Legend of the Mystical Ninja




Dr Yang goes to Kid Ying’s house and tells him about a ghost woman that lives in the temple to the North. This investigation leads them on an adventure to save the Princess of Japan. Run, jump, attack, and discover– and by discover I mean, you’d better figure out what’s going on because it doesn’t tell you and I don’t know.


I’m certain this makes sense in context.



Oh, hey. I’m calling this section History now because sometimes I don’t have development to talk about but I do want to talk about the facts around the past of the game. Hence, History.

Legend of the Mystical Ninja is known as Ganbare Goemon (Translation “Go For it, Goemon)  in Japan and is based on two of Japan’s most legendary thieves. Kid Ying is actually supposed to be Goemon, as in Ishikawa Goemon. Ishikawa Goemon was basically Robin Hood, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. He didn’t get Maid Marrion in the end though. Goemon’s wife was killed and his son was kidnapped by a Japanese warlord. When he went to kill this warlord and liberate his son he failed and both he and his son were boiled alive.


That’s right, he’s holding his son out of the water to give him a few more moments of relative peace. HEROIC!

Dr. Yang is supposed to be Ebisimaru, named after Nakamura Jirokichi, AKA Nezumi Kozo. He was a thief that was popularized after his death and there are less Robin Hoodesque reports about him. If records are correct then he stole from over 100 Samurai families and accrued nearly 36 million dollars worth of goods. They say there are no old bold thieves and Nakamura was certainly bold, he was executed after being caught for the second time.

It might seem like there’s a bunch of stuff in this game that doesn’t make sense. But you’ve got to believe me here, it all has roots in Japanese culture or mythology. Let this video by Gaijin Goomba serve as a guide to some of the aspects. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WnFMWreP6Y

Legend of the Mystical Ninja was released by Konami on June 20 1992. It’s competition included Wolfenstein 3D (PC), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (DOS), Super Mario Kart (SNES), and Ecco the Dolphin (Sega Genesis).



My family was pretty broke when I was a kid. They eventually got out of the hole but while they were in it I got a new game every Christmas or so and that was it. In the meantime I would beg and be good in exchange for a visit to our local video and game rental store. This was the game that I rented again and again. I did it mostly for the box art because I didn’t really understand how the game was played– I’m still a little foggy actually. But I kept renting it with this weird thought that it had been so fun even though I hadn’t had any idea how to play it.


This is the first boss. I rented the game 3 times before I saw her. And she scared the crap out of me because ghosts are scary.



Each level has two different sections, the 2.5 dimensional exploration stage and the 2D action stage. The exploration stage is basically about defeating wandering enemies by hitting them with Goemon’s smoking pipe and getting power ups like money, weapon upgrades, and scrolls– I have no idea what the scrolls do but they must be important. Some buildings hold shops where Goemon can buy useful things like sandals that make him move faster and jump higher. Dying in the exploration stage loses the player a life but they come back right where they died, if the player dies in the action stage then they go back to the beginning– brutal but fair.


Pizza in ancient Japan? Well, there are shockingly modern areas in the game so… don’t worry about it.

Ebisimaru is playable but only by the second player. His weapons and maneuvers are the same as Goemon’s but aesthetically different and more silly.

This game is hard for a few reasons but I think that the big one is that whenever Goemon gets hit he loses 1 rank from all of his upgrades and gets knocked back. He’ll lose a weapon rank, two health, and a set of sandals. It’s crippling to get weaker attacks or to move slower especially in the middle of a boss fight. I’d be more willing to farm gold from enemies to stockpile these things but each level has a timer and I don’t know how long it will take to beat the level so I worry and rush. The kicker to all this is that the timer is measured in actually seconds, so each level gives the player about 15 minutes to complete it. The penalty for letting the timer run out? You lose a life… that’s it. It seemed so much scarier when it was unknown

The Gush

For a Super Nintendo game the visuals in this game are really good.


And the opening scene sets the tone and looks nice. Also, I love that line.

This game is filled with fun and interesting Japanese cultural references. Enemies wear masks from Japanese culture, some of which with meanings that are evident from the game itself.


Drum ceremony surrounded by silly masked men. I wonder if that mask represents silliness? Spoilers: They do.

Some levels have really interesting platforming aspects like turning upside down or have secret areas that are cleverly hidden but not impossible to find.

This game is meant to be played with two players. It’s just more lives to go around on the most pragmatic level, it’s like playing a beat em up. Goemon and Ebisimaru can even team up for combo attacks which are super cool.

Strangely enough, I kind of like not knowing what things mean because I get to try to figure things out on my own. When I figured out the Straw Coat protects Goemon from attacks I thought I was a genius, but it made perfect sense! There’s something about self-discovery that’s very satisfying. But there are so many things in this game I haven’t been able to figure out.


The Kvetch

The translation in this game nearly cripples it. Maybe the manual explains what everything means and does but I’ve played this game for years and I still don’t know how most of the game works. It’s not rapidly apparent what some items do– what does the Straw Hat do? I have no idea!


Is Goemon fighting a giant squid on a bridge? Yes. Why? I have no idea.

This game is ungodly amounts of long and hard, I’ve made it to level 5 once but apparently there are 9 or 10 levels. This would be okay if it weren’t for the crazy password system. Passwords are 60 characters long and aren’t just letters, there are all sorts of weird symbols. Passwords also include lower case and uppercase along with numbers– is that an I or a 1, I dunno. It might be better to play on an emulator and use the save states are certain points, seems like cheating but the passwords are ridiculous.

The Story is super threadbare, the plot only happens after Goemon defeats a boss. And the plot pushes things as far as the next area and that’s about it.

The Verdict

If it were easier to figure out how things worked or if I knew what I was doing the whole time then this game would be really fun! As it stands, it’s alright. The platforming is solid, enemies are satisfying to defeat, and the game looks good.

It’s something I’ll spend 3o minutes on and then go play something else. If you can find a good guide about this game then go for it– and send me a link so I can figure this game out.

Next Week: Lords of Magic (PC)


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