A GIF-based Let’s Play of Mystic Warriors. (56K warning!)

L Thammy

Member
For those of you who played this game before, careful about spoilers! This is a Let’s Play thread; wait a little while and we’ll get to whatever part you want to mention.

A friend and I have a standing order to play coop games once a week. It's pretty great, and that's something everyone should try too. But I'm actually here today to talk about one particular game we played recently. Well, recently when I wrote this, it took a while to put the whole thread together.

Why should you play Mystic Warriors? For one thing, it's a legitimately good run and gun. It's a spiritual sequel to Sunset Riders and improves on that formula. But the real reason is that the game is pure cheese. It runs on that eighties/nineties thing where they try to shove in as many voice samples as they can in just to show the world that they can do voice samples. Sunset Riders is known for its boss quotes but this goes even further with it. It's the best.

So, if this game is so funny, why it a meme already? Why doesn't it have an equivalent of that "bury me with my money" website? Well, unfortunately, #FuckKonami1993 didn't release a home version for some reason. Maybe it was the PlayStation around the corner, maybe the game couldn't run on home consoles at the time, I don't know. But I suspect this resulted in low exposure to the game.

Here's how this thread is going to go. It's going to be a bit like the screenshot Let's Plays from Something Awful back in the day. First I'll describe the game mechanics, then I'll go through each of the levels. I’ll spread my posts out by about 5-10 minutes, so it’ll take about as long to finish this thread as actually playing through the game.

Partway through this thread you'll probably get the urge to play the game yourself, or throw a brick through the windows of Konami HQ with "Mystic Warriors HD" written on it, and that's okay*! As long as this thread has brought this game into your life, I've done my job.

* the brick thing might not be legal, I dunno

Enough of my introduction. Let's watch the game's introduction instead!

(Music - Introduction)



























Pumped up yet? I think I managed to spot two misspellings, one unnecessary preposition, and two confusing phrasings. How did you do?

You've probably noticed that Brad is the single greatest character design in the history of video games. This may be the only game where you can play as a Buddhist monk with yellow-framed sunglasses and a hi-top fade. It's not visible here, but in gameplay he also occasionally flashes his bright red fundoshi underwear. But we'll go over the characters in detail later.

Also, I'm not really sure what Skull Enterprises does. I mean, I'm totally overthinking it. It's an arcade game and Skull is a cyberpunk megacorporation, so the assumption here is that they are just generically evil. But are they just a front for an evil world-conquering ninja army or do they engage in white collar crime or what? Are there regular-ass dudes working retail in the Skull Enterprises store at the mall?

We've got an idea of the setting now, so let's talk about the general gameplay. Mystic Warriors is a run-and-gun very much like Sunset Riders, or Contra if you prefer. You run through the levels, shoot down tons of enemies and fight bosses. Actually, being ninja, you kill them with rapid-fire shuriken. My wrist hurts just watching it. Regular enemies generally go down in one hit.

There are a couple of actions that aren't available in all games of the genre:





Line change - Like Sunset Riders, levels often have segments with an upper and lower level. Players can climb to the upper level by holding up and pressing jump, or they can drop down by holding down and pressing jump. It makes sense for multiplayer games because players can split up to cover more ground.





Slide - Another one from Sunset Riders. By holding diagonally down and pressing jump, the player can do an evasive slide. It's probably really useful if you want to play the game better than I do. I haven’t tested if it’s invincible or not.





Wall climbing - A new addition, but kind of forgettable. You cling to walls when you touch then and can climb up and down. It helps make the levels feel less flat but there aren't a lot of interesting things done with it. It would have been nice if there was a vertical level like Contra’s waterfall to really show it off.





Melee - The big addition. If you're close enough to an enemy when you press the fire button, your character instead does a melee attack. The range is actually pretty huge, and the damage done to bosses seems to be much higher than with shuriken. But I don’t have any hard data on damage, so I don’t know if it varies depending on the character or attack animation. If you get autofire you'll also do melee attacks as long as you hold down the button and are in range, which is a double-edged sword because you can’t move when you’re doing them. The animation is normally fast enough for that not to be a problem, but you might forget to let go when you need to dodge.​


Powerups are also a big part of the game, so let's go over those as well.






Food - One of the major changes from Sunset Riders is that the player has a life bar in Mystic Warriors, although not a big one. You lose your powerups when you die rather than when you get hit. Food obviously restores your life, but the real reason you pick this up is to hear the enthusiastic voice clips. SUSHI! TEMPURA! UDON! SUKIYAKI! Obviously it's all Japanese food, as our ninjas will not sully their taste buds with gaijin filth.





Shuriken - This upgrades your shot. Sunset Riders had two separate powerups that did this, one for dual wielding and one for rapid fire. In Mystic Warriors, the two upgrades you get depend on your character, and you get them in a specific order from the same powerup.





"Shinobi" orb - Picking this up temporarily surrounds your ninja in an impenetrable barrier. The more useful of the orbs, but it doesn’t last all that long, so you won’t be too excited to find them.





"Power" orb - Picking this up has your ninja do a screen clearing spell. They also yell out a special move name, like NINPOU JIGOKU OKURI (maybe?) or GOKUDAKU OJOU (no clue). Keima kind of incoherently roars out his. The item is kind of unnecessary in practice because you'd just shoot everyone on screen down anyway. Actually, it takes so long for the actual attack to come out, that the kills will inevitably go to your friends in multiplayer instead of you. Whoops.





Points items - This is an arcade game. Don’t know if you knew that.


Like in Sunset Riders, multiplayer is for up to four players, but I'm a nerd and don't have that many friends.

Whole lot of talking about the game and not enough playing. Let's hit start.

(Music - Respectively)

We're now selecting our ninja in the heroes' dojo. Not our character, our ninja. Get it right. And that kanji in the background is also the first kanji in ninja. You know, just in case you still aren't sure what this game is about. By the way, there's a nice garden off to the left with a pond and a stone lantern.





I’ve noticed that a bunch of Konami arcade games don't allow you to select your character, including Sunset Riders. So Mystic Warriors has a leg up in that regard. Good job on including a basic feature, Konami. You can change your character when you die too.

Since we're at the character select screen, it seems like the appropriate time to go over them. This is the last info dump, I promise. In Sunset Riders, the first two characters had revolvers and the second two had shotguns, with each pair operating the same. In Mystic Warriors, they’re a bit more differentiated.

To be clear, when I say "rapid fire" below, I mean a noticeably increased rate of fire. When I say "autofire", I mean that holding the button down now automatically sustains your fire. Without any powerups you’re stuck mashing the button.





Spyros - The ninja ninja

First power up: Double shot
Second power up: Rapid fire + Autofire
Melee weapon: Katana

Spyros is the most generic ninja of the Mystic Warriors and he's in the center of the art, so I assume he's the leader. Taking inspiration from the Ninja Turtles, he's also the most boring member of the group. Ryu Hayabusa would izuna drop this guy's ass.

Gameplay-wise, he's essentially the same as the revolver guys in Sunset Riders. However, due to the greater variety of shot types in this game, that effectively puts him as one of the balanced guys here. His first upgrade gives him a second shuriken angled around 45 degrees above his original shot. When he’s fully upgraded he's left without an extraordinary range or rate of fire. Blah.





Keima - The kabuki ninja

First power up: Wide shot
Second power up: Wider shot + Autofire
Melee weapon: Hair

Keima's my second favourite character. It isn't just the kabuki thing. You know when you were a kid and you ran out of the good crayons so you had to use all the weird colours? Keima is the kabuki version of that. Plus he's got blur on a bunch of his sprites for some reason.

Gameplay-wise, he's the equivalent of the shotgun guys from Sunset Riders. I'm not really sure what to make of him, to be honest. He ends up shooting a wall of shurikens that's as tall as he is. Considering how little of the screen he covers, I'd presume he has high damage, but I can't confirm that. I feel like his melee range is large too.


Kojiro - The samurai ninja
First power up: Double shot
Second power up: Quadruple spread + Autofire
Melee weapon: Dual katanas

First off, Kojiro is ripped. You can even see his massive biceps in his sprites. It could just be me, but it looks like the game can’t decide exactly what he looks like aside from that. He has dark skin in his art but he’s as pale as Spyros or Yuri in his sprites. Plus there’s exactly one shot of him where he has a beard which doesn’t appear anywhere else.

You can probably tell already, but Kojiro's got the best range of the group when fully powered up. His first upgrade splits his shot into two, one of which is angled slightly upward and the second is angled slightly downward. That gives him the distinction of being the only ninja who is able to miss an enemy that's standing right in front of him. His second upgrade gives him two more, again one angled up and one angled down.





Brad - The monk ninja

First power up: Rapid fire + Autofire
Second power up: Triple spread
Melee weapon: Prayer beads

Brad is the most amazingly early nineties character design there is. If you duck while doing melee attacks, he even attacks by breakdancing. He pulls out a big set of set of prayer beads when attacking so it’s probably intended as his weapon, but it looks like he actually delivers the attacks entirely with kicks and elbows in his animations. I think makes him way more hardcore than everyone else.

Brad strikes me as being the other balanced guy. His second upgrade gives him one shot angled upward and another downward on top of the standard shot, so he's ends up with range that's a little better than Spyros. Also, I like having autofire and he gets it with his first upgrade, so I prefer him for that reason too.





Yuri - The kunoichi ninja

First power up: Rapid fire + Autofire
Second power up: Rapider fire
Melee weapon: Naginata

If I had to think of some traditional Japanese thing to model the token female character after, I might have gone with a shrine maiden. As far as I can tell, Konami seems to have instead opted for a pink ninja costume with no pants. Her massive thighs probably make the most muscular character next to Kojiro though. That deserves some respect.

You probably noticed Yuri's gimmick already. Yep, her range never increases at all. She keeps the one forward shot forever. I can only guess that her damage must be incredible due to her rate of fire, but again, I don't know that for sure.​


Now it’s time to pick our characters and actually start the game. My buddy picks Brad, because what kind of friend would I be if I hogged the best one. Against my better judgement, I pick Spyros. I regret my decision immediately and he’s really bad at not switching characters when continuing, so you’ll get to see the whole crew.

When you've selected your character, the torches are blown out. Lightning strikes Kojiro, knocking him unconscious.







A mysterious gigantic ninja man descends from the top of the screen. Suddenly:





"Skull captured your friend!"

The man escapes. Our heroes finally remember that they aren’t superglued to the floor and follow him out of the dojo - which was on the roof of a building, by the way, don’t know if you knew that - and chase after his helicopter.






"Kojiroooooooooo!"

Note that the male ninjas all have the same voice clips aside from when using the screen-clearing item. And this clip will get burned into your memory by the end of the game.

And for the record, the ninja that gets kidnapped is randomly picked out of whoever is left after the players make their choices. Though you can change your character when you continue, you can't pick the kidnapped hero for the remainder of the playthrough.

(Music - Theme for Mystic Warriors)

We begin the game in the city. This is one of my least favourite levels in the game. It's not a bad level at all, it's just rather plain despite lots of eye-catching visuals. The game really gets going with the second level.







Very soon we meet the first miniboss of the game, this buzzsaw truck. It can't do all that much, so you can just go up to it and keep up the melee attacks. It should go down without a fight.








Well, that was convenient.





As a cool little detail, we can see where the buzzsaw from that boss ended up. Also, I just noticed that the Skull Enterprises footsoldiers have skull helmets. That's nice branding.







We arrive at a drive-in theatre. So, logically, we should wreck all the cars for no reason. Hope you have ninja insurance, motherfuckers. The movie back there is cute cameo.





Suddenly:






(Music – Hellrazor)


"Skull will never get away with this! Let him go!"





"Hahahaha! Come on!"

This guy's loincloth says "fire". Naturally, he fights with a flamethrower. I feel like that's a bad idea when you're standing on top of a gas station, but maybe all the flammable material is already on fire and now the danger is over? Is that how it works? Whatever.

Anyway, this guy's also really easy. You can't climb up onto the roof even though it kind of looks like you can, so you just have to shoot him repeatedly in the crotch. He'll point the nozzle of his flamethrower at you and will shoot a stream either straight down or at a slight angle. That's his only attack and you can see him adjusting his aim before he fires. It's not hard to kill him without taking a hit, but multiplayer makes me lazy and so I'm slacking off.






When we defeat him, it turns out that this guy was actually a cyborg! This information is not important in any way. But it does mean that we get to see a man explode today.





Here's another feature from Sunset Riders. When you beat a boss, only the player who dealt the most damage gets the win pose. It instills some friendly competition. I say “friendly”, but my buddy was yelling obscenities at the game after being denied several victory poses.





The Skull helicopter was waiting next to the gas station for some reason. You'd think we'd have gone over there sooner and saved Kojiro right away, but avenging the gas station was obviously the top priority. Maybe that's why we hate Skull Enterprises; they stand in the way of our oil interests.





The helicopter takes off before we can catch it. Thankfully, we manage to grab onto it in the nick of time with our trademark Ninja Pole Grabbers.





The Skull helicopter carries us to level two, the ski resort. Fudo Myoou only knows what evil they are up to here. This is the first level that I really enjoy.


 

L Thammy

Member
(Yikes, no replies at all. But I've only got a couple posts, so I figure I might as well get through the whole thing, yeah?)

(Music – Lift & Lodge)

The Skull helicopter carries us to level two, the ski resort. Fudo Myoou only knows what evil they are up to here.





We can also move along the ski lift with our ninja tools. I think that's the only time that happens in the game? Certainly doesn't show up often.





As we go up the mountain, we have to watch out for Skull ninjas attacking us with deadly snowballs.







We also meet some ladies who throw stick grenades. Like the dynamite in Sunset Riders, you can pick the grenades up and throw them yourself, although it's pretty pointless for dealing with enemies because they take so damn long to explode.

Also, these enemies look goofy as hell. I’m feel like Konami stole them from The Jetsons. Good on them for taking more than one hit to die though, that’s fairly rare in this game.





We enter a small ski lodge, but an evil laugh rings out. From the distance, a man in a rocket shoots a missile at us!





(Music – Sonic Descending)

Ninjas on skis. Tell me you aren't in love with this game now.

The skis aren’t totally cosmetic. Unfortunately, you can’t do melee attacks here. Your jumping is also a little more tricky. If you move to the left or right during a jump, you can still change directions freely, but you can’t let go of the direction button to stop your horizontal momentum. It’s a small thing, but when you jump so much in this game, you can feel it.








(Music – Hellrazor) [Repeat]

Finally, our rocketman returns.







"Hahahahaha! My rocket is the best! Not! Hahahahaha!"

I'm not entirely convinced that this is a bad guy. The moustache and the outstanding lameness make me think he's just someone's fun-loving dad. Just out for a joyride on his rocket after dropping the kids off at soccer practice. Nevertheless, he has to die.

This guy's a little harder than the last one. He shoots out caltrop things which roll uphill at us (or at least move slower downhill than we do). He also boosts around so he'll avoid some of your shots. He'll still mostly stick to the back though, so he's not particularly difficult to hit. Focus on dodging instead, and remember that it takes a bit more work to land precisely due to your skis.







Our heroes try their damnedest, but they aren't able to beat him. Not!







(Music – Infinite Underground)

The next level brings us into a cave. I think this is one of the weaker levels, especially following the silliness of the ski resort, but there is some fun stuff here.








After passing by some traps, we quickly get to the miniboss.





This guy clings to the roof the whole time. He attacks by descending and swiping at you with his sword. He can also spin his sword to block your shuriken. I think if you jump as soon as he descends, you can pass safely over his attack and still be within slashing range. He's not a total pushover like the first stage's miniboss though, you do need some timing at least.







By the way, this is the water level. Sorta. We can either doggy paddle at the surface or walk underwater. Our ninjas don't need to breathe, but we're a little slower and floatier in the water.

You can also see the remains of some poor dinosaur-like creature that was tragically trapped in a tiny lake.







When we reach the end of the stage, water floods into the cave. We're dumped into a huge water-filled pit. And we're not alone.








(Music – Chauvinist for Skull)





"You'll become fish food! Hahahahahaha!"

I've been saying so far that the bosses are easy or simple, but this one's stepped up his game a little. For the most part, he bounces back and forth, dropping depth charges. You can destroy them, but they cover a large area. Melee attacks are probably most effective at clearing them due to their wide range. He also fires homing missiles, but less often.

You can shoot him from below, but because of the walls on the side of the stage, you can also climb up to melee him or shoot him from the side. It's probably safer to keep some distance, though. He can pull in the wings of his submarine to reveal a drill. It's not a huge threat – it’s harder to get hit by it than it looks like it should be – but you're also still susceptible to the depth charges from up there, so neither approach is totally safe.

He’s not the best boss ever or anything. In fact, if you have rapid fire, you can pretty must just hold up and fire, because you’ll automatically do melee attacks when depth charges or missiles get close. The stages are the really the highlight of this game. But at least now the boss fights are getting a bit more involved.








Wow. So that guy's looking pretty dead. I hear drowning's not a bad way to go, though, so my conscience escapes unscathed. Oh, but there’s no victory pose on this level though. So I feel bad for another reason.

With the boss' defeat, a torrent of water pushes us out of the tunnel and into the next level. This is a fun one. And you should be on your toes like a ninja on the run; the plot is soon to thicken.



 

L Thammy

Member
(Music – Radical River)

With the previous boss' defeat, a torrent of water pushes us out of the tunnel and into the next level.





Thankfully Skull had this shed with a dock for some reason. It instantly collapses and lands in the water. That’s the gimmick for the level, we're floating down the river on a raft. You can fall off the raft and into the water, which you'd think would be an instant kill as you're sucked up in the current, but I haven't seen that happen. Maybe if you stay in the water for an absurdly long time?

As an aside, the water looks really bad. It's a mostly static image that scrolls really slowly, so it looks like it's frozen over or something. Maybe Miiverse would have disagreed with me though (RIP).

I love this level because it introduces a really fantastic game mechanic. I call it Fuck Perspective.





Depth has absolutely no effect at all on gameplay. You can cut people up when they're clearly several feet away on the shore. It doesn't make any sense, but who gives a shit, making sense is for losers.

Anyway, I’ve skipped a little ahead to show you this. Let’s go back to the beginning of the level.






The raft also gradually breaks up as we proceed down the river. But again, I haven’t noticed any effect to landing in the water, so I don't think there's any real consequence to that.








There’s an enemy monster truck - I bet it’s Grave Digger - that seems like it could be a miniboss, but I’m not sure. It dies fairly quickly so I don’t know if you’re actually required to kill it to progress.










Before we reach the end of the river, our raft is somehow stopped.






(Music – Hellrazor) [Repeat]

"My electricity will scorch you!"

Elecman here's got a few attacks. The two main threats are when he sends electricity through the ground or he shoots his Denjin Hadouken. He can damage you when he’s charging up either attack as well. He doesn't move around that much but he's sometimes electrified when he does, so there's another attack you have to worry about.

The problem with fighting him is that his attacks come out fast. Fighting him up close is a terrible idea because you're not going to have time to avoid his electric barrier. Naturally, we did it anyway. He’s so much easier in single player because he prioritizes following you over attacking. You can just switch platforms so he’s never on the same one as you and attack him from out of his range.

Side note, I love how this guy not only has thunderbolt buckers, but a backpack with gigantic batteries shoved in it. You just know he lives for his job. He’s absolutely committed to the theme.







This may be our hardest challenge so far, but our heroes still pull through somehow.





"Raaaaaagh!"





"Where is our friend!?"





"Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha... Poor guy. Your comrade is now





OUGHHHH"

He dies before we get the information we need. Damn it!





(Music – Beyond the Primeval Forest)

They couldn't think of a proper segue this time so we just magically drop into this jungle or whatever. As of this writing, I've completely forgotten this level existed, so I guess we're either in for something boring or we're in for a treat. This stage has the best music in the entire game so I’m leaning to the latter.








I feel like I should have remembered this part.





Well, let’s just keep going.








I think the closest thing this stage has to a miniboss is a dude with a gatling gun.

There are grenade throwers behind him so you’re probably meant to throw them back and blow him up. But again, the grenades take a while to explode, so just get them out of your way and don’t worry much about aiming. You can just shoot him down instead. The gatling gunner’s aim is heavily restricted so he can’t damage you at all if you don’t jump.





We had a fairly uneventful trip through the forest – by ninja standards – and it led us to a Skull base. Here we find the helicopter that was used to kidnap Kojiro, so at least we know we’re going in the right direction. But if the helicopter is here, where are Kojiro and our rival?

Oh, and look carefully at the wall in the background. You’ll see some designs that look like three black lines that are sometimes broken in the middle. For those of you who may not be familiar, I’ll explain those in a second. Also, there’s a shed with something kind of equipment next to it that I can’t figure out. It looks like a lawnmower with a katana shoved in it to me. Trying to parse the background details in Mystic Warriors is a game in itself.






You’ll see white lines with the notches in them in the background, bigger versions of the black lines before. These are Taoist symbols, part of the eight trigrams. The one labelled “No. 3” with the notch in the center represents fire, “No. 7” with the notches in the top and bottom represents water, “No. 8” with three notches represents earth. The ones earlier were a larger set.

Coincidentally, these same three trigrams appear on the flag of South Korea, along with a variation of the yinyang – another Taoist symbol – and the “heaven” trigram, which is three unbroken lines and the opposite of the earth symbol. That last one is seen outside, though, so I don’t think it means that heaven is missing or anything deep like that.





Now this part I remember. We move ahead and find that the floor is actually a lift. It heads upward.








(Music – Chauvinist for Skull) [Repeat]

"Hahahahahahaha! Welcome to Skull Tank! Another unfortunate visitor is waiting patiently for you!"





"Kojiroooooooooo!"
“Help me!”

Large Ninja Man is operating Skull Tank, and Kojiro’s being kept next to its giant throbbing brain. Seriously, where do you even get a giant brain? Did they climb up a beanstalk, kill a hundred foot tall dude, and then put his brain in this robot? Is it some kind of artificial brain?

And come on, Kojiro, just punch your way out. You're kidnapped but you're still a buff ninja samurai.

Now we have to destroy Skull Tank. Not just defeat it, but demolish it piece by piece. When you clear out one part of the tank the lift will move you to the next.

Skull Tank fights primarily by shooting a big buttload of bullets. It isn’t quite in bullet hell territory, but having to focus on dodging so much feels a bit like it. Plus the panels keep opening up to reveal even more turrets. Feel free to melee them when they're in range; you can hit a bunch of them at once that way.






There are more turrets by the treads. Skull Tank is basically made out of guns.







Now the arm. The arm just bends slowly and it's only dangerous when it's pounding down. Honestly, it kind of lures you into just walking up and getting hit. It just looks so harmless that you’re surprised when it hurts you.







"Help me!"

Only the head is left now. There are two parts we have to hit. There's the flamethrower, which I guess are supposed to be its ear, but it doesn't really look like an ear. There's also the eye, which launches missiles. These are both painfully small targets.

It's safest to stay back and shoot. The missiles are slow and can be cleared with your melee attacks, so they're really only dangerous if you're so close that you can't react. The flamethrower's harder to approach, but it can't attack you at all if you're far enough.







You win the battle by shattering the glass. The cockpit explodes. Kojiro is free! The brain is also free I guess. Was this a cyborg we just killed?





"Kojiroooooooooo!"

You don't have to yell, dude, he's right there.

Whether because of the fall or the explosion, Kojiro's been knocked out. On top of that, we're still in Skull's territory. There's no time to waste, so our heroes rush out.







Keima, stop that. Grow up.

Now, you might have noticed that we’re making our escape via mine cart. Fortunately (unfortunately?), this particular base is on DK Island.



 

L Thammy

Member
(Music – On the Blind Track)

Fortunately (unfortunately?), we're on DK Island.





Maybe you can already tell, but this level brings back Fuck Perspective, so it's automatically awesome. I don't think you're able to jump off the mine cart, so again things aren’t quite as dangerous as they look.













I’m pretty sure that the miners have dug all the way down to Hell.





After the massive Skull Tank, we're now approached by a similar enemy. I'm a very creative person so I'm going to call it the Skull Train.





(Music – Interceptor)

We're ready for a fight, but before we could give it one, we're hit by its electrical beams. Our strong ninja constitutions protect us from taking damage, but we're unable to move.





The situation seems dire. But...







"Go to Skull Castle! Sayonara!"





"Kojiroooooooooo!"

(Music – Hellrazor) [Repeat]





"Hahahahaha! Your comrade died miserably!"





"You'll pay for this!"

You defeat this boss by destroying the skull in the center. More specifically, the cannon on the skull's head. You can destroy the turrets at the sides, but they seem to regenerate when the train moves, so it may be better to focus on the main target for this part. The skull shoots a spread shot so this battle's pretty bullet hell too. No other attacks though.








"Raaaaaaaaaaaaaugh!"

Notice how the caboose of the train also has a brain.








Our friend's death has been avenged. But Kojiro also gave us a mission, so we cannot mourn yet. We must press on.

(Music – Up to the Stratosphere)

Skull Train conveniently smashed into the wall leading us to Skull's air base. This is a good level, I'll tell you right now.





Almost immediately, we find a plane and hop onto its fuselage. When we hitch a ride on this plane, it takes off. I've noticed that everyone's hair and whatnot is constantly blown to the left during this level. Nice detail.






Once we’re in the air, a whole bunch of ninjas jump up. I can only presume these ninjas are climbing out of the plane to attack us. What may not be totally clear from these GIFs is that there's like a fucking million of them. This plane is a goddamn clown car.





Another plane floats by when we've killed off all of the enemy ninja. We have to board this one immediately, because...






I'll confess, I'm not really sure why this happens. We didn’t destroy the plane, we just killed a bunch of people that came out of it. My guess is that the plane has some sort of design defect where the pilot has to constantly hold down a button in order to prevent it from catching fire, but he jumped out with the other ninjas.

This happens two or three more times.







After that, the plane flies into a giant floating base. This is where we spend the rest of the level.

By the way, I’m pretty sure they messed up this sequence. I think the thing you see in the background is supposed to be the airbase, but it’s either tiny or incredibly far away, and then you land inside it like a millisecond later, way too short for it to reach you. It looks like they’re two entirely separate airships.






(Music – Great Airforce)









Eventually we manage to make it to the cockpit and wreck the place. But, of course, we can’t end there.








"You are... finally... beyond hope!"






"Uraeeigh!"

(Music – Hellrazor) [Repeat]

I think you can immediately tell that this fight is a little different. We've got three bosses to deal with at the same time. The two little guys remind me of Sun Wukong for some reason. The blue one's got a staff and the yellow one has a sword. The big guy fights with a ball and chain. If I’m not mistaken, the big guy’s loincloth thing reads “misfortune”. Let’s see whose it will be.

The small guys aren't fast, exactly, but they move around and attack a lot. They can attack from both the air and ground, but their range is short. They'll also follow you if you hop between lanes.

The big guy doesn't move around as much and his chain moves very slowly, but it stretches across the screen. You can get hurt only by his arm as he throws it or if you touch the spiked ball, so you can go for melee attacks while the chain is extended. When you've eliminated his friends he's pretty easy.






This is the best part of this fight. Whenever you deplete someone's health, they get flung off of the plane, presumably to their horrible death. Kids, don't grow up to be an evil ninja. It doesn’t look quite as fun at the end.





"Raaaaaaaaagh!"

“Hoooooooooow!”






“Oh noooooooo!”


(Music – Fall into the Air)

We can't hang around here forever, so we open up our ninja kites and glide down...







...to Skull Fortress. It’s almost time to bring this to an end.

(By the way, my friend was pretty amused by the ninja kites. I think they’re a legit legendary ninja thing, but I he didn’t buy it.)
 

L Thammy

Member
(Music – Majestic Fortress)

We land safely in Skull Fortress. The final battle’s close, but we’re not there just yet. This is probably the most unique and particular setting for a level in this game. You’re inside the outer wall of a castle locked inside a modern city, but outside the castle itself.

Another detail. The giant airbase we took down in the last level crashes into background and explodes. It looks like the city's on fire for a few seconds. Uh. Maybe this part wouldn't go over so well nowadays.








Miniboss time. This is... a Shinto shrine on wheels? I actually have no idea what this is supposed to be. But it shoots at us, so we should probably destroy it.





This thing employs the same “shoot a lot” strategy that the other mechanical bosses we've fought use. It doesn't fire constantly, but I feel there isn't as much opportunity to dodge this time because it’s low to the ground.









I feel like this level invokes feudal Japanese militaries. It’s pretty cool. Fits in with the game as a whole, right? Skull brings their laser guns and combat knives when they’re off on the field, but when it’s time to get serious, you bring out your spears and your longbows and shit. The mortars might be too modern in design for that period, not really sure.







Okay, I'm just going to tell you right now. My favourite moment in the entire fucking game coming up. Get hype.

(Music – Bushido)

We arrive at the Skull Dojo. In front of the door, a blind man in a monk’s robes is playing the biwa. On either side there is a kuroko, the stagehands of kabuki theatre from whom the modern image of ninja derives. I'm not totally sure, but I think the statues on either side are supposed to be Fuujin and Raijin, although Skull has perverted them.

But I’m sure that none of those will be the first thing you'll notice.





That's right, it's our rival, Large Ninja Man. But for once, he isn't running. He's ready for a fight.





"Now we'll see who's the master of bushido!"





"I look forward to the challenge!"





Reminder: bushido is the way of the samurai.





(Music – Hellrazor) [Repeat]

Our archenemy’s not the fastest opponent, but he makes up for it with being unpredictable. He jumps around, sometimes between the floor and the roof. He can also teleport all over the place. Sometimes he teleports to the same place he was at originally just to mess with you. When attacks with his sword, he sometimes chains into a stepping slash afterward. He can also shoot a beam from his hand.

I don't think there's any solution aside from staying mobile, but we still have an edge because he's primarily a short ranged fighter and he has to charge up his beam attack.









"Raaaaaaaaaaaaagh!"





We hear a gurgling sound; our rival isn't dead just yet.






"I'm a good loser. Please finish it for me."





We've killed Kojiro's kidnapper, the one who started this whole mess. But it's not really over until Skull Enterprises is destroyed. We proceed further into Skull Castle.

I think we should take a minute to settle our emotions. The finale is next.
 

L Thammy

Member
(Music – Kingdom for Skull)










These poison gas traps are more dangerous in multiplayer. They're activated when one player goes in and they're too wide to jump over completely - as far I can tell anyway - so if one player goes ahead the other ones have to eat some damage.





Miniboss time.





(Music – Chauvinist for Skull) [Repeat]

What we're up against is a ninja wielding a fuuma shuriken. And as you can expect from someone guarding the heart of Skull Castle, this guy is... well, he's actually really easy.

Like, bizarrely easy. I'm pretty sure the only reason he'll hit you at all is that he's lured you into a false sense of security and you forget he's not totally harmless.

I don't think he’s able to move at all. He just throws his shuriken, which travels very slowly across the screen and then very slowly returns. He throws it at different angles, but that's the only move he has. The shuriken blocks your shots even when it's on his back, but it's harder not to dodge it, at least when it's heading for you. It curves when it turns around and then returns at a slightly different angle, which is the most dangerous thing about it.

Since we're stupid people, this is a bitter fight anyway.










(Music – Kingdom for Skull) [Repeat]

You may have noticed that the floor is on fire. Well, now that the windmill shuriken ninja is dead, the fire's rising. Don't ask me how that works. But conveniently, the elevator is also rising, so we have a way out. Don't ask me how that works either. I haven’t studied ninja engineering.

Of course, we're not alone.







I think this elevator section is a little bit on the lenient side. You can fall into the flames, but it's not an instant kill. In retrospect, guess this game’s pretty shy about those. Were there any at all?







Not sure if these guys on the roof were trying to ambush us or were just hoping that we wouldn’t notice them. They haven’t really figured out the whole stealth thing.





(Music – Hellrazor) [Repeat]

Surprise, we've got another miniboss to deal with this time. We've fought a lot of people in skull masks, but this guy looks like he's an actual samurai skeleton. Or at least a robot skeleton.

This is a totally different beast from the last miniboss. He doesn't move very much either, but he's got so much range that he doesn't have to. His attacks are decently fast too.

He's got two attacks. One is a slash, and one has him twirling his naginata to hurt anyone nearby. When he isn't attacking, he blocks with his polearm. You want to stay close to or behind him for the first attack and stay away for the second.

Side note, you can see that the naginata has a second blade when he does his twirling attack. I'm on to you, sprite artists.

We fight this guy on another rising elevator, which passes by a blasphemous Buddhist statue.







"Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaugh!"





(Music – Revenge of Ninja)

And we're immediately find ourselves in battle with another miniboss, although it’s so short it barely qualifies. We've got to break down this blast door while being attacked by the security system.

Not much to say about this. I think you might already get it. The guns shoot lasers and they go away when you break down the door. You can destroy the laser cannons, but it seems like they regenerate right away.

Actually, maybe the point was that you are supposed to think the laser cannons are the target and be distracted from the blast door? If it was a trick, then I guess I saw through it too quickly.

As an aside, I feel like boss area is kind of awkward. This game has a lot of background details that you don’t really need to notice, but here my eyes are drawn as much to the shisa – guardian lion statue – as to the things I’m fighting. It’s probably because we’re on the right side of the boss room; we can’t see that the shisa is part of a pair while we’re fighting, and that vague pink thing with the yinyang on it would look more subdued if you could tell it was in the center of the room. Maybe they accidentally made the room too big?





We break down the final door. That's right, after this, it's time to come face to face with the source of the madness. The head of Skull Enterprises and their ninja army. It's finally time for us to meet...

...some balding rich guy.






"Where is my backup!? Hey, what happened!?"





"You're the last one."





"I'm surprised you've got this far. However. You won't go any further, as you'll never beat me."





(Music – Dominator)

"Ahahahahaha. Hahahahahaha. Huhuhuhuhuh. Hahahahahaha!"






"I will use my most secret weapon and destroy you!"

This is why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. The CEO of Skull Enterprises is not a pushover. He'll attack us with swift punches from his skeleton mech suit, and it will also try to grab us with its remote controlled hands.

I feel like this suit was designed to feel like you’re in a coffin. Also, I believe that's the "bone" kanji on the chest of his suit. The guy's serious about his branding, you got to give him that.









You knew there had to be a second form, didn't you? That fight was a little too easy anyway.

The final boss' second form is mobile and aggressive. He hops all over the castle roof trying to stomp you. If you're too close, he kicks. I think maybe if you get into the right rhythm you could jump over his kicks and focus on melee, but I don't know if he's that predictable.

He also has homing lasers on his shoulders that replace the remote control hands, but it seems like he prefers melee.








It's not over yet!





This form’s shots form a ring around him before homing in on you. They're fast, but at least they offer plenty of warning.

And he wouldn't have katanas for hands if he wasn't going to use them. Following him up to the top of the roof is just asking for trouble.







"How come!? Raaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!"





"It's over."

(Music – Flashback)

Perhaps physically exhausted from their many battles, perhaps emotionally overwhelmed by the conclusion of their vendetta, the heroes pause during their escape from Skull Castle. They perch atop the castle's outer wall, gazing back at the destruction they have caused.





Their minds are filled with thoughts of Kojiro, their fallen friend.





"Kojiroooooooooo!"
"Help me!"





"Kojiroooooooooo!"





"Go to Skull Castle!"





"Sayonara!"

Finished with their mourning, the Mystic Warriors head off. They cannot be burdened by the past. They must look to the future, and move on to further adventures.





(P.S.: The game never had a sequel.)


 

shaowebb

Member
Welp...looks like I know what I'll be playing later on my Pandoras Box 4s Plug n play arcade. So glad this is in my list of titles now :)
 
I'm not going to say I read word one of the thread yet but this game is incredible and people should be playing it

it's a better, ninja-themed version of Sunset Riders and the one part that could be considered a spoiler is super novel

EDIT: okay just read a little bit and fucking A right Brad is amazing; I always have to fight over who gets to pick him whenever I play it with others
 

Neiteio

Member
Incredible thread. I haven't read through the whole thing yet, but this is a really fun approach to a "Let's Play" in thread form.

Best part is I hadn't even heard of this game before this. I'm familiar with Sunset Riders but I didn't know there was one about NINJAS. With bosses throwing stupidly big shurikens. Awesome.

Also, the colors in this game are so distinct. Bright blue, hot pink, yellow... Makes me want cotton candy and/or lemonade. Very strong visual identity.
 

Neiteio

Member
So like, how did this happen:



Don't get me wrong, the typo is incredibly charming and adds to the cheesy appeal. But on the other hand I wonder how things like that slipped through back in the day (and continue to do so today, at Capcom at least).

Like, the dev team clearly poured lots and lots of LOVE into the artwork and gameplay, both of which look fantastic. But did no one do a quick check to make sure they were spelling words correctly? That shit's in like 72-size font.

Guessing localization was just a low-priority back then, eh?

But again, I really want to emphasize, I love this style of artwork. I wish more of the indie scene would attempt this style, with this level of pixel-art detail.
 

Neiteio

Member
After playing Sonic Mania, I'm in the mood for colorful 32-bit sidescrollers. Maybe someone can make a "what if Mystic Warriors was on Sega Saturn"-style sequel to this?
 
Top Bottom