Ninja JaJaMaru Kun was a game released by Jaleco for the Famicom that had a simple premise of rescuing a princess and taking out enemies and yet proved to be a truly addictive experience if a bit repetitive. The game spawned a franchise and City Connection, ININ Games and Ratailaika have released three Ninja JaJaMaru games/collections that show why the series was so good. Starting with Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell, we have a modern take on the franchise that manages to bring back what was so great about the series, while also paying tribute to Jaleco as a whole.

Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell can be compared to games like Pac-Man Championship Edition, as it serves as a remix of the series’ roots. You start out with levels very reminiscent of the original game but quickly get to levels that manage to experiment in fun ways. New types of enemies appear and the boss battles are intense but fun.

Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle + Hell is a game you will have fun with, whether by yourself or with friends, but the game is a bit more geared to playing with friends in terms of difficulty. Still, whether you are facing individual levels or taking on bosses, there is almost a desire to keep going and trying to do better. It is fun playing either way, but the experience really does feel significantly different depending on how many people you play with.

But wait, what about the + Hell part of the game? Well getting more Jalecoins and meeting enough requirements will unlock hell mode. This mode is more than just a hard mode for the game, as it brings us more stages and enemies that differ from before. There are also a number of new abilities for JajaMaru to use, but there is also the addition of RPG elements.

Now Jajamaru and blue Jajamaru can level up skills as they progress and these RPG elements are not just window dressing, but massively change up the gameplay as well.  Both of these modes are incredibly fun in different ways due to these differences and they both feel fresh. If there is one issue, it is that the stages in Hell mode are not as visually diverse as they could be.

Both modes have excellent music and fun stages, but Great Yokai Battle just feels like the stages can be more different. Hell Mode, however, does still have well-designed stages but they are also designed around the new mechanics. Still, with the great music and effects in both modes, particularly when using a power-up, there is a lot to love here both in terms of audio and visual aspects.

With the rise of many retro-style arcade games these days, such as Donut Dodo, it is great to see Ninja JaJaMaru get this treatment as well and in such a good way. This is a great throwback to an older style of gameplay, and the multiple unlockables that reference Jaleco’s history are something that just makes you smile. This is a tribute done right and something that we can all enjoy.

But this is not just a new game as ININ Games and Ratalaika Games have released Ninja JaJaMaru: Retro Collection, both as a bonus and a separate game. This collects five retro Ninja JaJaMaru games and the diversity of games is rather interesting.  From the origins of the series to the SNES entries, Ninja JaJaMaru is represented here and Ratalaika has included a number of goodies including rewind options, and various optional enhancements for each game to make the experience more to your liking.

Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun is the original game and still holds up rather well today. The game always felt like a game made for the arcade crowd and even though it has aged now, it still plays well today. Ninja JaJaMaru’s Big Adventure takes the arcade style of the original game and mixes it with a traditional platformer. This is one that honestly feels like it is showing its age far more. The gameplay just feels awkward and stiff and like Jaleco did not yet know what direction the franchise was to take.

The next game included is Ninja JaJaMaru: Operation Milky Way, a vast leap forward in quality. This game allows you to play as either JaJaMaru or Princess Sakura in an adventure set in outer space. This is far and away the best game in the retro game collection and is full of unique gameplay elements, with each level genuinely feeling like something different in a good way.

Super Ninja Kid is a game from the 16 Bit Era and looks great but ends up feeling like a step back after Operation Milky Way. It is far better than Big Adventure and manages to better blend the original game and platforming elements, and in some ways feels like Big Adventure done right. Even still, it just feels like it just did not do as much as it could have.

The Last two games in the retro collection are Ninja JaJaMaru The Great World Adventure and The Great World Adventure DX, A game boy game and its colour version. These are interesting games, or game rather since, as it’s a black and white version and a colour version with no other differences, and this is a big step up from the quality of Super Ninja Kid. Yes, it was on a less powerful system, but the creativity and world tour aspect is something that really helps it stand out. The bosses and levels are varied and the story is good, it just doesn’t quite reach Operation Milky Way levels.

But that is not all as yet another collection includes the RPG spinoffs that never came to the West until now! The Ninja Skill Book and The Legend of the Golden Castle are now available in multiple localizations and the games are rather interesting.

The Ninja Skill Book really shows its inspiration right from the start as this game takes a lot of cues from  Dragon Quest,  specifically the first game, complete with the need to select an option on the menu for everything you do. There are a lot of other dated aspects as well, such as the way the random battles work and battle menus. The music is also very lacklustre, especially when compared to many other retro RPGs from that era. The game looks good but that is all it has going for it.

On the other hand, The Legend of Golden Castle is a game that has aged very well. This one is an overhead action RPG that calls to mind the Mana series. This game sees you travel from town to town as you go on a journey and use various weapons as you battle the enemies. This is a fun game and the action never feels lacking. There are new abilities to find, new weapons and items to buy in stores and an epic journey to go on. While the Ninja Skill Book was lacking in music and inventive gameplay, The Legend of Golden Castle has amazing music and is constantly changing things up to keep things fresh in each section. This alone is worth buying the RPG collection for.

In each of these retro collections there are a number of bonuses from developer Ratalaika such as a rewind feature, save states and various QOL touches. There are also a number of cheats available for the retro games and additional “blessings” for the RPGs, some of which can actually radically change the way you play the game and brings a new way of approaching the experience.

City Connection, ININ Games and Ratailaka did a great job with these Ninja JaJaMaru games and fans of all genres can have something to enjoy. These are very much recommended to play, especially for fans of old-school classics.

Disclaimer: Review JKeys Were provided