Genre: Platformer Developer: Psygnosis Publisher: Sony Imagesoft Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
I got my Genesis CDX in August of 2005 for sixty bucks with about thirty cartridges and about twelve Sega CD games. Looking through everything, I found 3 Ninjas Kick Back, so I popped it in and died in the first half minute. I got mad, shut it off and never paid it any attention until last week. Was I right to let this cartridge sink to the bottom of my Genesis collection, or was I skipping a “lost gem?” Well, to be honest, to say that I had absolutely no fun with this game is a too much of a stretch. It’s not bad but I certainly didn’t have a “gem” in my collection.
The gameplay is pretty average. Before I popped this one in for a second go, I looked it up on YouTube to see what I might expect. I learn that that you can climb, swing, and angle your swings from things like ledges and tree limbs. I thought, “cool, There’s a Bionic Commando-like game for my Genesis!” Four days later, I give it a try. The first in-game screen is you standing on a ledge, and there’s a boulder right behind you, from which you have to run away like a Raiders of the Lost Ark sort of thing. If you stand on the ledge you die from the boulder. It takes you a while to not screw up the first half minute of the level.
One thing I have a problem with is that if you are standing on a small ledge, and there’s a camp fire, it’s hard to determine how close you can stand next to it. The collision detection isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but it can be pretty mind-numbingly bad at times. Another bad thing is that if you press down and then move, you crawl, instead of pressing down AND your desired direction. The thing that cripples the game the most is that I have no clue where to go ON THE FIRST LEVEL. This is one of those games where if you didn’t see the movie, book, comic, etc. then you are LOST, similar to those old DOS adventure games or Atari games which require the manual or FAQ.
Visually, 3 Ninjas Kick Back is average. There are decent colorful backgrounds, but the characters look like they are all the same with only their palette swapped and with some height difference. The sprites are small and uninteresting to look at., and it’s really hard for me to go into greater detail because that’s pretty much all there is for five levels, aside from an okay 16-bit era background with some occasional interesting visual effects. For example, in the first level, if you go under a bridge after the third boulder passes through coming from the right, there is transparent fog in the foreground down by a cavern-like thing.
Sadly, there isn’t much movement or animation in the backgrounds. The thing is, this game came out in 1994 and the backgrounds and sprites look like they are from one of those early Genesis titles that are for the most part, NES games with higher detail, which was okay for Genesis games from around 1989 to 1991, but this game looks much too primitive, and it was released the year before Saturn came out. I wish that there was something in the backgrounds worth mentioning, outside of effects, so that way I can explain in words how they look, but there isn’t much to describe.
The music is top notch, at least. It is a mix of Shinobi-like music and really utilizes the hardware, and that’s no overblown statement. This soundtrack is a great testament to what FM synthesis can do and is probably one of the best soundtracks for a Sony Imagesoft game. Movie games are perceived as bad from the get-go, and along with bad gameplay, so there probably isn’t much expectation for the sound department. 3 Ninjas Kick Back’s soundtrack is one of the best movie game soundtracks I’ve heard since Goldeneye for N64, and that’s coming from a true Bond fan. Sure, the soundtrack has a handful of throw-aways, but doesn’t every soundtrack have at least one or two filler songs. Unfortunately, the sound effects will make you want to pull your face off, so be sure to turn them off before you start. The voice sample when any of your chosen protagonists gets hurt is the most annoying I’ve heard, no bull.
Overall, 3 Ninjas Kick Back is a mediocre game. In its defense, it at least isn’t entirely bad, but there’s no appeal to continue or finish whatsoever. If you look into an image search engine, whether it’s Google or Yahoo or whatever, and you type in its name, you will only get upwards of about two to seven results. Just another one of those late 16-bit era games that have faded from memory and were overshadowed by the Saturn, PlayStation, N64, and all the secondary minor consoles like the 3DO, CD-i, Apple Pippen, Sega 32X, and etc. If you find this in a pawn shop bargain bin for $3 or less, pick it up. It’s fun for a weekend, but then it’ll gather dust and be pushed to the back of your game collection, next to your copy of Shaq-Fu and Bubsy 3D.
SCORE: 6 out of 10