Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that we have revised this review in light of the game-breaking bug which prevents the player from progressing beyond level one in the game. We raised this with Commodore Gaming at the time of release and was assured that a patch would be made available ASAP. As this patch is still not available we did the honourable thing and revised the review to make it completely accurate. We apologise for any confusion caused. – Ed.
The third in the Last Ninja series sees you as Armakuni, the Last Ninja. He is drawn again into a battle with evil Shogun Kunitoki.
Last Ninja 2 is one of the best games ever released on the Commodore 64, taking the absurdly successful formula of the original and applying a number of improvements across the board. It was inevitable that there would be another entry in the series, but the pressure to impress was even greater the third time around. And yet the talented bods at System 3 managed it.
The most immediate improvement is in the visuals. Last Ninja 3 opens with an impressive and moody animated introductory sequence, the kind of thing we take for granted nowadays, but quite uncommon on the tape-loading C64. The game itself more than lives up to this opening, with detailed sprites, intricate environments and sumptuous colours throughout, the result of a new graphics engine built from the ground up for this installment. Instead of the singular environments of previous games, this entry has an elemental theme which allows for distinct and effective level designs; you can almost feel the heat of the furnaces and magma of the fire level, and the final stage, set in a strange otherworldly void, is particularly evocative in its cosmic weirdness.
The sound also impresses, with a number of good tunes and strong use of the C64's famous SID chip. The compositions are perhaps not quite as strong as in previous games in the series, but nonetheless, there is plenty of good music in the game, and the C64's sound technology remains ahead of its time. We reviewers can sometimes come across as a broken record when talking about the Commodore's superior sound capabilities, but it really is that good.
The gameplay also receives some minor but significant tweaks. The complexity of the puzzles is boosted a little, with some items needing to be combined in order to be useful, and others not revealing their utility until a later level. These are not exactly brain-numbing in difficulty, but they do lift the game above the level of a simple button-masher. Similarly, the Bushido system introduced with this installment adds some depth and variety to the frequent combat; while it is still possible to flee from or overpower your enemies, you miss out on certain benefits if you do, and furthermore, the boss fights become considerably more difficult when Bushido runs low. There even seems to have been a slight fixing of the occasionally fiddly Last Ninja control scheme, and Armakuni is a touch more responsive this time around, although parts of the game (most notable changing direction) are still not best suited to a control pad; as with the earlier games, it may be wise to break out a Gamecube controller for this one.
This is truly one of the best Commodore 64 games in that machine's venerable history, and it stands proud amongst other Virtual Console offerings, even from more powerful systems. Or at least it should. The reason why it does not is because the Virtual Console emulation is marred by a particularly egregious bug which prevents progress beyond the first stage, dumping the player into what looks suspiciously like the C64's native operating system, with no way of getting back into the game. Commodore are aware of this bug, and have been for the year or so since the game's initial release, but thus far it goes unfixed, and it is hard to believe that the producers care a jot for their audience, or for doing a proper job.
It is a terrible shame that one of the very best games of the 8-bit era is unveiled to a new, modern, audience in such a shoddy and incomplete state. Until it is fixed, if it is fixed, you should save your Wii points for something else, and not waste them on rewarding a lazy job.
Damn shame, it really is. It looks so good with the excellent intro, fantastic first stage, the graphics, music and atmosphere, highscore list and game over screen... I wish I could play the whole game. Releasing a broken game is very lazy. Everyone who got this game should get a refund by now.
Also, the bug is not my only gripe with the game.
You can play Last Ninja 1 perfectly with a Classic Controller.
Last Ninja 2 can even be played perfectly with the Wiimote!
But Last Ninja 3 has no good button layout. Not on Wiimote and not on Classic Controller. In fact there is one important button (F5) to switch to the next item in your inventory. But there's no button assigned to it. There's a button to cycle through weapons, and a button to switch to the former item, but if you want to switch to the next item, you have to take the Wiimote, press 1-button, and then select the F5 button from the virtual keyboard. Feels really awkward, especially when there are so many buttons on the Wiimote and Classic Controller left with no function at all. If they will ever fix the game, I hope they also fix the controls, but I think that's just too much to ask for.
Meh ... the control issues and the sole reason why I stopped buying games for the C64 when it first appeared on the VC. I bought one "highly recommended" game and am glad to say I'll never touch the system again. Another horribly flawed idea by Nintendo. You have to give them credit where it's due.
Sorry to hear of your troubles though, SKTTR.
Twisted, which game are you referring too. I own 8 C64 games including the first two Last Ninjas and havn't experienced control issues on any of them so I think you may be being rather harsh on the system.
Great to see this review finally fixed and Nintendolife at last taking the problem seriously. The next step should be for them to "fix" the review of Mayhem in Monsterland to note the verious problems its audio has on the emulated VC version. The only one I havn't enjoyed so far has been Cybernoid but that had nothing to do with the controls which seem to be emulated exactly as I remember them on the C64 originals.
I would also like the website to officially contact Nintendo as many of its readers are doing and asking them why they continue to sell a faulty product on the Wii shop channel that was first identified as faulty 9 months ago!
Nice job on revising it.
Latest response from Nintendo:
Thank you for your email.
We passed your email to our European Headquarters, who have now responded that this issue is being investigated. However, as Nintendo would not involved in the development of this port, Nintendo cannot make any changes ourselves. The developers of this port have been contacted, and they have reported that fix is being worked on. I’m afraid we cannot provide any further details in to this situation at the moment.
Customer Service Team Leader
Your Nintendo Team
I have contacted trading standards about this games continued availability. They confirm the following to anyone who bought it:
"You have a contract with them, under the Sales of Goods Act 1979. Under this act the goods should be of satisfactory quality, if they are not the trader should repair/replace the goods in a reasonable time, if this doesn’t resolve the issue then they should provide a refund".
They have also reported Nintendo to Trading Standards on my behalf for further investigation.
I'm glad you changed the review score and brought attention to this. Maybe now the developers and Nintendo will do the right thing and fix this problem.
I was so, so close to buying this last night, but decided to read Nintendo Life's review.
Cheers for the heads up - points saved!
Email update from Nintendo today:
I apologise for emailing you directly, but we have today received confirmation that “Last Ninja 3” will be reoved from the European Virtual Console service. Any consumers that have purchased this title will have the Nintendo Points value refunded to their account. Once again, thank you for providing information regarding this title.
Customer Service Team Leader
Your Nintendo Team
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