Classic 16-bit style action (with ninja cats!)
The Mystical Ninja series is a classic Japanese set of RPG/action games that mixes typically bonkers Eastern storytelling with some solid fighting to create an enjoyably bizarre experience. The plot here is typically outrageous and features a kid and a doctor who investigate mysterious goings-on at a temple, only to find themselves caught up in an epic quest to save a lost princess, which also happens to involve ninja cats. While ridiculous, the story is endearingly original, with some wonderfully realised characters to encounter along the way, and which gives the game its distinct feel. Gameplay is divided into two styles, with players first engaging in RPG-style character interaction, fighting random enemies, purchasing goods and playing minigames, before moving on to a more traditional platform section. As you would expect, plenty of weapons and upgrades are available, while insane boss fights also add to the fun, and which are reminiscent of those from the Zelda games. The minigames are an enjoyable diversion, with a version of Konami's own Gradius sitting alongside lottery and whack-a-mole games and which further enhance the appeal. The two-player mode is also a wonderfully hectic inclusion, and it really adds to the over-the-top feel, particularly in the boss battles. Mystical Ninja is a deceptively straightforward game that benefits hugely from its unique audio and visual stylings. The sprites are beautifully realised in old school, 16-bit era style, with vibrant colours and imaginative designs. The gameplay is simple, but undeniably enjoyable, especially with two players, and this really is a classic slice of retro heaven.