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Review: Ninja JajaMaru: The Lost RPGs (Nintendo Switch)

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Take a trip back in time with this pair of retro RPG classics, never released outside of Japan. Ninja JajaMaru: The Lost RPGs, is a bundle featuring two games. Their english translations are; Ninja JajaMaru: The Ninja Skill Book (released in 1989) and Ninja JajaMaru: The Legend of the Golden Castle (released in 1990).

I don’t know about you, but this is my first time hearing about this series. That could be due to the fact that it was never released where I live, but these two titles seem kind of niche to say the least. That doesn’t mean they’re not good. If you’re a fan of retro RPGs and you want to play something you’ve never played before, then Ninja JajaMaru will be right up your alley.

The first game, Ninja Skill Book, reminds me of the old skool Dragon Quest games. The player will guide the protagonist around the map from a top down point of view. You will travel from point A to point B on an overworld map. You can visit different villages and interact with the characters, random enemy encounters included. You gain XP and grow stronger as you progress. You can also purchase and upgrade weapons and equipment with the money you collect from defeating enemies. It’s a very retro-feeling RPG. I mean that in a good way…and a bad way. It hits all of the right spots if you want a good nostalgia trip, but it also feels like I’m going the pace of a snail when trying to progress—especially with the constant enemies stopping me for battles that felt way longer than they should have.

Ninja JajaMaru: Ninja Skill Book, was probably pretty cool when it was first released, but it does come off a bit outdated now. Anytime you want to talk to a character or check something out, you have to open up the menu and choose the action you want to perform. This just feels repetitive and unnecessary. Thank goodness you’re able to tweak the game settings or else I don’t know if I would have made it as far as I did.

Like most re-released, retro games there is a rewind feature to fix any mistakes you make. This kind of feels like cheating if you grew up in the actual era of these games, but I’m also the person who couldn’t beat Jungle Book without rewinding 20 years later on the Nintendo Switch, so who am I to judge?

Now the second game in this bundle, The Legend of the Golden Castle, is much better in terms of, well, everything. This felt more like a top down legend of Zelda game. Instead of random enemy encounters you can just run around and hit enemies with your equipped weapon. The graphics are also better and the controls are simpler and more fluid. Instead of going through your options and choosing “talk” to interact with an NPC you can just walk up to them and press A. There are a lot of differences between the two games. If you don’t like one, you can try the other.

The best thing about Ninja JaJaMaru: The Lost RPGs is being able to customize your experience—quite a lot, actually. You can change the controls and adjust the rewind speed. You can also change the display, which is really cool. You can adjust the sharpness, CRT gamma, screen size and more. There is also an enhancements section in the options that allows you to do things like reduce the random encounter rate (a life saver), or double XP and Gold. Then there is the Cheats section. Here, you can turn on cheats like unlimited HP, no random encounters, unlimited gold and even max out your stats at the very beginning of the game. It’s definitely a cool feature if you want a more “chill,” laid-back experience. You can also save or access and change the settings anytime by pressing the select button.

While I did enjoy parts of Ninja Skill Book, I have to say this bundle is mostly worth checking out for the Legend of the Golden Castle. I feel like JRPG fans will really enjoy the feel of this one. It’s much easier to pick up and play and much easier to get through without using the cheats or enhancements.

If you like retro JRPGs you might want to check out Ninja JajaMaru: The Lost RPGs. Even if you’re not a fan of older games, being able to customize everything makes this bundle accessible to everyone from beginners to pros. The games are a little outdated, especially Ninja Skill Book, but so are a lot of the recently re-released “retro” games. I personally think it’s fun to go back and play through the games that influenced what we have today, and it definitely makes me appreciate how far games and RPGs in general have come.

Check out Ninja JajaMaru: The Lost RPGs, now available on the Nintendo Switch eShop!

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