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A.P.I Review: NINJA: Shadow of Darkness
Developer: Core Design OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Eidos 1 Player
Game Type: 3rd Person Action/Adventure Memory Card
Review Date: October 1998 Standard Joypad

Setting the Scene

Enter the mystical world of Kurosawa, the young Ninja, as he is drawn into a dark history of demon lords, treacherous landscapes and non-stop action. Travel through 13 stages of 3D worlds in a land of magic spells and special moves. You will need every magic spell you can earn as increasingly difficult enemies work together to defeat you in a constantly changing real time 3D environment.

Assuming the role of the young Ninja, the player must guide him through a series of progressively harder environments. The Ninja is able to collect magic potions and scrolls throughout the levels to help him on his quest. Scrolls will power-up the Ninjas weapons and special moves. He may also find other items such as extra lives, energy and weapons throughout the levels. At the end of each level the Ninja may purchase extra items in the shop, provided he has collected enough coins.


Ninja: Shadow of Darkness is a fast paced arcade style action-adventure published by Eidos Interactive and developed by Core Design, the team that bought you the Tomb Raider games.

The game features highly-detailed environments, a wide range of special effects and huge end-of-level bosses.


Once again Core Design have set the scene with a high quality cinematic intro that is visually stunning. It doesn't seem that long ago when CG intros impressed because they were remarkable pieces of animation. Now you have too look twice before realizing that this footage has been generated by a computer. It looks so real! Check out the Ninja's facial expressions. How his cheek bones move when talking. Watch his eye movements, they seem ever alert to attack. How the creases on his brow gather together and then unfold as he listens to his instructions attentively. Believe me this actually improves on last years Tomb Raider 2 intro.

Of course don't expect the in-game graphics to match up to those amazing CG intros... however Ninja does creep very close indeed. The purple clad masked Ninja is rather average in size (leaning towards the small side), but highly detailed with a rather dense polygon count. Leave him standing on the spot for a short while and study as he sways back and forth while slightly moving up and down on his toes giving the effect that he is alive and breathing. There is a wonderful third person perspective, over the shoulder fixed camera that tracks your characters moves and smoothly pans around when needed.

Obviously he has been fed on kangaroo juice because when jumping the Ninja almost reaches Olympic record heights. His moves are limited to kicks and punches although by combining certain actions with the directional pad I found a nifty back somersault and a tasty reverse straight-arm smash. Each weapon in the game has a special move associated with it that is very cool and deadly when you pull it off. Knifes are thrust forward at a lethal speed and continue into the far distance until a target is eventually struck. Detonating a smoke bomb surrounds the area in a fiery flame and... of course, a cloud of smoke, while some of the magic attacks look better than watching a firework display.

The levels are themed with thirteen stages in full 3D including Forest, Cemetery, Monastery, Icy Wilderness, Catacombs, Clouds and Volcano. There are many splendid little touches included within the level designs. For example in the opening woodland areas squirrels scurry up the trees, rabbits playfully hop around the deep grass and wasps nests can be teased into an angry response. These hold no part in the gameplay, the creatures simply live there and add realism to the event.

Enemies appear in many guises from slender oriental peasants to giant axe wielding woodcutters. Each themed level has their own themed enemies. Moving into the graveyard ghouls and zombies rise from their resting place. When skeleton soldiers are sliced in half their boney remains continue attacking in multiple numbers. As arms still wield and thrash the sword their legs try to kick you to death while their heads attempt a quick bite. The end of level bosses however are enormous, with a lot of detail and pretty good AI.

Overall the graphics and special effects in Ninja: Shadow of Darkness are truly a notch above a lot of other games in this category with crystal clear, highly detailed backgrounds and special attack effects that dazzle the eyes.

Sounds and Effects

There are also very nice sound effects and riveting music to go along with the graphics.

The sound effects are crisp, accurate and performed with bone crunching realism. Every punch, kick or wield with the blade is rewarded with a breathtaking groan of agony. So much care has been taken to include accurate background effects, be it the gentle sound of water lapping against the river banks or the deafening rumble of snow falling in an avalanche.

The music is very atmospheric and may be listened too quietly, normal or loud. I switched it up loud to increase the tension that it creates. It's all very oriental and is suited perfectly to this type of game.


Ninja follows the tried and trusted 3D platform formula when it comes down to gameplay. Collect gold coins, power-ups and health potions while kicking the shit out of anyone who stands in your way. Combat involves hand to hand fighting, knife throwing and magic attacks, while weapons such as swords and scythes may be awarded during the game. You begin with three lives but further continues may be purchased at the end of level shop, should you gain sufficient funds.

Controlling your character follows a familiar beat-em-up format with face buttons configured to jump, punch, kick and throw a knife. Shoulder buttons allow smoke and magic spells to be cast. Your character may also walk and block an oncoming attack. Using the directional pad sets Ninja off jogging at a healthy pace. There is a walk button, but this will only be required when tackling those tricky jumps. Unfortunately Ninja is neither Dual Shock nor Analog compatible.

There are over 50 different characters throughout the game with 13 huge end of level bosses to defeat, each progressively harder to overcome. The enemies AI will be familiar to those of you who played Fighting Force. It's a little like those old Kung Fu movies where you could actually see the enemies waiting in line, refusing to attack until the person at the front of the queue had been defeated. Once crushed each enemy disappears leaving behind a small reward in the form of a coin.

You maneuver Ninja through multiple levels, facing all sorts of bad guys before having to fight the ultimate boss at the end of each level. As you progress, you will find chests that you can open to reveal weapons, magic potions and coins. Beware though, as some of the chests are booby-trapped and can really damage your character.

Each massive level is divided into smaller sections which are completely closed in. All of the enemies must be defeated before the final chest is revealed. This usually contains the gate key that will allow you to advance further into the game. On your travels you must negotiate several narrow platforms, moving stages, deadly tricks and killer traps. Animal traps lay semi covered in the long grass, trip wires are looped from branch to branch and will activate a mass of falling spears, trees will collapse on the precise spot where Ninja is standing and lightening will strike at occasional locations. You don't necessarily need stealth to survive, rather patience of a saint and the eyes of an eagle.

Value for Money

Ninja is an extremely attractive game to watch and listen to. Personally I found the gameplay quite repetitive and very similar to Fighting Force. However, there is a massive market for this type of game and that particular audience will certainly not be disappointed.

GRAPHICS: 19/20 There isn't a great deal more to say about Ninja that hasn't already been said. Visually, it's a masterpiece. In fact I would say that the graphics are among the best I have seen on the Playstation... and I must have witnessed well over 500 PSX titles. Just wait until you cast your eyes over the water effects as Ninja wades across the stream. Tropical fish can be seen swimming around slightly below the surface of the semi-transparent deep blue rippling river.

Unfortunately I found the gameplay quite repetitive. Defeat two attacking enemies and there are another pair waiting in the wings to take over. These are quickly followed by yet another couple of baddies... and so it goes on. Perhaps if the original enemies had lasted three times as long.... who knows?
SOUND: 9/10
VALUE: 16/20


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