Dragon Ninja

by Paul Owens, Mark R. Jones, Bill Harbison
Imagine Software Ltd
Crash Issue 90, July 1991   (1991-06-20)   page(s) 49

The Hit Squad
£3.99 re-release

The President of the United States has been kidnapped by a band of oriental thugs, so it's up to you as a Bad Dude to rescue him. Seven levels filled with ninja assassins and various other nasty thugs face you.

You start the game weaponless (apart from your fists and feet) but as you wander along the horizontally scrolling scene chains and knives appear. Collecting these does little to improve the power of your shots, they just increase your reach.

You have a super-powered punch at your disposal if needed, and I'm sure you will need it at some point because the enemy come at you thick and fast. A timer counts down, too - if you don't reach the end of a level before the time's expired, a life is lost. Having fought your way to level's end, the only thing to beat is the end-of-level guardian before soldiering on.

The trouble with this tame is it's too darn easy to complete. When you're attacked, all you have to do is crouch down and punch. It's simplicity itself to complete the game using this tactic. And that, punters, is about it.

Overall: 55%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Crash Issue 62, March 1989   (1989-02-23)   page(s) 16

The president is missing!

Producer: Imagine
Karate lessons: £8.95 cass, £14.95 disk
Author: Paul Owens

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%]

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

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%]

Presentation: 60%
Graphics: 50%
Sound: 69%
Playability: 47%
Addictive Qualities: 42%
Overall: 46%

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

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 40, April 1989   page(s) 58

George Bush has been kidnapped by a gang of belligerent ninjas!!! And you, unfortunately, are the one who's picked to go and rescue him. So arm yourself to the teeth with nunchakus and prepare to face up to the seven levels of ninjas ahead of you.

Set in the streets of some American city, Dragon Ninja has you battling through streets, sewers and forests balancing on top of swaying trucks and trains, all in order to reach the Pres. The screen is split into two levels, and you can change between the two quite easily. Very handy for ninja-dodging.

At the end of each level you will meet a mega baddy who takes a little longer to duff up, but if you keep hitting him and running away, you can escape virtually unharmed. The nasty ninjas include a Karnov lookalike with curry on his breath, a manic robot who keeps jumping up and down before you get the chance to hit him, and a ninja who has an irritating habit of suddenly multiplying into an army, and who proceeds to hit you so fast and furious you hardly get a chance to hit it back. There is also a somersaulting giant who keeps clapping with your head between his hands, and a stick weilding Lobin Hood. Last, but by no means least there is an axeman intent on lopping your head off... and leaving you wandering around like a dead chicken.

On your travels around picturesque New York you will find the odd object dropped by your enemies when you kill them. These include a boxy thing for energy, a little clock for time and a funny looking fork which gives you a better reach and the ability to kill a few ninjas in one blow (a very useful object indeed).

As you go through the game it gets progressively harder, with the addition of the odd rabid dog from level four onwards.

A game with such potential unfortunately falls short of being addictive. The first three levels are ridiculously easy and I'm afraid the rest of the game doesn't get much harder. It looks great but a well qualified ninja gamester will probably finish this game the day before they buy it.

Dragon Ninja is an interesting game and the graphics (except the loading screen) are well thought out, but I would only recommend this game to anyone sick enough to want to rescue George Bush.

Graphics: 8/10
Playability: 7/10
Value For Money: 6/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Overall: 7/10

Summary: Pretty kick-'em-up that doesn't quite fulfil it's promise.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Your Sinclair Issue 66, June 1991   page(s) 76

As you may or may not know, Dragon Ninja is a 7-level multiload single-player horizontally-scrolling beat-'em-up. You play a bloke called Bad Dude who's been asked to wipe out the sinister and spooky 'Dragon Ninja' organisation. To do this you need to beat up squillions of black-clad Ninja Assassins and hardly-clad-at-all Women Warriors, as well as the odd top-brass baddie like a Fire-Breathing Fat Man. (Do these people really expect to be served in restaurants?) At the end of all the carnage there should be an American President to pick up and take back home. Steal weapons, collect energy and time icons, and use the R-Type-type variable-strenght power punch on those end-of-level nasties.

Thrills? Excitement? Innovation? Whatever happened to them? Dragon Ninja is quite breathtakingly average. The usual detailed graphics, wide range of fighting moves and incredibly repetitive gameplay are all here, so everyone but the most dedicated (and undemanding) beat-'em-up fan should immediately fling their pennies elsewhere. A re-release that needn't have bothered to 're'

Overall: 60%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 82, January 1989   page(s) 104,105

Dragon Ninja, or to give it its full working title, Bad Dudes vs Dragon Ninja is the latest coin-op conversion from those lovely people at Ocean. Not a lot of people have heard of it, but as a coin-op, it wasn't arf bad.

You are the Bad Dude, on a mission from some secret US intelligence group. The problem is, you see, the President himself has been kidnapped. Now, given the recent state of affairs, you wouldn't think that anyone would actually mind, but in a perfect world, the President of the US is a role model, a hero and everybody loves him. His kidnapper, the terrible Dragon Ninja, is probably the most ruthless assassin ever. Merciless, cold, unfeeling and a pain in the bum.

You have to pursue him through seven levels of violence, death, torture and all round kickings. The first level has you in the street, in search of the first of Dragon Ninja's clan. You are assailed by three types of enemy. The first, and most common are the ninja. These start off pretty easy to kill, but as the game progresses, they get harder and harder. When they begin, they walk on from one direction, kick you and walk off. On later levels they come back and attack you repeatedly until you die. The second enemy is the floozy. Dressed in suspenders and a bra, she attacks you, walks past, and then backflips to have another crack. The third is the dog. He runs along the bottom of the screen and if you happen to be there, he'll bite you. Simple as that.

As with Rolling Thunder, and believe me, this games does bear a passing resemblance, the game is mainly spread over two levels, and, with the exception of two screens, you can jump freely between them.

At the end of the first level, you meet Karnov, the first of DN's clan. Karnov, funnily enough, looks just like Karnov out of Karnov the game, apart from the fact that he's more than twice the size and a lot more deadly. Still, I suppose one drunken Russian looks much the same as another. It's no use leaping from level to level trying to avoid him, as he follows you. You also have a limited amount of time as well, so it's best to get the job done as quickly as possible. Karnov has two attack moves. The first is just a basic punch, which does some pretty serious damage. The second involves him stepping back, taking a huge breath and then blowing a flame out at head height Pretty heavy stuff. Manage to kill him, and then you move onto level two.

Level two involves racing along the tops of a convoy of trucks, driving from left to right. You are attacked by all the same baddies as in level one, only now they are already starting to get a little more difficult. It's also a little harder because you can't jump down to the lower level.

At the end of the level, the computer takes control as you leap off the front of the truck and confront the second of the clan. Claws. Claws, as his name suggests, simply walks towards you and tries to claw you to death.

Then you're onto the third level. This is much like the first, the only main difference being that you are now in a sewer. At the end of the level is a super ninja, who splits into five, four times. Once you have destroyed all 20 ninja. then it's into the forest.

The forest is the same as levels one and three, apart from the fact that it has a new nastie. A fire-man (8 man on fire, no less) runs along the levels, and should he touch you, you lose energy. At the end of the level is Animal, a spike covered robot, who spins at an amazingly fast rate and whips you with his spikes.

Into the caves you go to meet all the usual ninja and things, and finally you get to fight Pole, who does all the stuff that Animal does, except that this time he does it with a six foot piece of wood.

It's back onto the single level bit again on level six, and this time you're running along the top of a train. Fight all the usual stuff again (by now it's getting a little bit difficult), and you tight a guy with a morning star (spiked ball on a chain) and a scythe. If you beat him, and I doubt you will, you go onto the final screen - the warehouse.

The warehouse is where it all happens. Want to know what you get to fight? All of the Dragon clan all over again. One at a time, of course. Then you fight Dragon Ninja himself, who you find sitting quite happily on a helicopter runner throwing little balls of fire at you.

As a conversion, the Speccy version ain't bad at all Graphically it is quite recognisable, and the end of level nasties are particularly well defined.

It is difficult, being as you get a short time limit and a small amount of energy to start with. Some ninja, when kicked, drop something. Some drop a knife, some drop a chain. The really helpful ones drop little capsules that either give you extra time or extra energy. Pretty good stuff.

Overall: Not Rated

Overall: Not Rated

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Sinclair User Issue 112, June 1991   page(s) 35

The President of the United States has really been having a bad week hasn't he. Either he has a suppressed desire to be kidnapped and tied up all the time or certain members of the Secret Service aren't doing their jobs properly. Maybe their sunglasses are so dark they can't see the a guys comin'!

This beat 'em up is played over seven mean screen levels. All the maiming features are here punch, kick, jump, flying kick and a very useful super punch. The numerous dark assassins come from all directions as do the leggy females. They all want a piece of your ass, but dinner and sweet conversation is the last thing on their minds. By standing still and holding down the fire button for few seconds the super punch can persuade most of your assailants that you're no push over.

Dragon Ninja hammers a path across factory platforms, juggernauts and various other extremely well drawn backdrops. His adversaries are equally nice to look at, especially the end of level barbarians. Take care though they may be pretty but they all have a secret weapon. Some of the rascals breath fire whilst one giant ninja suddenly multiplies into an army (shouting two times two, four times four...)

Control over your main man is a little sluggish and quite often you'll be surrounded by nasties and pressing the fire button vigorously whilst wrenching the joystick out of its housing. All you will achieve is a half-bad impression of Michael Jackson's dancing. With practice you'll learn to conserve your energy for more calculated attacks.

B.D. vs D.N. takes a worn out idea and somehow makes it fresh again - a very, very, good game. Personally I couldn't care if the president does get rescued. the silly sod will only go missing again next month.

Label: Hit Squad
Memory: 48K/128K
Price: £2.99 Tape, £NA Disk
Reviewer: Steve Keen

Graphics: 84%
Sound: 70%
Playability: 80%
Lastability: 75%
Overall: 82%

Summary: A definite addition to your budget collection. The beat 'em up will be with us a lot longer yet and this will be nearer the top of your games pile than most.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

ACE Issue 20, May 1989   page(s) 80

Imagine, £8.95cs, £14.95dk
Amstrad version reviewed Issue 18 - ACE rating 856

The solo Bad Dude continues his efforts against Dragon Ninja on the monochrome stage of the Spectrum. The playability is all there, although the control method isn't as accessible as on the Amstrad and the screen tends to look cluttered at times. Dragon Ninja is multiloaded on the 48K, with just a single load on the 128.

Ace Rating: 792/1000

Transcript by Chris Bourne

Computer & Videogames Issue 116, July 1991   page(s) 85

Hit Squad
Spectrum £2.99

Dragon Ninja is yet another opportunity to roam baddie-infested streets, beating up all and sundry with your hands, fists or any other lethal weapons you come across. Dragon Ninja is a definite improvement over the lacking Double Dragon, and isn't a bad purchase for Speccy beat 'em up addicts.

Overall: 73%

Transcript by Chris Bourne

The Games Machine Issue 17, April 1989   page(s) 31

Spectrum 48/128 Cassette: £8.95, Diskette: £14.95
Amstrad CPC Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95
Commodore 64/128 Cassette: £9.95, Diskette: £14.95


The President's been grabbed by Ninjas! Someone notices and raises the alarm. Enter Dragon Ninja to fight through eight levels and rescue the man. With this much plot you couldn't expect much in the way of subtle gameplay - you'd be right.

Ninjas are out to stop you. They deal out death with razor-sharp swords and nunchakus. Female ninjas, killer dogs and real bad end-of-level dudes lessen your chances of surviving. And watch out for multiplying ninjas and Mr Big.

Some of the coin-op's originality remains in these computer conversions with action taking place in various locations. The 8-bit games are one-player only, a little disappointing considering the fun that could have been had with two Dragon Ninjas, but play remains moderately enjoyable.

Overall: 61%

Summary: Gameplay is relatively easy - even with twice as many ninjas to deal with. Too much monochrome and slow scrolling dulls the presentation, but at least playability hasn't been sacrificed.

Transcript by Chris Bourne

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