Published on July 6th, 2012 | by Nichomaxwell1
A Review of Otoboke Ninja Coloseum: That’s quite the name…but is it quite the game?
Year: 1995 // System: Super Famicom // Publisher: Intec // Developer: Mint // Genre: Action-Puzzle
>>>All hail the Bomberman clones! While this is a step-up from Coron Land because it implements elements of strategy, there’s no mistaking Otoboke as a Sailor Moon-style copycat. I don’t know if the game’s cover was trying to satisfy the recently coined “Male Gaze” phenomenon, because there’s nothing sexy or alluring about your heroines in-game. But perhaps that is for the best, because these ninja vixens hang right with the guys in ripping through baddies, and methinks these puzzle-type games were partly designed to bring female players into the fold. You definitely had to mentally map out a plan of attack for reaching the warp pad that took you to the next level, and moving things around took as much priority as trapping enemies in between your ninja stars.
But in spite of being a quirky puzzle game with cute chibi characters, O.N.C. definitely has its drawbacks…enough that it would keep even the hard-nosed action-puzzle gamer from participating. On the one hand, it has pleasing aesthetics with satisfying movements and an acceptable number of power-ups. Life and time drops are balanced, and learning the layout of each map via movable objects and how your weapons interact with the environment composed the core of Otoboke’s entertainment. Levels weren’t breathtaking by any means, but they were interesting to look at and uniquely designed within their overall theme. There are only sixteen stages, not including bosses, divided into four zones: garden, ice, haunted, and ocean. Although the core designs took different forms, the changes in scenery were only there for show. It would have been neat if you were slipping and sliding a little more throughout the ice levels, or if, on one of the haunted stages, a ghost swept you up and carried you to another part of the map.
Although movement was fine, management of your weapons was not. The shuriken made sense with its four-direction launch, and I thought it fair that if you got in the way of your own attack, then you were momentarily paralyzed, but never killed unless an enemy happened upon your frozen form. I also found that your chain grappler couldn’t even be activated against edges, and that it could never do damage to a frozen enemy if he was close to unfreezing himself. Making it curve was also hard to do within confined space, and until I found out about this difficult command, the circular objects in the frame below were impossible to move.
Forget the combat system! Except for bosses and perhaps taking on human players, battling CPUs was like toiling away at the harvest. Given the limited timer, you felt hard-pressed to track down every single enemy on the map and then trap each one in a manner so particular that it trapped that enemy without harming you. Plus, without a manual, it might take you a bit to realize that some enemies will take hits from your ninja stars and temporarily freeze, but the only way you could damage them in that state is if you use your chain, which you already needed to use in the nick of time in order to eradicate the frozen baddie.
But even if the CPU was not fun to take down, I can only imagine that this game was a blast in Versus mode. The control and movement schemes all cater more to trapping and eliminating other thinking targets in a massive game of cat and mouse, with more blocks thrown in that you must bust through with your shuriken. Up to four players can participate, and given that each player could launch up to four stars at one time, I’m all sure that watching sixty-four ninja stars launch in different directions could cause for a rather messy scene.
Otoboke Ninja Colosseum is simple in its premise but complex in its method…although its method could use some tweaking. I noticed that, in the Adventure mode, you could play with a partner, giving me flashbacks to Coron Land where the emphasis of the main game was on cooperative play. Although O.N.C. doesn’t necessarily need a second controller as badly as Coron Land did, cooperative play was heavily advertised here through the story which featured two ninja heroines instead of one. I’d say that if one is to play Otoboke, one should do so with a younger sibling or a significant other…or that one laid back friend of yours who wants to play a anime version of Bomberman.
Challenge: 6/10: Some of the puzzles are neat and each level feels a little different from the one before. But combat against CPU monsters feels bothersome and taking down bosses requires you to master a rather redundant strategy. But the Versus mode seems promising and the Two-Player version of Adventure plays smoother and faster than One-player, given that you’re two players instead of one eliminating the same number of monsters and solving the same number of puzzles.
Handling: 7/10: The movement mechanics are well-executed, and throwing stars requires intelligent placement on your behalf so that you don’t get caught in the star’s trajectory. The grappling hook was sometimes a bit cumbersome, for it never did damage to enemies that were about to unfreeze themselves, despite the fact that they were still frozen.
Innovation: 6/10: This was Bomberman with multicolored ninja girls using shuriken instead of bombs.
Core Experience: 6/10: The adventure mode was rather short and wore on you by the time you had reached the Ocean zone. The real excitement can be found in Versus, which is somewhat disheartening because that means you need to track down three other players who want to play this Super Famicom title with you, and given how hard it may be for you to track down both a SNES and an original version of this title (because this was yet another Japan exclusive), the Versus mode appears irrelevant in making this title playable today.
OVERALL: 6.3/Decent: Although I thought the setup was a bit clever and cutesy here and there, the game’s slow-paced tactics for rounding up and taking down enemies never warmed my heart, and the short playthrough didn’t leave me asking for more. If this were to ever make it to Virtual Console (which is highly unlikely), then it’d be interesting to see how much attention that its multiplayer mode would receive.