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// article by Jeff

With this quick Random.access Retrospective featurette, we'll be checking out Kid Niki, also known as Yanchamaru in Japan. While not an extremely popular character in video game lore, he has nevertheless had a bit of an impact on nostalgic gamers. With a quick flip of his sword, Kid Niki's fast-paced gameplay was an instant hit and spawned several sequels... though they were all only released in Japan. But let's take a fond look back at that spiky-haired ninja whose only catchphrase, "WILL HELP YOU!", shall go down in history as one of the great Engrish battle cries of our time.

Kid Niki: Radical Ninja
(ARCADE/NES/C64/APPLE II, 1986)

It all began in the arcades when a youthful Kid Niki (also known as Yanchamaru), the likely self-proclaimed "most radical ninja," set off on his first journey to save Princess Margo, who had, in turn, been kidnapped by the evil Stone Wizard. I believe the first thing anyone would remember about Kid Niki: Radical Ninja is the introductory scene, featuring the sudden appearance of the phrase "WILL HELP YOU!" on a scroll as Kid Niki bursts through the wall of his home in anger and runs off. The gameplay is easily memorable: Kid Niki whips out his sword and twirls it frantically, causing approaching enemies to literally bounce into the distance. It sounds silly, but it is fun, at least for the first little while before enemies start racing at you from all angles and you start to go a bit nuts. The bosses are nothing to scoff at, either -- they can be quite brutal. But with names like Death Breath and Green Grub, they need to be extra tough!

Kid Niki later received ports to the NES, Commodore 64, and Apple II platforms, but most players outside of Japan will likely remember the NES the most fondly. Who could possibly forget that hot pink label? Obviously, the graphics were scaled down significantly, but the only other major difference is Kid Niki's hairstyle, which is far wilder in North America than in Japan, resembling an uncombed coonskin cap, as opposed to his more coiffed 'do in other publications.

Kaiketsu Yanchamaru 2: Karakuri Land
(FAMICOM, 1991)

Steering clear of the arcades, Kid Niki returns in a Japan-only sequel to his original adventure. Princess Margo has again been kidnapped, so the radical ninja must once again don his special blade and return to the fields of Feudal Japan for another lengthy rescue mission. The gameplay is more or less the same as before, although he can now flail his sword upward and downward, but there have been a couple of new additions. Kid Niki now finds numerous bells laying about that give him coinage or health items. Stranger yet, Kid Niki can earn the ability to transform into animal creatures, such as a frog or elephant, though you still remain pink like your gi. And of special note, Kid Niki's head is now even bigger than before, if that were possible.

Ganso!! Yanchamaru
(GB, 1991)

Game Boy users, you have not been forgotten! Ganso!! Yanchamaru is the portable Kid Niki experience fans of the series were hoping for. While not as rudimentary as the original, this one still features plenty of sword-swinging action, though it can also be used to break blocks! Coin collection is also featured here, which add up toward extra lives. Kid Niki can also toss shurikens when the need strikes. It's a fun little romp if you want some sweet Radical Ninja on the go.

Kaiketsu Yanchamaru 3: Taiketsu! Zouringen
(FAMICOM, 1993)

At least Kaiketsu Yanchamaru 2 tried to improve upon its predecessor. This sequel, instead of keeping with the series' already established themes and gameplay, steps out of the box and reveals a game that fails to resemble anything before it. Kid Niki, if that IS still him, looks completely different. He is dressed entirely in black and no longer bears a sword, opting instead for a bo, la Donatello from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This bo can shoot and grasp onto walls, adding some depth to the gameplay but also detracting from Kid Niki's roots. There is far more focus on platforming here, even going so far as to include swimming in the mix for the first time. If you enjoyed the first two games, you may like this one, too; just don't expect more of the same. Kaiketsu Yanchamaru 3 was also the last game of the series, and I doubt he'll be making a comeback anytime soon.


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