Overview – developed by City Connection and HELLO QUEST with publishing covered by ININ Games, Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle +Hell Deluxe Edition is a compilation of action platform titles, containing 6 games from the Ninja JaJaMaru series. This collection is available for Nintendo Switch and PlayStation systems, with a link to each version of the game at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle +Hell – Deluxe Edition used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now, with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. The primary focus of this review is going to be covering the core elements of the newest title, covering all elements of the game with the other games getting a brief summary of their gameplay and how they perform. So let’s get into it. (All screenshots have been provided by the developer/publisher)
Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle +Hell – 2022
Gameplay – this is a run and gun style action title, with the player tasked on battling the waves of Yokai that spawn in. To defeat the enemies, the player must run, jump and attack the Yokai that appear, collecting souls and gold from them. The main game is made up of 3 chapters, containing several stages and challenging battles for players to take on, increasing in difficulty over time.
The stages themselves are made up of platforms that the player can jump between, letting them move up and down to reach enemies. To get up to some areas, bricks need to be broken that cover gaps by jumping into them, with a chance to drop items when they are broken. To clear the stages, all enemies must be defeated while collecting items, avoiding damage and collecting gold. There is even the chance of getting a bonus stage by collecting 3 flower petals that appear.
The enemies that appear start off simple, with Yokai that attack in simple direct ways. However, over time the Yokai become more difficult to battle, introducing more complex attack patterns and increasing damage. There are also mini boss enemies that will do significantly more damage and have intense attacks. At the end of some stages, there will be boss battles that the player must complete to finish the stage.
When a stage is cleared, the gold that has been collected will combine with the spirits of defeated enemies, turning into gold coins. These coins will be added to the player bank, which will provide rewards when certain milestones are met. The rewards that players can obtain are music, gallery items and new characters to play as. There is also a special mode that can be unlocked if requirements are met, but that is a surprise.
Outside of the standard mode, there is a ranking mode where players can put their skills to the test against the rest of the world. In the ranking mode, challenge a stage where the player must get the highest score they can. The rankings for the game are tallied for solo and 2 player co-op, with the rankings applied for players all over the world to battle for the top spot. Rankings are updated regularly, so keep an eye on your position.
As mentioned above, there are items that can be unlocked during play which are added to a collection page where players can view them. These consist of the playable characters, music and even the special cameo characters from a select few Jaleco games. There is also the documents section, where players can look at boxes, manuals and cartridges of the original games in the Ninja JaJaMaru series.
The core of the game is challenging, with stages that start off simple and easy for players to get used to. But as the stages progress, the difficulty level will escalate dramatically as newer threats are added. This means that players will likely feel a sharp increase in difficulty, especially during boss battles, where the screen can be filled with hazards all at one time. Unfortunately, defeat is likely to be common, but experimentation will make it easier.
Now, I will be moving onto the other aspects of this title, starting with the controls.
Controls – the controls for The Great Yokai Battle are very simple to pick up and play, with only two actions and movement. The inputs are very reactive and work well, with snappy and responsive actions that have a classic arcade feel to them. This game plays very well regardless of the controller that is used, with both handheld and docked mode playing very comfortably, especially when using a third party classic style controller.
Presentation – the visual style for this title is reminiscent of the 8-bit art style that the original games were made with. There is vibrant pixel art for the sprites and backgrounds, with zero of the downsides that the original games had. There is no issue with frame rate or flickering that the original titles had. The sound is excellent, with a brand new soundtrack as well as a classic retro OST that will play in game, along with sound effects that really pack a punch.
So with the main game covered, let’s take a look at the bonus games that are included with the deluxe edition of The Great Yokai Battle.
Ninja JaJaMaru-Kun – 1985 (NES)
Developed by Jaleco, this is an action platformer where the player takes control of the protagonist JaJaMaru, on a mission to rescue Princess Sakura from the pirate lord. The player must clear each of the stages by defeating the enemies, all of them based on the Yokai of Japanese folklore. When enemies are defeated their spirits will be released, heading for the top of the screen and can be collected for extra points. Each level has a set number of enemies to battle and they will chase the player if he is near them, defeating them all clears the stage.
The player is able to destroy blocks that are scattered through the stages, dropping power-ups when destroyed. These include extra lives, coins for bonus points and attack boosts, with a special frog power named Gamapa when three different items are collected. There are also bombs that will kill the player if they are touched, so caution must be taken when breaking the blocks.
During stages, Sakura will occasionally drop flower petals for the player to collect. When three of these petals have been picked up, the player will be transported to a bonus stage where they can directly attack the Pirate Lord. Bonus points will be gained when hitting the boss, but be careful as they drop bombs on the player and if they are hit, the bonus stage will end and they will go to the next stage.
This version of the game is from the NES (Famicom in Japan), with some minor issues with flicker and frame rate when there is a lot of enemies on screen. However, this is due to the limitations of the hardware at the time. The game itself, the action goes at a solid pace and works really well. There is an option for infinite lives so players can practice and make it through the game.
Ninja JaJaMaru’s Big Adventure – 1986 (NES)
This is the sequel to Ninja JaJaMaru, transitioning from a simple action run and gun style game to a side scrolling action game. In this release, players are tasked with travelling from the start of the screen, battling enemies and collecting treasure items. The action is similar to the previous title, with a greater diversity of enemies to battle as well as the return of JaJaMaru’s faithful frog companion.
The stages of the game are filled with enemies that will attack the player, trying to take them down from all directions as they try to make it to the goal door. During the course of the game, there will be boss battles against unique Yokai spirits, set in individual areas. During these battles, the player is able to attack upwards, letting them directly target the boss when fighting them. There are also items hidden in the regular stages, with new and returning items from the original game.
Just like the first, this game sadly suffers from the minor flaws of frame rate and image flicker. This is due to it being on the NES, with more on screen and increasingly complex stage layouts. But the issues that are here don’t take away from the fun that can be had, as they are caused by the limits of the system at the time. I do have to warn readers that there are flashing images in this release, so if you suffer from photosensitivity I advise skipping this.
Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great World Adventure – 1990 (Game Boy)
This pocket sized adventure sees Maru on a quest to save the princess once again, this time travelling the world as he tries to find her in this side scrolling adventure. As the Ninja, the player must travel through the stage and battle the enemies that appear to hinder their progress, with a mini and main boss that will appear during the level. There is also a dialogue system when bosses appear, with dialogue between Maru and his foe.
The gameplay style takes a shift in this release, with different gimmicks being introduced including a scuba mini game and reversible gravity. The player can also attack in three different directions, as well as use different weapons that can only be used against the boss of that stage. These different systems and gimmicks combine to create a different play experience from the previous two titles discussed so far.
As a Game Boy title, the visuals are completely black and white. However, the developers have taken the time to fully color this game and create a deluxe edition. This is a nice touch as it improves the experience, creating a new way for players to enjoy this if they have previously played this title. The additional cheats are also added to this title, but the same flash effects occur in this title which can affect photosensitive players.
Ninja JaJaMaru: Operation Milky Way – 1991 (NES)
This is the last title in the Ninja series for the NES, as well as the biggest shift in gameplay. This entry changes the formula from action to straight platforming, similar to a Mario game. The player has to reach a goal at the end of each area and activate the door or beat the boss. There is also two playable characters in this release, with JaJaMaru and Princess sakura for players to select from, along with a 2-player mode where the players alternate. Offering a fun score based challenge.
The main difference with this title is the way that stages progress and the overall theme of the game. Moving away from the Yokai and going into a more sci-fi style, with robots, machines and mysterious locations. This provides a fresh experience for players who may become tired of the same enemies, locations and action. Especially with the unique gimmicks that are introduced in this release.
Like the other NES titles, there is some sprite flicker and the ocassional bit of slowdown, but I believe this is the best title out of all of the 8 bit games. The platforming is challenging and while there isn’t a manual, it is easy to figure out what to do with a little experimentation. There are a lot of beginners traps, like jumps that the player needs momentum to jump over, but the rewind feature (available in all bonus games) can help players with this.
Super Ninja-kid – 1994 (SNES)
This is an adaptation of the original arcade game, with updated gameplay mechanics and graphics. This time the game features super colourful 16-bit visuals, with larger sprites and more detailed environments for the player to explore. The gameplay itself is a mix of the older games, with the fun platforming, challenging action and charming character/enemy designs. The goal of each stage in this entry is to reach the end of a stage and beat the boss while trying to rescue the princess.
There are features that are exclusive to this title that make it stand out on its own. The first is the introduction of power gauge, which will give the player access to special powers by collecting souls to fill up a meter. There are also weapons that can be collected by clearing the stages, provided as rewards for defeating the bosses. The player is more durable than ever here too, with multiple hits that can be taken before defeat, with the ability to pick up hearts for extra health.
The platforming is rather challenging in this release, as the player character moves rather slowly which makes some large gaps impossible to cross. However, there is a way to overcome this obstacle by using a new dash feature, which lets players to move at higher speeds to cross wider gaps. This title also features 2 player simultaneous co-op play, which lets players work together to get through the game and save the princess as a team.
Being a SNES title, the issues with frame rate and sprite flicker are not an issue here, with a smooth gameplay experience making this the best performing title in the bonus collection. The controls are laid out in a way that is easy to pick up, taking the standard 2 button system and expanding it to use all of the new features effectively. This title, as well as the others in this collection feature new visual final options, where players can change the screen ration and add a CRT filter.
Final Thoughts – on the Nintendo Switch, this Deluxe version is made up of two software titles, with The Great Yokai Battle separate from bonus collections of games. This is a very good collection of games, for players to get into the JaJaMaru series with a diverse offering of games for players to enjoy. The brand new title, The Great Yokai Battle is the best of this collection and if you aren’t interested in the other titles, then definitely check out the main title.
The gameplay of The Great Yokai Battle is excellent, with frantic run and gun style arcade action, score based ranking mode and unlockable content. All of this combines together to make a title that takes all of the best elements of the originals, while adding additional content to create a game with fantastic replay value. I had an excellent time playing this title, with a feeling of nostalgia from playing the original games that came over here, as well as the cameos from Jaleco classics.
The additional bonus games are a great touch, with a variety of titles from the history of the series. The showcase of NES, Game Boy and SNES games can provide a way for players who may not have had a chance to play these old games before. I recommend both versions of this collection, with the amount of content and fun that can be had. However, if you aren’t into the older games, then I recommend only buying The Great Yokai Battle as a standalone.
In the end, I give Ninja JaJaMaru: The Great Yokai Battle +Hell – Deluxe Edition a final score of 4.5/5. This platform action title is a frantic and fast paced experience, offering challenging gameplay, a variety of content to unlock and almost endless replay value even if it is very tough. The additional bonus games provide an excellent showcase of the history of the JaJaMaru series and can be purchased separately.
If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game will be below, including the physical releases and the retro titles on their own.
Link to Nintendo Switch Deluxe version (HERE)
Link to Nintendo Switch Standalone Yokai version (HERE)
Link to Nintendo Switch Standalone Retro version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation Deluxe version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation Standalone Yokai version (HERE)
Link to PlayStation Standalone Retro version (HERE)
Link to Physical versions (HERE)
Link to Strictly Limited Physical versions (HERE)