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Virtual Console Roundup

Ninja Commando and Art of Fighting 2.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Ninja Commando

  • Platform: NeoGeo
  • Wii Points: 900
  • In Real Money: GBP 6.30 / EUR 9 (approx)

Ninja Commando is an arcade game. Stating the obvious, you might think, but I mean this more as a description of the game's cultural identity than its technical origins. It's a game where a trio of videogame ninja stereotypes battle through different time periods to defeat a fiendish villain. They do this by scrolling up the screen, like Commando or Ikari Warriors or Insert Your Own Taito Game Here, and defeating hundreds of baddies by throwing stuff at them.

But that's only half the story. This is a pure blood arcade game, mangled Japanese translation, baffling plot twists, ludicrous enemies and everything else that entails. It's a game where shooting goes FSSSSH FSSSSSH FSSSSSSH and bad guys go OOOOOER when they die. It's a game where battling robot cavemen and fire-breathing dinosaurs is one of the least stupid things you'll do. It's a game where almost every level introduction features at least one outrageous error. Did that man with the Three Stooges haircut really just say "Go and investigate his plans light now"? Yes. Yes, he did.

Is it any good? Well, sort of. Strip away the WTF factor and you're left with a vertical scrolling shoot-'em-up that doesn't really have much to recommend it. It scratches that basic arcade itch, but doesn't bother to apply the soothing balm of fresh ideas or polished gameplay. It's absolutely hilarious, but whether that's enough to warrant the pricey 900-Point cost is up to you.

6/10

Art of Fighting 2

  • Platform: NeoGeo
  • Wii Points: 900
  • In Real Money: GBP 6.30 / EUR 9 (approx)

For anyone sad and lonely enough to actually follow the storylines of fighting games, Art of Fighting 2 is sort of the nexus point around which SNK's numerous franchises orbit, collide and swizzle about in confusing ways. Both King of Fighters and Fatal Fury spin-off from, or spin back into, this series in absolutely impenetrable ways.

Doesn't get along with Garfunkel of Whacking.

As with the original Art of Fighting, it's not good enough to mount a serious challenge to the likes of Street Fighter, but nor does it really deserve the poor reputation that fighting game fans have sniffily bestowed upon it.

The Rage Gauge is the source of most of this ire, an evolution of the Spirit Gauge system whereby special moves can only be performed by using up some of your supply of "spirit", a resource that can be slowly recharged but only by leaving yourself open to an ass-kicking. To make it even trickier, your spirit can be sapped should your opponent successfully taunt you. Designed to stop players from spamming the special moves, it's a controversial feature but not the game-breaking abomination that some would have you believe.

The main problem with Art of Fighting 2 is that it doesn't really change much from the first game. You get some more characters, but that's pretty much it. It still looks impressive though, provided enormous colourful sprites are your thing. Oh, and it's ferociously difficult when played against the CPU fighters, which has led many genre followers to accuse the game of cheating.

And yet I still like it. I like it a lot. There are many valid criticisms that can be thrown in Art of Fighting's direction, but it offers a unique tactical challenge and boasts some of the more innovative fighting game ideas of its era.

8/10

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