Often people discuss what is the best game
for a certain entertainment system
. Usually these discussions turn into long drawn out debates untill everyone looses interest and the subject is dropped. When one of these discussions takes place about the best game for the Commodore 64
, there is no discussion, no arguments. Everyone is in agreement that there was but one game that stood higher than any other game in the systems history. That game was.....
The Last Ninja
Made by a company called "System 3" in 1987 the game was cutting edge (for its time). The game had everything, jaw dropping graphics (this was 1987), kickass gameplay, and a soundtrack with no equal.
The game is an isometric fixed view, with your ninja running around using the joystick. When you hit the edge of the screen the next screen appears with your character at the appropriate edge he just came from. A little disorientating but you get used to it in about 5 minutes.
The soundtrack is simply beautiful. The biggest bane of the old c64 was that a lot of the games were on tape, and took up to half an hour to load (and when you died, the game often had to spend another 5 minutes loading the start of the first level again). This was one of the few games that the loading didnt bother me at all. The music is a weird techno/drum and bass hybrid, and I believe it's probably what started my love of electronica music. There are a few really good remixes out there (the ones by Bart Klepka are particulary noteworthy). A big thanks must go to noder Carthag for telling me that Ben Daglish was the composer of the last ninja theme music.
Good graphics and good sound mean nothing if gameplay is non-existant, and this is perhaps TLN strongest area. I mean, you get to play a ninja! A FUCKING NINJA! Nothing is cooler than ninjas, except maybe pirates or robots, and even then its a tough call. It was also a break from the traditional portrayal of ninjas as masters of stealth who avoid confrontation. Sure there are situations where stealth is called for, but this game was all about flipping out and killing everyone. The game had some puzzle elements, which involved doing rather weird stuff and encountering weird things, such as...
Praying to statues of buddha to find out what item to get next.
Using sleep bombs on a dragon and sneaking past him while hes asleep.
Jumping puzzles over swamps which look like open sewers.
Little bags hanging on trees that, when touched, grant you invincibility for a short amount of time.
Amulets of teleportation
Roses that kill you if you touch them.
Using a broken claw off a dragon statue as a tool to help you scale a cliff.
Dodging statues that throw swords at you.
Obviously you cant be expected to face all this and the baddies lurking everywhere without some form of weaponry to kick ass with. You were given 5 weapons, which are as follows
The Sword: The first weapon you find, good all round weapon, relatively fast and moderately powerful
The Nunchucks: Slightly slower but slightly more damaging than the sword
The Staff: Slowest weapon of all, but most powerful and has the longest reach
Ninja Stars: You only get 3 each time you pick up a set of ninja stars, but they are powerful. Only one is needed to take down an enemy
Sleep Bombs: Exactly the same as the ninja stars, except they only put enemies to sleep (they will wake up after a period of time or once you leave the screen)
The saddest thing about this game is the fact that more people wont get to experience it. Sure you can grab the rom and emulator, but by todays standards the game is pretty poor. The only way someone can fully appreciate the game is if you put them in a time machine and take them back to 1987. Then again if I had the ability to travel back to 1987, I'd probably do more worthwhile things, like telling my mother not to throw away my transformers and star wars figures.