LadiesGamers Ninja JaJaMaru

Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell Deluxe Edition Review

Game: Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell Deluxe Edition
Genre: Action, Arcade, Adventure, RPG
System: Nintendo Switch (Also on Steam (Windows), PS4 & Xbox)
Developer|Publisher: City Connection, Ratalaika | ININ Games
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US E
Price: US $29.99 | UK £24.99 | EU € 29,99
Release Date: February 21st, 2023

Review code provided with many thanks to PR Hound. 

Epic Titles 

Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell Deluxe Edition is not just a remarkable title for a video game. It’s a brilliant 2D arcade experience that can be enjoyed by one or two players co-operatively. While I am a retro lover, I actually have no experience with this series of games which were super popular in their country of origin, Japan. After playing through the main arcade game and a collection of retro titles from the series’ past, I can easily say I’m a fan now.

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It’s an arcade party

Call Back.

Let’s start with the main title in the package Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell. This is a call back to the origins of the series, which you can indulge in if you have the deluxe edition of this package. The premise of the game is pretty simple: you’re a ninja, there’s some evil that needs taking out, and you’re just the chap/chapette to handle it. You’re instantly thrown into the gameplay, just like in the good old arcade days. The goal is to navigate the 2D platforms taking out all of the demons before progressing to the next level and repeating the process pausing for the occasional boss battle.

Your initial weapon of choice is a shuriken that shoots horizontally, but you have a few clever moves to take advantage of. Levels are littered with destructible platforms; if you knock one from below with your noggin (head) while an enemy wanders over, it will stun them, allowing you to easily take them out. Your projectiles have the handy benefit of destroying enemy projectiles, I found some moments where it was a battle of who could mash the attack button the fastest. Usually, I find button mashing a pain, but it actually added to the excitement of this experience.

Bank Coins

Whether you succeed or fail in the level, you bank coins dropped by enemies, automatically unlocking new content, the most notable being new playable characters. Over time you can collect twenty characters, including more ninjas and even the enemy Yokai you fight against. Each character has its own stats and weapon with controls unique to the rest. You can switch to new characters between levels, and experimenting with the different play styles really hooked me, even if I was stuck on a level for several attempts.

An added incentive to replay is to complete mini-missions like taking no damage or collecting all the gold dropped by enemies. This is more challenging than it seems since the gold quickly disappears. The added ‘Hell’ to the title references the harder levels added as you progress through the game.

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The cutest pixel ninja

Joy to Play

The graphics are a nod to the original graphics from the first Famicon game. Unlike the retro original, this has a wonderful polish to the experience that really brings the arcade feel to life. Sometimes when you get a special power-up, you’re treated to a delightful parade of fireworks and pixel explosions encouraging you on your high score chasing. The performance runs excellently, with controls responding on point. Levels feel diverse and different, and you have an uplifting soundtrack to add to the immersion.       

Joy is probably the key emotion I felt playing this title, the formula is simple, but the controls are tight, and the pacing of each level seems spot on if you want to play a quick session or settle in for a game night. I also enjoyed how you don’t quite know what to expect in each play session. Enemies can seem a breeze, then before you know it, a large one spawns from nowhere, firing ridiculous-sized projectiles. A welcome challenge indeed.

In some sessions, you’re relying on your skills to see you through, in others, you are picking up wacky power-ups where you turn into a giant frog or car (a nod to the excellent City Connection game and the name of the developers). References to previous games in the series and other games from the developers are in plentiful supply, but you don’t need to be versed in these references to enjoy the wackiness. On top of all these, a friend can join you in the shenanigans to enjoy some co-op action making this a fantastic pick for a game night game.                

LadiesGamers Ninja JaJaMaru
Unfortunately, you can’t defeat the boss with cute (Super Ninja-Kid)

Wait, There’s More

If you opt for the deluxe edition of the game, you get five additional retro titles from the series. There’s also a smaller RPG collection offering two additional games. These cover Famicon, Super Famicon and GameBoy titles. If you want to learn more about the main game and each retro game in this collection. This link, courtesy of ININ publishing, does a fantastic job of concisely breaking everything down. What I liked about the collection is the diversity of game types. Usually, most retro collections settle on one familiar theme. But these titles cover arcades and platformers turn-based and action RPGs.

It’s rare to see a series shoot at different genres. For me, not all of the games totally hit the mark, but I very much enjoyed diving into each experience. My favourite worth highlighting was easily Super Ninja-Kid, a 2D action game you can play solo or co-op that just proved to be a wonderful adventure that tickled my nostalgia for the 16-bit era of gaming. Beautiful coloured sprites and excellent gameplay. Oh, and it turns out it was designed by Ryuichi Nishizawa, who developed the Wonder Boy series, so maybe it’s no surprise I loved this. I will say I didn’t know he was involved till after I played it.

LadiesGamers Ninja JaJaMaru
Careful of stupid dogs (Ninja JaJaMaru: Ninja Skill Book)

Retro Game Features

As far as extras go with the retro collection, you once again get a flurry of features to enhance the retro delights. It’s a familiar checklist if you have played any of these collections from ININ Games in the last few years. The emulation, as always, is solid for each game. You can adjust the screen settings and set CRT filters. Controls can be mapped to your liking. States are present and accounted for; you can rewind mistakes or fast forward past boring bits if you fancy. A unique feature for each individual game is the ability to toggle cheats on and off during gameplay.

Most games feature some form of invincibility, or unlimited lives cheat. But there are some more specific ones, such as the ability to heal your party in the RPGs or grant a potion. Features like this are always welcome, especially if you want a less stressful gaming experience. But if you want the raw challenging retro feel, you have that option too. The main menu provides a brief history of each title, and you can observe a few art pieces, such as box art and illustrations. Much like previous collections, this feels pretty bare-bones when it comes to learning about the games. Still, the titles themselves are great. 

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My favourite art piece

Conclusion – Go Ninja Go

Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell is a scrummy chocolate gateau (or insert preferred cake of choice). If you opt for the extra retro collections, they are the extra yummy cupcakes. What I’m trying to say is you’ll be spoiled for arcade and retro goodness for many gaming nights to come. If you can grab a buddy or loved one to share the experience, then I guess you can call that the extra sprinkles on top.

So, of course, I recommend this collection and possibly convince you to seek out your favourite dessert. The only area of improvement, like a lot of these retro collections, is not a lot of depth given to the game’s history. Regarding gameplay, the core game offers some of the best modern arcade gaming I have experienced in some time, and the extra retro content feels like a wonderful bonus adding to an already golden package.

Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up

Two thumbs up

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