Review by The Manx

Reviewed: 01/25/04

Let's adventure Chinaland!

I said in my Shining Force II review that its series was a paradox in that its first product was lame, and each game got a little better as the designers learned what worked with their game and what did not. The Ninja Brothers/Kung Fu Heroes games are like that too. Each one got a little better as the series progressed.

So our heroes are Jack and Ryu, two kids learning the art of the ninja from their mentor, imaginatively named Mentor. Soon the TV of their mountain retreat is warning them that evil Yoma clan has taken over the capital city of Chinaland and are spreading their influence unchecked. Unchecked, that is, until Jack and Ryu hear about it...

As has been remarked this game has a lot in common with Dragonball. It has young martial artists wandering through a land populated by cartoony animals and villains, on a quest against evil and to assemble a set of seven magical doohickeys (in this case the Bells of Prism).

Gameplay-7/10
Well it's an RPG so you wander around a map from town to town until you randomly encounter some monsters and fight them. However, you don't do it by giving your characters commands. Instead you jump, punch and kick (only after getting a special power up, though) your way through the Yoma Clan's warriors. You can get your on hands on various extra weapons like throwing stars and swords (to fight dragons, as in Kung Fu Heroes) and mirror shields to deflect lightning bolts and enemy beams.

This isn't bad, but there are some factors that knocked it down three big points. First, the frequency with which you encounter enemies on the map screen is simply heinous. You literally cannot go two steps without some nutjob jumping out looking for a fight. I have to think this is why they give you the Dragstar, a car that lets you drive around without running into enemies.

You have a strict limit on the number of healing items you can have in inventory at a time. Sometimes eight puny sweet buns and one meat bun will just not be enough unless you have insanely high levels. Which you might, depending on how well you put up with my last complaint.

Some aspects of combat feel poorly crafted. Kicks are hard to use, and those blocks you punch that fly off when you do are completely random, so if you actually kill any enemies with one of those it's because of luck. And there aren't many enemies against whom throwing stars work better than a punch or flip.

Graphics-6/10
Only a slight step up from Kung Fu Heroes. Still, the characters are large and non-threatening making this game a healthy choices for younger gamers (if there still any who play the NES, that is).

Sound-6/10
The composition of the tunes is slightly above average, though I can't say I particularly liked any of them. Annoyingly overused is the ''fight'' theme, which you'll be hearing every three steps on the mape screen.

Overall-7/10
I've made some big knocks against this game, but in addition to the lively graphics and amusing bad translating, it has that indescribable qualities some games have that it just grows on you, and you want to play again and again, to make it to the next level and beat that next boss. It ain't the best game ever, but you will have a lot of fun with Little Ninja Brothers.

Rating:   3.5 - Good

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