So watching TMNT: Out of the Shadows got me thinking about other “ninja” related things that I’ve enjoyed and one of those was an old C-64 game called the Last Ninja. It may have been out on other computers/platforms, but I played it on the C-64 and had a blast. It was an isometric adventure game and there were simple elements of combat and exploring (and some slight puzzle elements in figuring out how to defeat traps and barriers in order to progress).
The main character was a ninja (dressed in full ninja garb–which would have been like catnip to me during my teenage years). The game, as I remember it, was both fun and hard. You lost life quickly in battles and in the devious traps laid out by the designers. Taking a trip through the game’s manual, I see that there are six levels in total. I think I only ever made it to level 3 and I’m not really sure to be honest (I may have only made it to level 2). I seem to remember completing level one a couple of times, but as I recall, it was a very rare occurrence.
In many ways, this game was the “Dark Souls” of the day. It was insanely difficult, but it was so beautiful that I would often come back to it again and again to try my luck at it, hoping that “this time, it would be different and I could get deeper into the game’s levels.” Most of the time that didn’t happen–the dragon trap on the first level was particularly insidious–but every now and then I managed to have a good run. Perhaps The Last Ninja–and other games like it–are the reason why I don’t play Dark Souls today; perhaps I’ve sated myself on ridiculously hard experiences while gaming and I’m looking for things that are fun to play (which isn’t to The Last Ninja wasn’t fun, but it was very frustrating, much like the Dark Souls games are today).
The game was published by Activision and had several sequels (which, as I didn’t buy/subscribe to gaming magazines back then due to a limited allowance, I didn’t know about until the rise of the internet). I probably would have bought the sequels had I known about them, but it surprises me that Activision has never tried to modernize or bring back this old series (if they indeed do hold the rights) like Ubisoft did with the Prince of Persia series. While game development has perhaps passed The Last Ninja by due to exorbitant budgets and massive development schedules, I’d love to see what an open-world ninja game might look like–something like Assassin’s Creed, or something totally different that we can’t even conceive at this point in gaming? It’s interesting to speculate, but if nothing else, discussing this game was a fun trip down memory lane.