With origin characters Jacky and Lee a distant memory, Culture Brain's successor to Kung-Fu Heroes follows the adventure of two new upbeat ninjas named Jack and Ryu as they attempt to put a stop to the evil Blu Boltar and the Yoma Clan who have invaded Chinaland.

Little Ninja Brothers – known as Super Chinese 2 in Japan – expands on the founding concepts of Kung-Fu Heroes and takes the Super Chinese series to grand new heights by mixing the original arcade beat 'em-up gameplay with traditional role-playing elements. Up to two players explore the land travelling between bustling cities and many other appropriately-themed locales whilst swapping stories with townsfolk and facing off against dangerous foes.

The lively cities in Little Ninja Brothers act as a safe haven for players to take a break, restock supplies and chat with locals. The buildings here include houses, convenience stores, and weapon and tool shops. Players can purchase items to heal wounds or buy gear and more to assist them in battle. Hotels are also open to the public, allowing Jack and Ryu to heal their wounds. Beyond the borders of each city are various landmarks including twelve Divine Houses, housing celestial beings who grant powers, and dangerous locations such as the Yoma Chateau.

In between these sights are real-time battles featuring gameplay of Kung-Fu Heroes in the form of random enemy encounters – warping players from the overworld to an arena unless they run from battle. These arenas (themed accordingly) are filled with hazards such as ponds and moving platforms. There are other objects like rocks containing items and unique enemies at varying levels depending on the present whereabouts. While this mirrors the design of the Kung-Fu Heroes, the RPG nature of Little Ninja Brothers add an extra layer of satisfaction to battles – knowing experience and currency gained is assisting Jack and Ryu on their journey.

Items and equipment lend a hand to Jack and Ryu and range from Skateboards – to escape battle, warp and invincibility powers and sweet buns to restore life points. The movesets in battle are also inspired by Kung-Fu Heroes with basic punches and jumps, and the ability to execute Moonsault and Dragon kicks. There is also a sword – required to defeat certain enemies – and extra items and attacks taught and unlocked over time.

In addition to these regular encounters are command battles which play out as a series of selectable choices rather than live action. There is also a new event mode where up to two players can compete in six side-scrolling running events which include tasks ranging from bursting balloons to jumping logs. In single player these “Field Meetings" enable the ninja duo to earn vital rewards. Despite the amount of button mashing required, the competitive nature of this mode makes it rather alluring. It is also a welcomed break from the main quest.

If that was not enough, Little Ninja Brothers also offers three game difficulties and the option to add a second player to the adventure at any time – an impressive feat in this genre. To top it off, the music, sound and visuals work in harmony with the entire game, and help draw the player into the troubles of the little but lively world.

Conclusion

Little Ninja Brothers carries the same charm as the original Super Chinese and greatly expands upon the concept with a traditional RPG experience. If you are looking for a single or two player martial arts classic on NES, Culture Brain's 1989 descendant to Kung-Fu Heroes is an ideal place to start with evolved gameplay and a vibrant universe bursting with life.