Adventure of Devil Castle.
The original Ninja-kun: Majou no Bouken is one of those mostly forgotten platformers of old. Part of a massive (and confusing) series, the arcade original dropped in 1984 (renamed Ninja-Kid in North America), though the initial round of home versions were left in Japan. 1985 saw a Famicom release of the game, courtesy of Jaleco, who later went on to develop the related Ninja Jajamaru-kun games.
Fami Ninja-kun does a decent job of imitating the stage layout present in the arcade original. As an early arcade game, only three (looping) environments are available, with the game's primary goal being high score acquisition. Stages are completed not when an exit is reached, but when all enemies are vanquished. Our hero, a stout ninja clad in red, is equipped with shurikens. These will annihilate most foes in a single hit, and cancel hostile projectiles, but they're emitted slowly so success in Ninja-kun is predicated on a well-timed series of hops and attacks.
Yes, the oddball jumping controls were transferred from the arcade to this home release. Basically, there is no true dedicated jump button. Instead pressing A causes the ninja protagonist to drop down vertically to a lower platform. To jump, one must tap the A button in tandem with left or right on the d-pad, and it's downright impossible to leap straight up into the air. It's a wholly unnecessary control scheme, and transforms an inherently difficult game into an absolute beast.
If we're gonna be fair, Ninja-kun in the arcades wasn't that good, and this Famicom port downgrades all elements even further. Graphics are grainy and ugly, with the stage two backdrop featuring the same sort of gray as a blinking non-functioning NES. Controls are stiff and unwieldy. And while the original musical compositions aren't technically bad, they've been transformed here into ear-piercing shrill loops. There's also a strange amount of epileptic screen-flashing. As a final insult, there are no continues available, though there seems to be fewer on-screen enemies here compared to the arcade game, and most any platforming vet should at least expect to complete a loop or two.
Ultimately, this the exactly the type of half-baked rush-job arcade conversion that screams "early Famicom." As an obsessive adorer of antique platformers, I'm willing to give this a bit of a pass -- fans of the genre should play this once, if only for the sake of posterity. That said, the superior arcade game has now officially been emulated and released worldwide via Hamster's Arcade Archives line. It arguably renders Jaleco Famicom cartridge #3 completely moot.
Product Release: Ninja-Kun: Majou no Bouken (JP, 05/10/85)