Little Ninja Brothers is the second game in the “Super Chinese” series* and the predecessor of Super Ninja Boy on the SNES. It was developed and published by Culture Brain in Japan in 1989. North America got it in 1990 and Europe in 1991.
It is an excellent one or two-player level-grinding RPG, with random battles, but instead of turn-based combat you get real time beat ’em up action instead, and works very well.
As the title of the game implies, Little Ninja Brothers is a two-player cooperative game at heart although it works perfectly well single-player too. Player one plays as Jack and player two as Ryu and together (or alone) you head out to explore the World Map and build up your experience.
As you explore, random battles happen and you can either fight or run away. If you fight you then have to defeat waves of enemies until you’ve won the battle. Jack and Ryu have various moves at their disposal: punches and kicks, and also special moves that are rationed with ‘K’ points. K points are collected by punching rocks during the action scenes and then punching any chests that are revealed. At least at the beginning of the game they are quite rare, so actually getting to use special moves is a luxury. Later on they become more of a requirement.
The game ends when both characters have their life energy depleted in battle, although there are revive points in Convenience Shops (visit one; ask for the password and it remembers your progress). Passwords can also be written down and re-entered later to continue. Unfortunately the game doesn’t have a proper save function.
What is strange about Little Ninja Brothers – compared to its sequel – is that it is smoother, more challenging, and more playable than Super Ninja Boy. I enjoyed playing this more because it’s harder and requires more skill to beat. Arguably anyway…
Little Ninja Brothers is a hidden gem on the Famicom/NES and is well worth seeking out – especially if you are able to play it with a friend or sibling.
*= The first game in the Super Chinese series was the arcade game Chinese Hero (aka Kung Fu Heroes) which I’ll be covering soon.