It all started for me back in 1987 when I was visiting my local computer shop to check out what new titles were out. I entered the shop and heard some oriental music playing from somewhere in the shop. I searched around and soon discovered that the music I was hearing was from a new game called The Last Ninja by System 3. To my surprise what I was hearing was not actually the in-game music, but rather music that was playing whilst the level was loading. After several minutes of watching a multitude of coloured lines dance around the screen, the game – or rather level – loaded, and I was blown away by it. It didn’t take me long to decide about it – I just had to have the game. Literally throwing my money at the shop owner (sorry about that – hope it didn’t hurt too much) I grabbed my copy of the game and raced home. Running up stairs I fired up my trusty old C64, put the cassette in the deck and loaded it up.
I must have played that game so many times over the next few months that I almost wore the tape out. I never tired of the look or feel of it. For its day it was undoubtedly one of the best games around. Six different pieces of loading music for each level and the six more for each level in the game – it was great. The isometric graphics were excellent but occasionally made for some tricky situations, such as over and across some partially submerged rocks in a river – one wrong move or miss-timed jump and you fell into its depths and the whole process had to be attempted again.
But that never bothered me. I always wanted to see what was coming next. Would I finally find that bamboo staff hidden among the canes, or track down those elusive smoke bombs that with the aid of a well placed throw would allow me to pass by the statue guardians? Each successive level brought new puzzles and problems, all of which I pushed through to get to the next ones. And all these years later I still occasionally retrieve the C64 from my loft and play it through again, just for that nostalgic feeling from yesteryear. And that got me to thinking: what is it about this game, or either of its two sequels, that keeps drawing me back for another go? Is it the stylish graphics or fantastic music? Or could it possibly be due to the theme or overall game play? The answer – for me at least – is yes to all of the factors. The Last Ninja certainly had a great mix of these ingredients and still manages to eclipse some of the titles I’ve played in this modern era of gaming. Yes, there are some great titles out there right now (GTA 4 for example), and some good looking ones just around the corner (MGS 4 and StarCraft 2 are top of my list), but shiny graphics and modern technology do not always result in a great game. Of course this is just my opinion, but I wonder how many of us out there still have fond memories of some classic titles as opposed to modern ones.