1988
Arcade: Gang beat-em-up
£8.95
£2.99
English
ZX Spectrum 48K/128K
Multiple schemes (see individual downloads)

16
Mark Caswell, Phil King
Chris Bourne

THE PRESIDENT IS MISSING!

Ocean have clearly picked their moment to release this coin-op conversion. A year or so back the scenario was hardly that worrying, the US President is kidnapped by a gang of Ninjitsu and you have to rescue him. Rescue Reagan? But now it's all changed with Dan ('nuclear war is nice') Quayle set to replace Prez Bush...

As in the Data East original there are eight levels (one load on 128K, eight really fast multiloads on 48K machines). Probably the most notable thing about Dragon Ninja is the relative smallness of the main character graphics, half the size of those in Double Dragon or Target; Renegade. This allows there to be two levels, one upper and one lower floor, through most of the game. Moreover the small ninja figures and such like are attractively drawn, with good detailing and animation, while all the standard beat-'em-up moves are preserved.

Background graphics are no less professional, albeit monochromatic. You start off on a city street, move onto the top of huge speeding juggernauts, descend into the sewers, ascend to the park, drop down to some caves, hop on top of a train which takes you to a factory where the President is, then escape from the roof. Populating these levels are hordes of black clad Ninja, beautiful ladies to knock you dead, large, ferocious dogs and heavily-armoured end-of-level baddies.

While battling though these levels you have to watch your power meter, which can be boosted by picking up power pods. You can also collect knives and chains, dropped by defeated enemies, but shuriken stars can only be dodged. There's no time to linger examining your weapons though, there's a time limit for each level. Occasionally, capsules appear which can reset the timer, or give you a super-punch, but the time limit is pretty easy anyway.

Given the obvious professionalism with which one of my favourite beat-'em-ups has been converted it's a great disappointment that not only has the two-player option been lost, but so has much of the game's difficulty - I got up to Level Seven on my second go. The problem is that if you crouch down and punch you defeat practically any of the enemies, which is completely unlike the coin-op. Younger players not yet hardened to beat-'em-up gameplay could find this fun, but for the rest of us this is something of a tragedy.

MARK … 50%

THE ESSENTIALS
Joysticks: Cursor, Kempston, Sinclair
Graphics: smallish sprites on monochromatic background
Sound: good oriental 128K title tune, standard in-game bashing effects
Options: definable keys

CRITICISM

'Oh no, not another oriental beat-'em-up - why oh why do they keep producing them? But even I don't mind if they've got some originality. Unfortunately, Dragon Ninja doesn't - even the coin-op from which it is derived relies more on amazing graphics and sound instead of gameplay. All it consists of is the endless kicking and punching of swarming ninja. Worse still, like many other beat-'em-ups, the crouch punch/kick is tar too powerful - the enemies can rarely hit you when in this position. So advancing through the levels is a piece of cake. Even the larger end-of-level baddies don't present much of a challenge. Technically, the monochromatic graphics are not overly impressive, although the oriental 128K title tune and bashing sound effects are okay. But the simple lack of difficulty means you're better off saving your cash for Renegade III.' PHIL … 42%

General Rating: No originality, or difficulty here, just another repetitive beat-'em-up.

60%
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Screenshot Text

Under ninja attack in the sewers.

High jinks on top of a speeding juggernaut.

Searching the park for a Bush.