2018 SEP 30

(FAMICOM, 1985)

This is a new game. To clarify, this game is the newest one here, at least to me. All the other games I've either played beforehand or owned before I started this site and thought that I should review them. This is the first game that's an exception to the rule. A while back, I bought a box of a bunch of Famicom games, mostly for a handful of cartridges that I'll get to eventually, and with it, there were many that I typically would have never seen in my life otherwise. One of these games is Ninja Jajamaru-kun, released by Jaleco in 1985, shortly after the Famicom launched. So, it's an obscure game from years ago that I never would have seen if it wasn't for me wanting to make reviews on a site that almost nobody goes on to. And also being the only bidder on an eBay auction. Taking that cartridge, plugging it in to my knockoff Famiclone, and then looking at the glow of my screen, embracing the clunk of a Famicom game from 1985 made me realize one thing. It's kind of perfect for this.


Hundred thousand blows
Lead to a thousand spirits
Vanquished by my stars

To be more specific, I did do research about this game before pulling a rabbit out of my ass and calling it an opinion. This game is the kind of obscure that deserves to have some notable mention, since it inspired Robot Ninja Haggleman, a game made for Retro Game Challenge for the Nintendo DS. Now, this game isn't obscure in the sense that it sold poorly and only lives on by mention on various top 10 best/rarest NES games' list, such as Little Samson. No, as a game from 1985, it sold enough to make it into a series, which is funny, as Jajamaru-kun itself is a spinoff to a series of Japanese arcade games called Ninja-kid. There were at least 4 games in the spinoff's series on the Famicom alone, some of which were planned to release for the American audiences, and then the series kind of died down. And nobody really knows about the series in the west, except for a few sites here and there.

This is one of those games that brings me back to my review of Tetris Party. Namely, this game is notable for being one of the three launch international games to be released on the Wii Shop Channel, along with Sin & Punishment and Super Mario Bros 2 (Lost Levels for the non-Famicom crowd). For some odd reason, Nintendo decided this game would have been a great introduction to the Japanese-exclusive games that were on offer years before. The problem is that Ninja Jajamaru-kun, compared to later releases on the Famicom, is just not much of a good game. And additionally, since it was an international game, Nintendo made the game cost 600 Wii Points instead of the typical 500. That means it must be good.


Victory is mine
And I have defeated the guts
Of This which I hate

If you have played Haggleman before, you'll understand this game's mechanics very easily, since they're similar. I plan on playing through Retro Game Challenge again for a review later, and talk about Haggleman more specifically, but just take my word that they're very similar games. The gameplay in Jajamaru-Kun is very simple to grasp after 5 minutes. Each stage has 4 floors with 2 enemies on each floor. Kill all the enemies with your shurikens, and you go to the next stage. Killing an enemy results in its spirit becoming free, which grants you some extra points if you capture it. You start off on the bottom floor and to progress your way up, you have to break brick ceilings with your head. Sometimes, breaking ceilings can give you powerups, like coins worth 500 or 1000 points, an orb that makes you run faster or invisible to all enemies but the boss, extra lives, and my favourite, a minecart that holds Jujumaru-kun and lets him ride around the level. If you get three powerups in a single life, which is easier said than done, then you get a frog that pops in, lets you ride it, and eats enemies for you. Every 20000 points, you get an extra life. These are most of the mechanics that you will care about in this game.

To clarify, if we treat the game like an entrance exam, which games typically do not have, this game's exam would consist of a single question, except it turns out that it was two questions all along: "Have you played Robot Ninja Haggleman and did you like it?" If you answered yes to both of these questions, you might be interested in this game, and that's basically the entire audience this game has any right to gather nowadays. This was a very difficult exam to take in 1985, however, considering Retro Game Challenge was released in late 2007, and most Japanese children did not even know that Nintendo's video game handhelds could have two screens, except for the Nintendo video game handhelds that did have two screens, like the Game & Watch. Point is, I forget where my metaphor was going, but most of you aren't planning on playing an early Famicom game about a ninja, you'd rather play something better. Don't worry, I understand you guys completely, I'd do the same thing.


A thousand men stand
More like eight before my eyes
Regret everything

The good thing about this game is that both you and your enemies are on level ground. By that, I mean both of you can throw projectiles that instantly kills the other in one shot, as well as if you jump and land on an enemy, it gets stunned and vice versa. Getting stunned sucks, yet I like this mechanic, it doesn't make the computer feel like a cheating bastard because whatever it can do, you can do too. This game becomes very difficult as a result, but it's a fairer challenge than what most arcade-based games at the time were like, since you can either take everything at your own pace, or suffer and make the entire game impossibly difficult by opening up all the floors right away. I still can't beat the game, though, so if you're into getting killed a lot and having to start over from nothing, this game's up your alley. There might be a cheat to continue the game, but I didn't discover it. I tried a lot of combinations, but none of them worked. Oh, well.

One last mechanic that I never got around to mentioning is the bonus battles, but this only makes sense with the plot. The plot is that the evil Catfish Pirate stole Princess Sakura and you have to get her back, beating enemies from Japanese folklore along the way on your trusty frog. It's a halfassed plot that makes just as much sense in context, but it's good enough for this game. I mean, a ninja beating up on Japanese spirits, known as youkai, is an amazing concept. Add some alcohol and the rest of the game makes sense too. Besides, if we're talking about how dumb the excuse plot is, the bonus battles are legitimately you trying to defeat the Catfish Pirate. To get there, Princess Sakura throws down petals for you to catch once per level, and if you get three, you're off to fight the final boss and rescue the princess. With that in mind, my interpretation of the plot is that Jajamaru-kun battles against his archenemy, who spouts fire from as high up as he can possibly be, while the intrepid hero obtains the power of heart, and rescues the princess after the biggest and most powerful bout in the last millenia against the Catfish Pirate, announces his everlasting devotion to Sakura, and she shall reward the victor with her love, 5000 points, and a go fuck yourself back to the rest of the game. <3


Is this what love is
This tastes of my suffering
Can I end this game

The game's also ugly. Not to say that I don't like the character designs, I love them, or the enemies designs or mannerisms, who are pretty unique and reasonable, respectively. The spirits leaving remind me of another game where a red-wearing protagonist kills a bunch of youkai as well, but that's for another day. No, the big issue is that this game is a really early Famicom game. They don't have screen scrolling down yet, so the game constantly jerks around left and right to load the rest of the level, and doesn't scroll vertically at all. The sprites also don't really match, so it's just an eyesore trying to keep up with the game, if you don't get used to it, you might end up nauseous as a result. I'm kind of surprised that the game was relatively popular in Japan, but I guess there wasn't much of competition at the time.

The music is a monotonous and eargrating mess, which would be a much better affair if the sound programmer could have gotten the hang of the sound chip. To clarify, the actual song itself doesn't seem like it would be bad, but the way it's implemented into the game makes it sound a lot worse than it has any right to be. This is one of those games where it's begging for a remaster of some sort, even if it's a fairly cheap one, like an Adobe Flash game of some sort. I didn't turn the music off, because I'm a masochist that way, but most people would gladly do so.

Essentially, this game was an attempt. In the early Famicom days, it was solid fare compored to other titles available during this time, such as 1942, but it's not that good, nor did it age well. It's just... there. Sitting in my collection, taunting me, saying I'm not good enough to beat it. And it's not wrong.

FINAL REVIEW SCORE: <3 / 5 (less than 3 out of 5)