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CONSOLE: Arcade DEVELOPER: Taito PUBLISHER: Taito
RELEASE DATE (NA): 1990 GENRE: Beat-'em-up
// review by SoyBomb

More powerful than Ninja Infants!

Ninjas. Though overused by an infinite percentage over the past decade as an internet meme of great stealth, they once were genuinely interesting characters. And in video games, they couldn't be beat! Ninjas may be far too commonplace nowadays, but back in the golden days of video games, we had the greats: Ryu Hayabusa, Goemon, Joe Musashi... uh... the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... yeah, those were the REAL hip ninjas. But there are also unsung ninjas out there, ones we have long forgotten in the annuls of time. That's where the Ninja Kids come in, sneaking under the radar in an oft-lost adventure buried within archaic arcades.

You can try to understand the plot of The Ninja Kids if you really try, but your efforts will likely be in vain. The best I can muster is that Satan is being resurrected by a group who call themselves "Satanists" (I wouldn't expect the Shriners to easily pull this off), and this will lead to humanity's utter destruction. At least that's what is assumed. Then an old dojo master points to the sky, and the four marionette-like Ninja Kids leap into action to repress Satan back into the netherworld from whence he came. Alright, so it's not that creative... but maybe back in 1990, it was. I'm not sure. I can't remember any arcade from my childhood having anything but Street Fighter II in it.

After popping in your precious quarters, you can choose one of the four Ninja Kids to control (and the second, third, and fourth players can choose the others... well, okay, the fourth player doesn't GET a choice). Each one has their own unique weapon and element of magic. Blue (named Hanzo), for example, uses the katana and can foster the power of water. Quelle surprise. The red one (Akane) employs shuriken and is enabled by the power of fire. Et cetera, et cetera... Each of these characters look like one of the Muppets... except the yellow one. He looks more like Charles Bronson in puppet form. Once you're ready to play, that old man points again with a ridiculous look on his face, and you're off on your ninja-based adventure.

Each of the game's five chapters begins with a scene typically depicting some bizarre thugs urging the Ninja Kids to try their luck at defeating them or saying how the Satan is coming. Yeah, that's right; not just any Satan is being revived, but THE Satan. Can't just have some random Satan roaming the streets at night. It has to be the genuine one. Always ask for proof of identification first, people. Anyway, these scenes are always filled with lousy, lousy dialogue. Phrases such as "YOU WILL BE SERVANTS OF THE SATAN", "WRETCH! NINJA KIDS!", and "HERE IS A GRAVEYARD OF YOU" litter this game. My advice to Taito circa 1990: if you're going to hire a translator, at least pick one who speaks English... or has even HEARD of this new "English" language.


Did I mention Satan is green?

But beyond the giddiness of the dialogue lies a beat-em-up not unlike the others which flooded the market in the late 1980s and early-to-mid-1990s. You basically walk from the left side of an area to the right side, whomping on any and every enemy that crosses your path until only the Ninja Kids reign victorious before automatically moving on. The only major difference between this one and, say, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Final Fight, Golden Axe, or any of the other umpteen million brawlers is that... uh... hmmm... okay, hold on. I guess the only major difference is that you're characters of puppetry fighting the absolute strangest of creatures, including poorly-aged zombies, mallowy men of assumed brawn, and patriotic-in-the-pants Rastafarian ruffians. That all sounded wrong, but really, it's the only way The Ninja Kids will ever stand out amongst the already-overcrowded crowd: with nutty visuals that will stun the audience. And stun it does.

Oh, and just a quick note about the sounds of this game... there must have been some sort of drinking party going on during that aspect of the development process. No sane sound engineer would ever make elderly zombies squeak like mice when sliced in half. Seriously... but at least they were nice enough to have the arcade cabinet say "Thank you." when you inserted a coin. You don't get love like that much anymore...

All in all, The Ninja Kids isn't all that different from any other brawler on the market, though it does have its own unique sense of twisted charm. More popular examples have done it just as well -- if not a tad better and more memorably -- but that's no reason to treat The Ninja Kids like the plague. Give it a shot if you find it in your local arcade, though you might need to dust it off first...


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