Developed and published by Natsume, Return of the Ninja was released in 2001 for the Game Boy Color. The spiritual successor to Shadow of the Ninja on the original Nintendo, Return of the Ninja has the player taking control of two separate ninjas on the quest to retrieve their clan’s secret scrolls after they have been stolen. Return of the Ninja offers both stealth and action on the handheld system. Is this game sneaky good or does this ninja game get exposed?
I can not confirm that this is on the back of the box but this is the gist of the plot. It comes from a walkthrough on GameFaqs.com
“What your enemy fears the most is something it cannot see: You!
A mysterious army has attacked the land of Koga and stolen an ancient and sacred scroll. As a highly trained ninja, it’s up to you to find out who is behind the trouble and recover Koga’s precious treasure. To accomplish this, you’ll need to recover six secret ninja tools hidden from the invaders. The enemy army may outnumber you a thousand to one, but you are a master of stealth – and every military leader knows that a blind enemy is vanquished foe. “
So through my playthrough, you are part of an ancient clan of ninjas and your village gets raided. The secret scrolls to your ninja ways are stolen so your elderly ninja master requests that Tsukikage and Sayuri journey to the mysterious headquarters of the evil ninjas and steal back the scrolls.
I don’t play many games on the Game Boy Color, but Return of the Ninja looks great. It has a generous color pallet and offers six stages of platforming stealth-action. You can choose to play as a male ninja named Tsukikage or a female ninja named Sayuri. I didn’t play as Sayuri so I’m not sure if there’s a difference between the two and their weapons. You’ll get a few small cut scenes during certain parts of the game. It’s nothing but still images with text but I appreciate the effort and enjoyed reading what was going on in the game.
Return of the Ninja lets players choose a few options before starting the game. Like I said you can choose to play as either ninja but you can also select which stage you play after the first level. It gives you a nice opportunity to select your path or give a different level a go if you are having trouble with others.
In each level there will be helpful tools that your ninja scout friends have left for you. You’ll need to find them to progress in the level. Iron Claws will allow you to dig into dirt and sneak through the ground to enter different sections of the level. The Tabi will let you crawl on the ceiling and help become more stealthy. Ninja sandals will power up your jumps and allow you to reach new heights and levels. The Kabuto will let you glide when you jump and you’ll be able to float to other areas when you jump. Finally, the Mizugumo will transform you into Jesus Christ and allow you to walk on water.
Overall, these tools were a great inclusion in the game and added an extra layer of gameplay. You don’t need to switch to them, instead, once you have them they are just attached to you and you can have all five powers at once. When you aren’t using your tools, you’ll be using your weapons. Tsukikage is equipped with a sword that you can slash with or you can power up a gauge to throw ninja stars.
You can kill enemies or you can try and be stealthy as you avoid them in various ways. Enemies will patrol throughout the level and if you get too close a little exclamation point pops up over their head like in Metal Gear Solid. I don’t care if I’m spotted but the game scores you based on the way you play. Each level will be scored based on enemies killed, times you were detected, and time it took to beat the level. I dillydallied most levels and wound up with a “D” or “C” ranking. The six levels usually took me anywhere from 5 to 12 minutes to beat. You’d make your way through the stage, find an obstacle that required a tool to get by, and then fight a boss.
Boss fights varied and I enjoyed that they were different each time. Some bosses moved around the screen and fired objects at you, while others slashed their sword and ran around. The final boss was a giant samurai on a horse who towered over you. The screen scrolled as you ran away from him but he was very easy to defeat as I chucked ninja stars at him.
After each level, you’ll collect a card. I have no idea what these cards do or what they are used for. Maybe they are a special power that you can activate during the game. I think they were meant to be traded between other players because there is an option to “give” them so I bet you can hook up to other players using the game-link cable and trade. It’s a cool idea but I didn’t use them at all during my playthrough.
I had never heard of this game until searching for hidden gems on the Game Boy Color. After playing it, I can indeed say this was a great game.
Return of the Ninja is a fantastic game for the Game Boy Color although it’s on the short side. With numerous tools, weapons, and six different stages to play through, Return of the Ninja offers plenty of stealth and action for different styles of play. It’s not challenging but it is a good time and is a great game overall.
Return of the Ninja scores an 9.2 out of 10.
Do you remember when Return of the Ninja first came out? What did you think of the different tools throughout the levels? Was there a boss that gave you trouble? Did you play as the male or female ninja? Let me know your memories and thoughts, I’d love to read the comments.
If you’d like to own a copy of Return of the Ninja, you can purchase a used copy of it for the Game Boy Color for $250, currently, there are none on eBay but that’s the rate for this game I’ve found.