Skip to main content

Ninja JaJaMaru-kun: Lackluster arcade-style platforming

Last month Nintendo added an obscure Famicom title called Ninja JaJaMaru-kun to the NES Switch Online platform. It's an arcade-style platformer from 1985 reminiscent of Namco's Mappy.

Each stage has four floors of enemies to clear, and the screen scrolls a little bit horizontally. JaJaMaru can break brick platforms with his head (not unlike Super Mario), which then allows him to jump between floors. Broken bricks sometimes drop a coin (points), an extra life, or a power-up. The power-ups are medicine (temporary invincibility), a speed-up ball, a throwing star that increases attack range, and a tram car that lets JaJaMaru run over enemies! You have to be careful, though, because broken platforms can also leave bombs that cost you a life if touched. If you collect three different power-ups, a giant frog appears that JaJaMaru rides to destroy all the enemies!

As you move through levels, the stage's aesthetic changes a little, and the enemies grow more difficult. They're all largely the same, though. They jump around and throw projectiles, and you defeat them with your own. Jumping on an enemy stuns it, which is useful. Some of the ones in later stages can't be defeated unless stunned.

Rescuing Princess Sakura

In each stage, the captured princess throws flower petals. If you collect all three, you immeditely begin the bonus stage, in which you try to destroy the Catfish Pirate to rescue the princess. You can play this bonus round many times. There are 21 stages, which then repeat. You start with three lives and get an extra one at 20,000 points.

Ninja JaJaMaru-kun Famicom cartridge

This is your basic arcade-style game that fits right in with Mappy, Mario Bros., and similar games. Because all the enemies and stages are essentially the same, the game is extremely repetitive. Personally, I like it a bit better than Mappy because I like the ninja aesthetic. I can't say, though, that I found the game all that fun or interesting.

Grade: C

Gameplay: Sporadically fun or niche (12/20)
Theme: Interesting concept and characters, if a bit generic (16/20)
Controls: Controls are solid, if occasionally irritating (12/15)
Difficulty: Arcade-style repetition (12/15)
Graphics: Good-looking if a bit lackluster (12/15)
Sound: Repetitive music (9/15)

Linked Review
"Compared to some other arcade offerings on the NES, Ninja JaJaMaru-kun is better than you might expect and is especially interesting when you consider that it wasn't released outside Japan back in the day."
— Marcel van Duyn, NintendoLife, 6/10

Stats
Developer: Jaleco
Publisher: Jaleco
Genre: Platformer
Famicom release date: November 1985
Extend: 20,000
My high score: 38,740

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Legend of the Mystical Ninja: A whimsical adventure in Japan

Growing up, I played The Legend of the Mystical Ninja at my best friend's house (though I was bad at it), and I had been looking forward to trying it again. It's an unusual, fun adventure game. I recently learned that in Japan Legend of the Mystical Ninja was preceded by three Famicom games and followed by three more Super Famicom games, none of which were localized for the West! The Japanese name of the series is Go for It, Goemon! It's based on a 1980 Japanese arcade game called Mr. Goemon. The emulation community put out fan translations of the Famicom games between 2009 and 2017. Surprisingly, no translations of the Super Famicom games existed until 2020, all three created by the same people . The series takes places in early-modern Japan. It has a light-hearted anime aesthetic. The titular character is a spiky-haired kid named Goemon. If a second player joins the simultaneous action (highly recommended), Goemon is assisted by an older, overweight ninja named Ebisumaru.

Mario Kart 64: 25th anniversary

Mario Kart 64 brought the fun of go-kart simulator Super Mario Kart into the 3D age. A few chunky polygons notwithstanding, Mario Kart 64 still holds up, even alongside sequels like  Mario Kart 8 Deluxe . MK 64 doesn't alter the fundamental formula laid down by Super Mario Kart. You still choose one of four circuits (Mushroom, Flower, Star, or Special) and an engine speed (50, 100, or 150 CC), then race against seven other racers, trying to place at least in the top four. Whereas the SNES allowed only two players, the N64 was built with four controller inputs, and MK 64 happily can use them all (though the music shuts off with more than two). Battle Mode returns as well, in which players attack one another with items, trying to pop all three of their opponents' balloons. This is always a blast when playing with friends. Lastly, there is the Time Trial mode, in which you race alone trying to set the fastest time. Is this the origin of the "Trollface" meme? MK 64's

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts: 30th anniversary

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts is an SNES-exclusive sequel to Ghouls 'n Ghosts, itself a sequel to Ghosts 'n Goblins . Like its predecessors, its claim to fame (or infamy) is being ridiculously hard. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts follows the formula of Ghosts 'n Goblins to a tee. You control a knight named Arthur who must rescue Princess Guinevere by battling endless hordes of monsters and demons: Zombies, Ghosts, Weredogs, Bats, Red Arremers, and even Mimics (the D&D monster that disguises itself as a treasure chest). He picks up various weapons along the way but can only hold one at a time. Some of them (especially the torch) are worse than the throwing spears he begins with. Three new weapons are the crossbow, scythe, and tri-blade. The crossbow is good because it shoots two arrows at once, at about 45 and 30 degree angles upward. I avoid the scythe because Arthur can throw only one at a time and the ability to arc it downward by holding ↓ does not compensate for this. The