C64 Review of The Last Ninja from Issue 28

ZzapTest Logo by Biggest Jim


Long ago, at the birth of one of the world's earliest civilisations, a mysterious clan formed and become known as the Ninja brotherhood. Feared even by the powerful Samurai, their potent combination of martial arts and mind control ensured their place at the top of the oriental hierarchy.

Every ten years, the Ninja army travelled to the Island of Lin Fen to pay homage to the shrine of the White Ninja. Realising that this was the only time in which he would see the entire band of Ninja's en masse, their arch enemy, Kunitoki, seized the opportunity to attempt their total destruction. The evil Shogun summoned forth all the spirits he could muster from the dark side of magic and used them to wipe out all life on the island.

Believing his terrible task to be complete, Kunitoki set sail for the deserted island with his army of guards and Samurai officers. Should these dark forces find the legendary Koga Scrolls, they could become a new Ninja Force - but this time under the evil Emperor's control.

However, one Ninja did live through the holocaust. Armakuni had been left behind to guard the Bunkinkan Shrine, and consequently survived the terrible massacre. Hearing the news of his comrades' betrayal, he too sets out for the remote island - his one purpose in life being the recovery [sic of] the ancient secrets from the clutches of the Samurai, and revenge for his murdered brothers ...

The island of Lin Fen is split into six distinct sections which must be negotiated in order - the Wilderness, Wastelands, Palace Gardens and Dungeons, followed by the lower level of the Palace, and finally the Palace's Inner Sanctum. Each section is loaded separately, and consists of a small maze of pathways crossed by rivers and marshes. A puzzle has to be solved before Armakuni can progress between sections - for instance, having defeated many of the Samurai's guards and traversed a marsh by somersaulting from log to log, he must then pass a fire-breathing dragon - but how?

Guards patrol the island, and are either defeated in combat or deftly avoided. Armakuni uses his fists and feet to despatch his opponents, or alternatively uses one of the five weapons found along the way - a sword, numchukas, three smoke bombs, six shuriken stars and a bamboo staff. Other useful objects include a pouch which enables him to carry other objects, a key, apples (which provide extra lives), a claw, a glove (best worn before picking up a certain object which is otherwise deadly to the touch), an amulet and more.

Ninja Magic is found in certain locations, endowing the hero with temporary invulnerability when collected, and consequently allowing him to overcome otherwise impassable obstacles.

Bordering the playing area is an information display, showing the Ninja's energy, weapons carried, weapon in use, object held, and the opponent's energy.

This review was typed in/OCRed by Jianso

ZzapBack Logo by Biggest Jim
In the spirit of ZzapBack, you can have your say about how the game reviewed above, stands up in the cold light of today. Has it aged badly or is it still worth a few plays? Read other peoples thoughts and post your own.

The current ZzapBack rating is : 87%

Check out the most recent ZzapBack comments.
Rate It!
Login or Register at the forums if you want to be able to edit your comments

Your name :

Your comments :

Your rating 1% to 100% :

Conrad - 2 Apr 2011
Great game which kept me up until the early morning hours. I was stuck at level one and could not get past that damn Dragon, as you had to stand at a certain spot to through the 'gas'....excellent, as when I eventually figured it out I played until the end. It was one of the best for the C64 and showed what could be done. It was innovative in design and had excellent sound. Some parts had frustrating control parts but I enjoyed it from beginning to end.

Rating : 100%
John Robson - 5 Nov 2009
For the price this was great.

It provided me with some fun too.

Rating : 84%
syntax error - 9 Mar 2006
I still enjoy this fab game with my friend. Back in the days we drank tea and played away for hours.

A timeless classic!

Rating : 90%
neilb - 17 May 2004
Excellent graphics and good sound. It played well too.

Don't feel it is a classic C64 game though. It lacks depth and is too handsome for its own good.

Rating : 75%
CraigGrannell - 4 Dec 2003
The execution for this game was fabulous. Although the sequels took everything up a notch, the backdrops for this game still look pretty good and suitably oriental. The soundtrack was under-rated at the time, and Last Ninja's stirring audio has stood the test of time. However, I never thought the gameplay was up to much and the passage of time has done little to convince me otherwise. The pace is sluggish in the extreme and the fight scenes tedious, and although wandering around ancient oriental lands is mildly stimulating, I preferred the odd juxtaposition of the Last Ninja arriving in New York for the sequel. Not bad, but far from a classic in my book.

Rating : 72%
Iain - 1 Dec 2003
I played this recently on a real C64, when I bought one off eBay and it's still a great game.

The Last Ninja I played most was the second game so that one has a special place in my heart but I got addicted to this one as well.

The fighting action seems very sedate by todays standards but the other elements of the game make up for this.

Even reviewed today, this game is worthy of a Gold Medal!

The sound rating should be upped 10% while we've at it as well!

Rating : 97%
SLF - 1 Dec 2003
I have recently replayed through this classic, and I must say its atmosphere is still unmatchable. Great storyline, fantastic soundtrack, a good mixture of not overly taxing puzzles and enjoyable (if by no means perfect) beat 'em up... I never had a problem with river jumps (as many people has), but it has to be said that the graphics and animation, albeit still very good, are not as mindblowing as they were in summer 87.
What it lacks in gameplay is made up for by atmosphere, and I still prefer it over its technically more refined sequels.
pr 95, gr 92, so 97, ho 94, la 90.

Rating : 93%
Ciaran Brennan
The ZZAP! team got its first glimpse of The Last Ninja in the weeks leading up to the production of our Sampler cassette, and what most impressed me then was the main character's movement - being some of the most realistic I've even seen. The completed product has lived up to the expectations generated by this early glimpse, and thankfully has arrived with gameplay to match its stunning graphics. The control method is quite tricky to begin with, but actually adds to the enjoyment when mastered. The music too is more than cosmetic, adding impetus to the player's action as it intermittently speeds up and slows down. The Last Ninja is one of those rare games which offers hours of consistently puzzling and enjoyable gameplay.
Steve Jarratt
I'm always a sucker for smart graphics, and The Last Ninja has some real crackers - screens and screens of them in fact. The animation on Ninja and his pals is simply gorgeous and I love the way that the character is so flexible: he can execute all manner of movements, depending on his weapon or the item which he's using. The precision needed to co-ordinate all of this movement proves challenging rather than frustrating, and it really feels as if you are controlling a living being, not merely a bunch of sprites. The lack of a save game feature may prove irritating at a later stage, but this is the only fault I could find with what is otherwise an exceptional piece of software - not to be missed.
Gary Penn
The Last Ninja's gameplay isn't anything special, but the concept has been executed extremely well. It isn't as interactive as I would have liked, and when it boils down to it there isn't really much to it - but at least when you solve a problem you feel as though you've achieved something. The first two loads didn't prove too difficult to complete - they were occasionally frustrating, but not overly taxing. The graphics however are nothing short of brilliant, with solid and realistic backdrops and beautifully animated sprites. I particularly like the way that the Ninja and his enemies produce their weapons prior to a fight - very effective. There's something about The Last Ninja which reminds me of an Ultimate adventure, although that said, this is far more enjoyable to play ... even with the multi-load.
Presentation 90%
Excellent, apart from the inflexible multi-load.

Graphics 98%
Stunning animation across superb and varied backdrops.

Sound 88%
Twelve pleasant and suitably Oriental tunes, adding greatly to the the [sic] tension and atmosphere.

Hookability 93%
Tricky control method, made up for by the relative ease of the initial screens.

Lastability 91%
Each of the 150 screens provides a real challenge.

Overall 94%
Enough depth and action to satisfy both adventurers and martial artists.