Kasumi Ninja

The Jaguar's selection of fighting games is often described as 'lacklustre.' Actually, scratch that - they're often described as 'shit.' Mortal Kombat 3 was planned for the system, and by all accounts the deal had been done between Midway and Atari to port the game...sadly it never came to fruition. Instead, Jaguar owners had to make do with imitations of Midway's killer-app in the form of Ultra Vortek and Kasumi Ninja. There was also the Virtua Fighter clone Fight For Life, but that is one game I've never actually had the pleasure of playing personally.

Kasumi Ninja is a 2D fighter that features digitised actors' sprites kicking the crap out of each other in a bid to become the ultimate warrior, or some such guff. There's a back-story to Kasumi Ninja, but to be honest it goes on for so long that you'll find yourself pressing Start long before all the text has scrolled up the screen, and really...does a fighting game need a story?! Most people have heard of Kasumi for two reasons - first because it features horrifically stereotypical characters; and second because it features a Scottish character called Angus who fires balls of flame from under his kilt. A third reason you may of heard of it is that this game is described as one of the worst fighting games ever released...which isn't totally true, but people sure like to pile on the hate when it comes to Jaguar games.

There are some novel ideas in Kasumi Ninja. For example, the character select screen is set in a 3D first person chamber where you walk around and select a fighter by standing in front of their statue before pressing A or B to choose them, or C to view a simple biography. At first, only two Sub Zero style ninja characters are available (who incidentally turn out to be the best two characters in the game), but as you defeat other fighters, they too become available in the chamber. It's a fairly unorthodox way of doing things, and the 3D engine is a little slow, but full marks for originality.

Unfortunately, the rest of the game is somewhat less impressive. The stage backgrounds are fantastic - they look like photographs in some places - and the character sprites are well done and are quite detailed (even if they are, as mentioned, horribly stereotypical), but once the game starts to move the whole thing falls apart. The animation is choppy and the responsiveness of the fighters is almost laughable; the delay between pressing a button and anything happening is ridiculous, and the fighters only seem capable of about 5 basic punches and kicks. There are some special moves to be be performed (such as the hitherto mentioned flaming cock/kilt combo), but actually unleashing them is very difficult. That said, Kasumi Ninja can be some fun if you stick at it and go for constant cheap shots against your idiotic AI opponents, just to kill half an hour or so. You'll probably want to turn the volume down during that half an hour though, as the sound is fairly dull - generic grunts and punch/kick effects blended with some bog-standard stage-specific muzak (beating drums in the jungle, bad pipes in the Highlands etc etc).

I really love the Jaguar and I think most of the games get unfair treatment on the internet - reviews are very damning and almost every average game is quickly labelled a disaster just for laughs...and Kasumi Ninja is no different. Sure, it's a pretty poor fighting game but it's nowhere near as bad as Clay Fighter 63 '/3 or Shaq Fu and there is some enjoyment to be had just trying out the different characters. Overall though, it's below what you'd expect on a system that was marketed as the next generation to what the MegaDrive and Super Nintendo were offering at the time (erm...Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat!). In summary, Kasumi Ninja is a somewhat dodgy 2D fighter that has some good ideas but ultimately falls flat due to some shoddy animation and laggy controls. But it has nice backgrounds. Did I mention the backgrounds?

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