Ninja Senki DX review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4
Publisher: Tribute Games
Developer: Tribute Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Ninja Senki DX exists.

I mean, I get that Tribute Games apparently decided to mark the fifth anniversary of one of their old games by polishing it up and re-releasing it on the Vita, PS4 and PC. And I don’t want to give the impression that it’s a bad game, by any stretch: it’s perfectly adequate in every respect.

It’s just that Ninja Senki DX is a retro-inspired platformer that doesn’t seem to have anything new to say. Like, if someone were to tell me that the game really was from 25+ years ago, and that some enterprising developer had just grabbed the old source code and dumped it onto the PSN, I’d have no trouble believing that. It borrows liberally from Mega Man and…well, that’s pretty much all it does. There’s no unique twist; there are no interesting new mechanics. It’s just a really, really hard platformer that would’ve been right at home on the NES.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, of course. I’m not going to look at those old games through nostalgia lenses and pretend that they were perfect the first time around. I lived through them then, so I know that’s not the case. And to Ninja Senki DX’s credit, it’s a pretty pitch-perfect imitator in every respect, from the simple controls, to the basic graphics and chiptunes music, to the insane level of difficulty.

I do think, however, that if you’re going to draw so heavily from those old games, it should be in the service of something more ambitious than simply imitating your influences and calling it a day. And that’s why I don’t see the point of Ninja Senki DX’s existence: it aspires to nothing more than to borrow liberally from those old games, without in any way building on them or looking at them in a different light. Considering we live in a time when it’s surpassingly easy to download and play those games, I don’t get why you’d want to bother with imitators like this when the real thing is only a few clicks away.

Grade: B