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Thursday, October 6, 2022

Little Ninja Brothers (aka Super Chinese 2)

Super Chinese is one of Culture Brain's most prominent franchises (surpassed perhaps only by their Flying Dragon fighting game series), though it's probably better known for its release under various titles with the word "Ninja" in them - Ninja Kid, Ninja Boy, and on NES, Little Ninja Brothers.  The moniker doesn't make a great deal of sense considering ninjas and ninjutsu are very Japanese in origin (and I don't recall a single instance of in-game dialog referring to the characters as ninjas) but regardless, that's what they called them.  Anyhow, Little Ninja Brothers is the first game in the franchise to incorporate RPG elements - you travel across the world, find towns, upgrade gear, and get into random encounters.  Combat plays much like it did in the first Super Chinese game (localized as "Kung Fu Heroes"), pitting the player against waves of enemies from a top-down perspective.  Thankfully, the game does retain its two-player gameplay for these segments, making it a rare example of a co-op RPG on the system.  Throughout the journey you also undertake olympic-style sporting events to gain new abilities and equipment, with both players competing against one another or, if playing solo, against the CPU.  In some ways, this makes it an early precursor to later RPGs that had minigames as a major component of their design like Super Mario RPG and the Playstation Final Fantasy games.  It still has the same weird hit detection that Kung Fu Heroes did, though, so combat takes some getting used to.  However, its quirky sense of humor, exaggerated style and quite good music make it a fun journey regardless.  Little Ninja Brothers is one of the more uncommon NES games these days, but if you come across a copy, give it a go with a friend - you'll have some fun with it.
Developer: Culture Brain
Publisher: Culture Brain
Released: 1990
Platform: NES, Wii U Virtual Console (PAL territories only)