#752 – Zen: Intergalactic Ninja

                                       

                                                                                      Does Zen have a black hole for legs?

 

                                             

                                                                                            Lord Contaminus reigns supremus.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Konami

DEVELOPER: Konami

GENRE: Action

RELEASE DATE: March 1993

 

Zen the Intergalactic Ninja reminds me of a beefier Donatello (complete with bo) and a stereotypical alien head. Though Zen originates from his own cult comic series, Konami – the makers of every 8-bit Turtles game – are the brains behind Zen’s NES adventures. Far from being just another mindless beat-em-up, Konami wrings a surprising amount of variety from the blue beef tank. In the Oil Rig level, you rescue people trapped in a burning building. Collect fire extinguishers and put out the fires, while avoiding stray flames and living oil slicks. In the Forest level, you destroy clouds that are unleashing acid rain on flowers. Beat the flowers back to life with your staff (!), then jump up past the trees to do battle with the evil Sulfura. The more flowers that are alive (as shown in the upper left corner of the screen), the less life you’ll lose as you fight Sulfura. All in a day’s work for the intergalactic ninja.

 

Sulfura is but one of many environmentally-themed, “Captain Planet”-esque bosses you’ll fight. In fact, the second half of the game is comprised mostly of boss battles. It’s a shame, then, that Zen isn’t a better fighter. His bo staff is his one and only attack, and while it is powerful, it’s also slow. Zen controls well enough, but he’s not as agile as his pals the Turtles. Be prepared for frustration when you’re jumping precariously over holes or bosses’ attacks. And for how ripply Zen’s muscles are, he takes beatings like a freshman. Don’t be fooled by the size of his life bar. The sensitive hit detection will drain it like water through a colander

 

In truth, I admire the effort Konami put into Zen: Intergalactic Ninja more than I enjoy the game itself. The graphics and animation are top-notch, the music is quintessential chip tune, but the gameplay never settles into a groove. Konami’s decision to make every stage different (similar, in some ways, to Battletoads) is laudable, but the game lacks a distinct identity as a result. Zen challenged and surprised me, but never in the way I wished it would.

 

C+

 

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  • J. Parish

    Mediocre as this game may be, I really love those old Konami sprites that used colors besides black for outlines. More devs should have done that. It's artsy fartsy in the best way.

    • DylanCornelius

      Huh. Never noticed that before, but you're right.

  • Jim Purcell

    A couple things, you wrote Capcom in the Publisher/Developer section.

    Also, you don't mention that Zen the Intergalactic Ninja is, much like the TMNT, based on an Independent comic books series that existed in the early 90s. So its not wholly Konami's creation. But his character is very much in the Turtles/Battletoads model, even if he's an alien and not a mutant animal.

    • DylanCornelius

      D'oh! Fixed.

      Somehow I knew Zen was part of a comic series, and I failed to mention it. Double fixed.

  • Arcane

    I've always wanted to play this, yet still haven't, and yeah, just looking at the screenshots one would get a TMNT/Captain Planet vibe. Oddly enough, what I know about this game is its review in Nintendo Power that also featured a review of Time Diver Eon Man, which was never released, though the ROM is on the Internets.

    • DylanCornelius

      Zen is worth sampling, but it's not up there with Konami's classics.

      • Arcane

        A NES Konami game that isn't up to their usual pedigree is an odd duck, indeed (Well, at least the cover is lol). I'll definitely check the game out now, if only because its surprising mediocrity has piqued my interest all over again.

        Sidenote: If only Konami, Capcom, and other top-notch publishers of the era would've had LJN and Ocean's movie-based games, perhaps the 'curse' of licensed games wouldn't be so damning.

        • DylanCornelius

          It's a double-edged sword. If Capcom and Konami had those licenses, they would have produced better movie games, but at the expense of their own titles. At least Capcom and Disney worked relatively well together.

          • Arcane

            To an extent. I think all gamers would accept Capcom-or-Konami-developed versions of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and the Terminator series, for example, in exchange for forgettable Capcom Disney games like Mickey Mousecapade (They published it, but still) and The Little Mermaid.

          • DylanCornelius

            Touche'

  • Tony Wilkins

    By 1993 I would guess that it was getting more and more difficult to create original NES games. It is also showing its age in those graphics