Story & World
One can't help but be charmed by the world of Ninja Rahoi. From its apundance of puns to its complete obliteration of the fourth wall, NR is sure to put at least a few grins on even the most dour individual. The main quest is as cliché as they come, and I found myself anticipating arriving at a new town more driving than killing that Shogun guy. The world itself is quite large, although laid out in a very linear manner. Doing some recon with the Big Kite is a pretty cool idea, but somewhat pointless here as the player is always heading in a single direction anyway. The addition of simplistic mini-games in the tengu huts and some villages is a nice addition; it always gets me hard when developers manage to cram more gameplay variation into the relative limitations of the NES. Credit also has to be given to the translators for the sheer amount of localization that had to be done; entire jokes would have to had been redone from scratch. 16/20
Three main stats (Attack, Defense, Speed) are increased by a couple of points each level, in addition to HP and JP. The only input the player has is in which jutsu techniques are going to be powered up and to what level. I had most of the techs, for both myself and Akane, maxed out by endgame but it required diligent usage of said techs from early on. Having techniques to work on really helps take the edge off grinding, and there are a few points in the game where heavy grinding will be necessary. Takamaru remained a boring ol' tank throughout the game, only occasionally using an item instead of attacking.
Weapon and armour upgrades just does the basic raising of one of the three stats and, even then, not usually by a significant amount (about equal to gaining one level). Far more interesting is the plethora of items available, including many joke items. For example, there are shoes that make the character moonwalk and a cool skull headband that doubles the effectiveness of all jutsu techniques whilst simultaneously barring the usage of any techs against any enemy. Most of the items have Japanese names but thankfully each item can be examined to determine its effect. 9/20
Combat & Monsters
The combat is an upgrade from the standard fare usually offered by a DQ clone, with the jutsu system pretty much demanding that one plays with it. I'll take anything that keeps me away from button mashing the basic attack command. The occasional addition of an uncontrollable NPC in combat is nice (who will ever forget Shitose?), although they are generally just glorified meat shields. The Doppel jutsu really opens up the options available in combat since the clones have access to the main character's techniques. While not all that useful in regular encounters, the clones really shine during major fights because status ailment techs work as normal on bosses. That's right, Ninja Rahoi! bucks the trend of most of these older games and allows one to cripple bosses instead of them having stupid high resistance to such techniques. Most boss battles are quite lengthy and ailments will come and go during the encounter, so it doesn't make such fights a complete cakewalk.
Monsters keep in line with NR's jovial tone, with many being cutesy or punny or just a flat-out joke. For example, one creature employs its jutsu technique by screaming "Rolling Flash Special Thunder Fire Dragon Jutsu!" which then, after a dramatic pause, proceeds to do a single point of damage. The various members of the Skull Clan were always a joy to meet and seeing where on their bodies they would cram their skull-like accessories. About half the monsters encountered will be from the Skull Clan and skull designs are seen everywhere throughout the game (e.g. the final dungeon is constructed completely out of skulls), so beware of this game if you have cartilogenophobia. 14/20
Graphics & Sound
The tileset used for the overworld sections are rather plain and could have used a little more detail. The dungeons fare a bit better in that each one has its own distinctive look. Monsters are generally very well done and I was impressed by the amount of variety and overall lack of palette-swapping. I am also appreciative of the limitations of 8-bit graphics in regards to the depiction of the turdsfolk.
Most of the music was nothing special with two notable exceptions. First, the town music has these high pitched notes that just grated on my nerves if I spent too much time there. It probably doesn't help that my volume is permanently set to 11, but it'll be a cold day in Canada before that changes. Second, the battle music is quite good at turning me on and, at first, I didn't know why. About halfway through I realized that it's very similar to the battle theme in Mouryou Senki Madara, though it lacks dat funky bass. 11/20
This game has what every RPG should have — a stupidly expensive and powerful item to potentially purchase in the late game. In this case, it's the Party Ball, which deals damage to the enemy while also fully healing the party (including JP). I only had enough cash money to ever buy one and I didn't even end up using it, but having such an item available ensures that the economy never seems broken. Even with the hefty amounts of grinding that need to be done at certain points, most equipment is expensive enough that one won't be able to purchase everything right away after finding a new store.
The pacing is somewhat slow due to the aforementioned grinding, but these points aren't too frequent, just very heavy when said points are reached. Some towns have an NPC who will recommend what level the player should be at before attempting the next dungeon, which is a soft way of warning of the upcoming grindfest should the player fall short (as I often was). More than most JRPGs, Ninja Rahoi! is extremely linear; most paths are straightforward with the surrounding area rarely exceeding a screen or two. The boat is acquired very late in the game and only is used to access the area just south of where it's acquired (I think it was in Boat Town). Same deal with the jet (cool though as it was). It's not a very long game, though, and if one enjoys quirky JRPGs, well, it doesn't get much more quirky than Ninja Rahoi!. 13/20
Final Ranking: 63/100