Ninja Warriors (SNES)

Pub: Taito | Dev: Natsume | February 1994 | 12 MEGS
Pub: Taito | Dev: Natsume | February 1994 | 12 MEGS

I love beat ‘em ups. Always have, always will. From Double Dragon to Final Fight to Streets of Rage, I love me a good old fashioned side scrolling beat ‘em up. One of the most revered brawlers on the SNES is Ninja Warriors. I missed out on it back in the day and despite buying a copy 13 years ago in 2006, I finally got around to playing it earlier this month. There are simply too many good games and not enough time, so forgive me for waiting so long. My backlog is seriously insane, but I digress. Ninja Warriors on the SNES just turned 25 years old so it was the perfect time to see what the hype has been all about. Play as one of 3 robot ninjas and battle an army of villains and evildoers. Surely, it’s a formula for smashing success, no? Let’s take a look…



Developed by Taito, Ninja Warriors began its life in the arcades in 1987. The cabinet was a massive monstrosity, one I never had the good fortune enough to witness in person. Back in the ’80s, ninjas and cyborgs were running wild. Taito had the brilliant idea of mashing the two together.

Old school goodness
Old school goodness


Always been a huge fan of this slick looking logo
Love the slick logo

Some 7 years later, Taito revitalized Ninja Warriors when a remake was issued for the SNES and hit store shelves in February of 1994. It rapidly garnered positive reviews and is often considered as one of the best beat ‘em ups on the SNES.














One of the cool things about this game is the ability to block enemy attacks. It’s just too bad then that blocking is the same exact button as attacking. Not a dealbreaker by any means but with no option to adjust the buttons, it’s a bit of a bummer. Back on the right side of things, there are plenty of fun items to throw around. In fact, let’s check them out.


Too close!
Just in the nick of time!

What could be more gratifying in a beat ‘em up than seeing that big health refill right as you’re on the verge of dying?


Plenty of fun stuff to fling at enemies. The containers are the best because they may house energy pods inside.


Three warriors shall rise...
Three warriors shall rise…


Banglar seeks to rule the world with an iron fist.







Reminiscent of Contra III: The Alien Wars! On a side note, Natsume developed the SNES remake of Ninja Warriors. That same year they also made Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The two games are eerily similar, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the same Natsume folks worked on both titles.







Somewhere, a darkened corridor lights up…







Something awakens!














Nothing like that classic giant scrolling title screen to get you all pumped up to kick ass.








Smashing out of a window that takes out the opposition, Ninja Warriors is off to a blazing hot start. Love seeing all those shards of glass flying every which way. The sprites are pretty big and the colors are bright and bold. So far, so good!







There’s a “Blaster” bar at the bottom that automatically charges as long as you’re not hit. Once full you can unleash a super attack that damages any enemy onscreen. I’m not a fan of the weird visual effect it produces, however. It looks like a glitch that managed to slip past the game testers.







Natsume, I like to think, learned from their mistakes and did it the right way in Power Rangers.







Unlike most beat ‘em ups, Ninja Warriors operates on a single plane. Due to this restriction, I had my concerns about crowd control. Thankfully, the protagonists can attack in such a flurry that it provides extensive coverage, taking out bad guys in front of you as well as behind.







Missiles rain down from the sky, damaging anyone caught in its wake (bad guys included). Be careful not to get stuck in the middle where enemies can gang up on you. Better yet, watch out for that missile rapidly approaching your face!







Shoulder tackles are good for clearing crowds. It’s not quite Contra III but seeing this set piece explosion on the first stage sets a good tone.







Explosions continue when you defeat this towering terminator.








Kunoichi is the fast but weak fighter of the group (to no one’s surprise).







Mindless enemies are easily lured to a grisly death (in theory, anyhow). I’m not a big blood guy, but if there was ever a time…







Leatherface would be proud! What an awesome entrance.







Chainsaw is as big as her! Son of a bitch blocks well, too.







What’s worse than dealing with a chainsaw wielding homicidal maniac? Contending with soldiers who have plenty of firepower!








Kamaitachi is my favorite of the ninjas. He’s agile enough while being able to withstand more damage than Kunoichi. Not only that but he has a cool spinning attack as well as a retractable scythe!







Beating up businessmen in suits is extra satisfying. That big fella there is the toughest of the regular enemies. He’s more or less the “Andore” of the game.







Banglar flashes intermittently on the multiple screens as the boss fades in and out. Beware of bombs!








Throwing a searchlight… points for creativity! Also love that atmospheric skyline. Later in this stage a tank comes smashing through the wall. Don’t get caught in the middle if you can help it.







Exercise crowd control by jumping to one side and kicking an enemy to take out their own. This is critical to keeping your head above water.







Insane flexibility on his part to kick that high without splitting his business slacks. A helicopter flies by launching an all-out assault. Stay out of harm’s way; the bullets will blast Banglar’s brigade!







Massive destructive energy beam aside, this boss is a joke.








Strolling through the city at night is always fun. That is, until you meet a pair of schmucks in slacks!







Remember the first boss? He’s back but now he’s a regular enemy. Avoid jumping at him or he’ll uppercut the holy hell outta ya.







Blocking and capitalizing is key to success. I love when levels transit from one scene to another, such as this seamless transition to a dojo. Any backdrop featuring Shoji screen panels is a big win in my book!







There’s something inherently beautiful about beating up thugs in a dojo. Especially when the buildings come into view at night time. Ninja Warriors has an ’80s action movie vibe to it.







Speaking of action movies from the ’80s, this boss looks like the big bad from a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie!







Obviously, he’s well versed in black magic…








Destroy Banglar’s exquisite statues by sending his army through it. The key to beating Bumblebee and friends is attacking them from behind; their front defense is very strong.







Banglar! But he doesn’t stick around long. He tramples off, the bald little bastard. In his place comes two towering titans. Good luck!








Snowy levels are always nostalgic for me, as they take me right back to the days of Contra and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game.







Unlike most other SNES beat ‘em ups that typically max out at 3 enemies onscreen, Ninja Warriors can have up to 4. Throw them into each other to exercise crowd control.







Heaving around gas tanks lead to huge explosions. The red variant is the strongest of the regular enemies. Luckily there should be a health refill in one of those containers…







Bumblebee and friends are tough when they surround you from both sides. Knock them into each other if you can.







Experiment gone wrong… or right?








Banglar is an interesting final boss fight. You face his cronies (and his deadly laser beams) rather than Banglar himself.







Damage is inflicted only by throwing his lackeys back at him. This takes a long time and the enemies get tougher and tougher. Damn you Banglar, you chicken shit coward! :P



In September of 2018 it was announced that Ninja Warriors would be the latest retro intellectual property to be revitalized. It is set to land on the Nintendo Switch at some point in 2019. I personally cannot wait.


A proper 2 player mode and gorgeous sprite work? Count me in!

Check out the teaser trailer!



Ninja Warriors was met with high praise. EGM gave it scores of 8, 8, 8, 8 and 9. GameFan gave it ratings of 86, 87, 92 and 93%. Even Super Play, who were often critical of beat ‘em ups, rated it 84%. SNES fans often cite Ninja Warriors as one of the best beat ‘em ups on the Super Nintendo.




It managed to even impress Super Play -- no small feat!
It managed to impress even Super Play — no small feat!



Ninja Warriors has a lot going for it. Straight forward arcade-like action, cool ninjas, killer robots and an atmosphere plucked right out of late 1980s action movie lore. Huge detailed sprites, menacing bosses and all the classic lackey tropes you could want to beat up. Yet, for some reason I’m not over the moon for this one. It plays well and the ability to block adds depth to the core gameplay. But I’m not a huge fan of the action taking place on a single plane. Enemies can quickly crowd you and sometimes cheap hits feel impossible to avoid. Thankfully you can block bullets but I would like this game much more if it were free roaming like most other traditional beat ‘em ups. There’s a flash of utter brilliance here and there, such as giant fans being able to kill enemies or the helicopter that flies by spraying bullets unmercifully. Sadly, that’s pretty much it as far as that goes. In addition, a 2 player mode is sorely lacking.


That said, it’s still pretty good. The colors scream “1994 SNES” as they are bright, bold and easy on the eyes. There are 3 distinctly different characters and I like how the bomb attacks uses a separate meter rather than subtracting from your precious life bar. There’s a certain amount of satisfaction that comes with pummeling the various enemies and exploiting their weaknesses. The music gets the job done for the most part although it doesn’t really stand out, either. Ninja Warriors is a very worthy addition to any SNES library.


But I’d be lying if I said I completely loved it. After all the hype I’ve heard over the past 25 years, I find it to be slightly disappointing. I would much rather play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles In Time or Return of Double Dragon. Ditto Final Fight 3 and King of Dragons. In my book, Ninja Warriors is an odd case of a game that is somehow both pretty good and disappointing all at once.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 7.5
Longevity: 6

AwardOverall: 7.5
Bronze Award

Props for inspiring REC...
Props for inspiring REC
One of the truly scary moments in horror cinema
One of the truly scary moments in horror cinema

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Trilogy (SFC)

Natsume launches their underrated wrestling series
Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling (7.16.93)

With the popularity of Human’s Fire Pro Wrestling series in the early-mid ’90s, Natsume counteracted with their (underrated) Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling trilogy. They even Americanized a version of this, calling it Natsume Championship Wrestling, which came out on the Super Nintendo market in June 1994. I have fond memories of NCW, so it was a great deal of fun to play the original Japanese version.

Growing up in the late ’80s a kid only needed two things really: Nintendo and Hulk Hogan. I still remember how my uncle would watch Saturday Night’s Main Event with me and my brother. As well as that time he took us to the mall to get an autograph from visiting WWF superstar Virgil. It was a great time.

Virgil signed my card, and he didn't charge me $50!
Still got my signed Virgil card to this day! ^_^

ZEN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING is an excellent wrestling game featuring solid graphics, good sound and terrific gameplay. The grapple system relies on timing rather than speed. You have weak, medium and power attacks during grapple. The energy bar is perhaps my favorite thing about these games. The “whiplash rope” trick is pretty damn cool too… more on this later on.

EGM introduced me to this series when they ran a cool little preview back in 1994.

NCW was based off the Zen Nippon games
NCW was based off the Zen Nippon games

Your energy bar starts out BLUE.

The bar decreases as damage is taken, revealing these colors in sequence:


Like Capcom’s Vampire Savior, health can be recuperated. For example, you recover health when you’re on the apron resting during a tag match. When you eat a move, like a power bomb or dropkick, you lose the proper amount of health but your energy will recover at a decent pace. However, the more damage you sustain, the slower your energy will recuperate. Brilliant.







Japanese wrestling legend Giant BABA is no match for the younger and quicker Patriot. I dig the simple, colorful visuals. That health bar system was innovative for its time!







There was a subtle sense of black humor, too. You can knock the opposition silly right before they can make the tag. Or even knock out their partner off the apron right as they’re going for the hot tag!

As good of a first entry as this was, the follow-up made some vast improvements.

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Dash: Sekai Saikyou Tag
Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Dash: Sekai Saikyou Tag (12.28.93)

ZEN NIPPON PRO WRESTLING DASH was released only five months after the first one. It’s more of an upgrade than a sequel. Like the original, 16 wrestlers are available. So what’s new? Besides minor roster changes, the focus is now on tag team play, though the first game had tag team modes as well. The difference here? Tag team moves.

That'll rearrange his furniture
That’ll rearrange his furniture
C.O.D. = Concussion On Delivery
C.O.D. = Concussion On Delivery

OK, I know what you’re thinking

“Tag team combo moves. BIG DEAL!”

That’s why, to save Dash from being simply a hack cash-in, they included…


This mode is a wild free-for-all providing great multiplayer action. There are no energy bars cluttering the screen. The only way to win is via pin fall or submission. Over-the-top-rope doesn’t matter here — hell, you can take the battle outside if you wish.

Just don't get counted out
Just don’t get counted out

The mat on the outside even has a different (more brutal sounding) sound effect as compared to the ring mat. Great attention to detail and made slamming fools on the outside all the more satisfying.

The third and final game of the trilogy, however, is by far the best of the bunch.

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2:3-4 Budokan (April 7, 1995)
Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2:3-4 Budokan (4.7.95)

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling 2:3-4 Budokan (yes, I know it’s an incredibly weird and awkward title) is my favorite SNES wrestling game. I even prefer it over Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium, which I just reviewed earlier today. While I don’t think it’s technically better than Premium, I do find it to be slightly more fun. There’s a difference between what one considers to be their favorite versus what one considers to be the best. Let’s see what makes this final game in the Zen Nippon trilogy so good.


Based on skill, not speed
Based on skill, not speed

Similar to the Fire Pro games, Natsume chose wisely when they decided to make the Zen Nippon games based on timing rather than button mashing. When two wrestlers go to lock up, the first to press an attack button right as the two combatants touch hands will win that grapple. However, if you use a medium or power based attack early on, it may be countered as the opposition might still be too strong. Therefore, you must weaken them bit by bit until you can pull out the heavy hitters (power bombs, pile drivers and so forth). It made for progressive matches that flowed nicely, like real life wrestling matches on TV. You don’t see wrestlers hitting their big power moves right after the opening bell (well at least you don’t in most cases). It’s a classic formula that works and has stood the test of time.
























































They’re all actual real wrestlers that competed in Japan back in the ’80s or ’90s. My favorite is this guy…


zennipbudo4Asteroid was my favorite wrestler from Natsume Championship Wrestling which was a 1994 Super Nintendo release based off Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling. Man, did my brother and I have some good times with NCW. From buying the last copy at Toys R Us in ’95 for its clearance price of $19.99 to all the late evenings we spent glued to the TV screen waging war in tag team battle. Even my mom, who never cared for video games, would occasionally stop whatever chore she was doing to glance at the game. My bro and I played NCW to death for a good number of years until we finally laid it to rest in 1997 when one day my bro simply refused to play it. It was a sad day, but such is the life of video games, I suppose. Thanks for all the good times and fond memories, NCW! You and all your cheesy charm will never be forgotten.



Poor Doug Furnas probably lost a tooth there
Poor Doug Furnas probably lost a tooth there


Like I said, more moves than ever before
Like I said, more moves than ever before
[OK, please do not use the word KINKY ever again -Ed.]
[OK, please do not use the word KINKY ever again -Ed.]
Not really THAT big a deal, but cool stuff nonetheless
Not really that big a deal, but cool stuff nonetheless


Press ‘A’ to hold. If you catch your opponent, you can hit Y for a weak move, B for a medium move, A for a power move or X to sling them into the ropes. It allows you to skip the grappling process but be warned, your opponent can still counter if they’re too strong.

The new entrances are very cool, as well, with their own theme
New entrances with personal theme music? Sick
It's like one of those lavish GODZILLA VS. titles
It’s like one of those lavish GODZILLA VS. titles







Just like in the previous games, the 2.5 and 2.9 dramatic counts return. These close counts result in the audience stomping in unison causing the screen to shake. Adds nicely to the drama and intensity of a match.














Countering creates a dramatic ebb and flow
Countering creates a dramatic ebb and flow













No blood, but Budokan is satisfyingly BRUTAL
No blood, but Budokan is satisfyingly BRUTAL







OUCH, nothing says pain like taking a missile dropkick straight to the mush!







Akira’s face slam is devastating enough on its own. But when combined with the top cable rope? It’s downright dirty.













Jackhammer?! Close enough. In real life Akira used this move which he called Chichubu Cement. Odd name, sick looking move. The crash of the mat sounds extra loud on this move in particular, and never fails to make me wince a little on the inside.







Chichubu Cement against the ropes! Now that definitely makes me wince.













Undertaker would be proud. Love those flashing cameras. Totally captures the spirit of pro wrestling in the mid ’90s!













Akira also delivers one mean power bomb. But wait, there’s a twist here…







There are actually two versions of it! To execute Akira’s power bomb, press A to catch them in a hold first. Then press up or down + A. Tap A once for a regular release power bomb. But tap A multiple times and Akira will turn it into a pinning power bomb! The first time I discovered this by pure accident of button mashing for the hell of it, I almost fell out of my chair. It’s such a deep game, only second to Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium.













Akira just heaves them like they were yesterday’s garbage. I love the ability to do moves from behind — the previous two games didn’t allow this.













Samoan drop and a beauty! Budokan added in quite a few new moves the previous two games didn’t have.













Beautiful frog splash — Eddie Guerrero would be proud.








First, check out the cool entrances. Most wrestlers wear some sort of special t-shirt or robe that they only wear during their ring entrances. Good stuff. Baba is PIMPING!

Better fill those seats or else... YOU'RE FIRED
Better fill those seats or else… YOU’RE FIRED

Budokan is a unique mode where you book the wrestling matches. The arena starts out looking rather sorry and sparse, but depending on the quality of your booked matches, more fans fill in as the evening progresses. It’s a cool little niche mode but it’s not my favorite.

Don't hit start, hit option first
Don’t hit start, hit option first

This is a bit tricky. If you hit start you’ll begin the tournament which is meh. But if you press start on OPTION you actually open up the game’s various modes. Kind of weird, huh?

I may be a bit overly enthusiastic here...
I may be a bit overly enthusiastic here…
I love beating up on the masked wrestlers...
I love beating up on the masked wrestlers…
Fire Pro ain't got nothing on this!
Fire Pro ain’t got nothing on this

The Fatal Four Way leads to some good old fashion arcade-esque fun and chaos. Bum rushing folks from behind is oddly one of the greatest pleasures in multi-player history. There’s just something about attacking your friends from behind that will cause you to grin like a Cheshire cat. Trust me when I say… it’s priceless.

OK maybe this takes the cake
OK maybe this takes the cake

Like in Natsume Championship Wrestling, the ropes can be your friend if used wisely. You can actually ram them into the ropes, bouncing them off! This makes a neat sound effect as you watch in pure joy at the clever brutality and sheer violence of it all. It’s viciously, deviously violent.

It's why I prefer it slightly over Fire Pro
It’s why I prefer it slightly over Fire Pro
There's a devious aspect to the Fatal Four Way
There’s a devious aspect to the Fatal Four Way

Part of the fun is waiting in the wings, then rush attacking the opponent in the middle of his wrestling move. Here we see a well-timed dropkick in the middle of a suplex. All three bodies crash loudly to the mat, but of course only you get up immediately. The others? Licking their sore wounds on the canvas! Sweet.

That's what I call a hit and run
That’s what I call a hit and run

Indeed, taking out two wrestlers at the same time, particularly nailing one in front and the other from behind, is too damn fun. You can imagine the chaos and temporary allegiances this may create when playing against friends.







If anyone is foolish enough to taunt during a Fatal Four Way match, it’s your civic and rightful duty to remind them why doing so is not a good idea. Hey, someone’s gotta do the dirty work… don’t mind if I do! ;)


My longest match ever, this was simply epic
My longest match ever, this was simply epic

On average, my Fatal Four Way matches roughly go anywhere from about eight to 12 minutes. The real fun lies in trying to see how long you can prolong the torture of the three other wrestlers. You can break up pin falls by pressing ‘B’ to stomp, but it doesn’t always work, oddly enough. My longest time was 24 minutes and 38 seconds. However, on my last play-through, it went a record long 51 minutes and 28 seconds! After Patriot and Eagle were eliminated, this damn fool refused to lose. He kicked out at 2.5 and 2.9 at least 30 times. He was a man possessed. I hit him with about 15 missile dropkicks yet, like Freddy or Jason, dude kept coming back for more. I never saw anything like it before. After a back breaking power bomb, he finally submitted to my foul desires. It’s just fun to see how long you can keep a match going with all three guys, then two, then finally one. It’s like some sick game within a game type thing. I know, I’m weird. But damn if this isn’t fun.

Gotta watch that ref's count, though
Gotta watch that ref’s count, though

Whenever the fight spills outside the ring, there’s a decent chance one of the computer wrestlers will be counted out. They stay out there no matter what until the count of six. Also, when they’ve been beaten to a pulp, the first submission animation leads to a submission victory. It’s trickier than you think to keep all three computer opponents alive, and it’s fun to see how long you can take them to the limit. Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Budokan is largely a dream come true for this ol’ wrestling fan. I see something new almost every time I play it. The other night Patriot and Eagle actually did a tag team move in the Fatal Four Way match to take out Kobashi. It was a suplex-top rope splash combination. That same match I discovered that Akira Taue can counter a rope reversal by hitting UP + Y or B, which produces a DDT! Speaking of Akira, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out he had two different power bombs (based on whether you press A once or tap it a few times). The depth of this wrestling game is second only to Super Fire Pro Wrestling X Premium.



Budokan took everything that worked in the first two games and cranked it up even further. Budokan offers more wrestlers, more moves, a superb Fatal Four Way match, better gameplay, better graphics and so on. This is one of those games I can pop in after a long day, play for even just 10 minutes and be satisfied with each and every time. It’s just a bloody brilliant fun time — especially for wrestling fanatics like myself.

The game's bread and butter
The game’s bread and butter

Zen Nippon Pro Wrestling Budokan is my favorite wrestling game on the SNES. If only the game featured WCW and WWF guys, it would be flawless. Imagine using guys like Sting, Undertaker, Bret Hart, Hulk Hogan, Macho Man Randy Savage and Shawn Michaels with this graphic style and gameplay system. Alas, we get 19 All Japan Pro Wrestling stars. They’re not bad but I don’t connect with them as I do with the more well known American wrestlers of mid ’90s fame. But I digress. Combining the arcade-like fun and chaos of Saturday Night Slam Masters with Fire Pro’s purity, Budokan is a gem that deserves more props. Bravo, Natsume!







Gotta love those lovely entrances, complete with the wrestler’s theme music!