja. During the game, you find what are called Job Places, where you have an option of 3 games to play to try to win money. These include Goblin, where the object is to throw a ball into a basket atop a goblin’s head, Paint, in which you have to keep the paint brush going without hitting the walls or paint trail you made as long as possible, and Mole, which is (as one would expect) Whack-a-Mole.

Other games to be found include:

Concentration – also known as Memory, where you have to match pairs of cards,
Lottery –  you have to try to match a series of numbers and symbols in order to win varying amounts of money (it’s tough to match them all, just like the real lottery)
Race Track – Who doesn’t like to bet on the ponies once in a while!? You have to correctly guess 1st and 2nd place out of 5 horses to win and odds vary.
Dice – 3 dice are flipped and you need to guess whether the total will be higher or lower than 10. You can bet $10-$3000 per roll.
Maze – Basically, you pay $100 to navigate a maze that has more than $100 worth of prizes including extra lives.
Quiz Show – It’s exactly what it sounds like. You are on a TV-like quiz show and are asked trivia questions about the game itself, so you’d better have been paying attention.

These questions can get tough if you don't pay attention

These questions can get tough if you don’t pay attention

In addition to the above, there are also arcades that have Hockey (Pong), Tear Down the Wall (Arkanoid), and Gradius (the actual first level from the real game). On top of all that, there is a Fortune Teller who will bestow 1 of 3 “fortunes” upon you. There is a good, a bad, and an indifferent one and you can keep trying until you get all 3, as long as you can pony up the $20 each time.

Daddy needs a new pair of sandals!!!

Daddy needs a new pair of sandals!!!

Length wise, Legend of the Mystical Ninja was pretty good. There are 9 levels of varying length and from what I remember from my last playthrough, it takes a few solid hours to do the whole thing, but you could take a lot more time if you get caught up messing around with all the games like I often did playing as a kid. I also didn’t make any previous mention of the soundtrack and how well it fits with the game. It’s really just a cherry on top of the overall experience.

Just a fun little addition to the fair stage.

Just a fun little addition to the fair stage.

One thing I can’t emphasize enough about this game is its lighthearted feel and charm. It may be a personal thing with me because I love charm in games, but this truly stands out as one of my all time favorite SNES games. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned a lot more about the pretty true references to Japanese culture and it’s really neat to see that so much of it was put into the game. It’s easy to overlook as a kid, and appreciated as an adult who has an interest in such things. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys solid, fun Platformers and RPGs, as there are definitely elements of both. There are other fun parts of the game that I left out of this review, so if you do decide to give it a go, keep your eyes open, as there is a lot crammed into this 16-bit cartridge.


Written by InfiniteKnife


My personal favorite games are those in the Survival Horror and Sports (baseball) genres, but I can find at least a game or 2 in just about any category that I love to play.

I grew up on Nintendo consoles (NES and SNES) and have been an Xbox guy since the first one was released in the early 2000s. It’s hard to stay away from the classics as the 16-bit era is probably still my favorite overall.


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  1. Pingback: Top 5 Best Game Consoles of All Time - Nerdberry - Nerd Bacon Reviews

  2. Awesome review! I’ve only ever heard great things about this game, but I don’t know many people who’ve actually played it. I’m definitely sold on it now.


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