I was all prepared for Kid Niki: Radical Ninja to be another run-of-the-mill mascot platformer, and for the most part, that's what it is. The game does contain a few surprisingly difficult bosses and jumping sequences, but the focus is more on humor and weirdness. Here is a game that has a farting boss, a hand-shaped mountain flipping the middle finger, and a crossdresser who attacks by yelling "FOOL!". Even by NES standards, this is not normal.
In an opening sequence that defies explanation, Kid Niki sets out to rescue a princess from the evil Stone Wizard, who looks like a cross between a Kabuki dancer and Beetlejuice. Kid Niki's hairdo gives him the appearance of wearing a Daniel Boone cap. His enemies are mostly ninjas wearing Shyguy masks. One hit from Kid Niki's sword sends them flying diagonally up off the screen without any animation. It must be the first trick that characters in NES ninja sidescrollers learn (ie, the hostages in Shinobi).
Most of Kid Niki's stages are fairly free of level-design; You run along and bump off a neverending line of enemies. Stages 3 and 4 and the final level contain a fair share of jumps over bottomless pits, but nothing too intense. Well, except for one part in stage 4 that has you leaping across blocks as bubbles with erratic movement patterns rise up from below. Remembering that flying birds were the number one cause of distress in Ninja Gaiden, I am once again dumbfounded by the biggest threat in a ninja game being something like bubbles instead of the many samurai and demons who are out for your blood.
Let's face it, Kid Niki is not a must-buy game. It is not a game you play because you're looking for an excellent challenge, or even a halfway-decent sidescroller. It's a game you're going to buy because you already own an NES and found it for a really cheap price. And you'll play it, rather than throw it into your game pile for dust collection, because you want to see how weird it is. Well, here you go: This is a game where you can get swallowed by a fish, and then leave through a pipe lodged in its rectum. This is a game that has frogs that splatter in red blood against the wall upon being hit with your sword. In Kid Niki's world, cats can fall from the ceiling, then proceed to disregard all laws of gravity, physics, and sanity as they float in semi-circles any which way they please. This is a game whose best boss fight consists of dodging in and out of the letter "F" as balls of the offending majuscule spout from the mouth of an old man in a dress.
The Stone Wizard gives us one of those fine "Myth of the False Ending" moments: You beat the final boss and rescue the princess, but it seemed too easy, and that's because it was. There's still one more stage to go. (And due to the ambiguity of the opening story, I had no idea until this point that we even were rescuing a princess, but there she was, seemingly included because, hey, it's an 80's game; there has to be a kidnapped princess somewhere.) In the real final level, you chase the chicken-livered Stone Wizard across the castle rooftops. He stops to challenge you several times, but getting the two required hits in on him is easy once you learn his attacking patterns. You will also dodge more of those ever-deadly bubbles, as well as overweight ninjas flying around on towels.
It had to happen. No self-respecting comedic ninja game would misinclude the ole ninjas flying around on towels gag. Far be it from Kid Niki to not take it one step further and only have the poor, obese members of the evil ninja clan forced to perform this derring-do stunt. These guys are struggling like hell to keep their altitude, and they look scared spitless.
Kid Niki was popular enough in Japan to spawn a few sequels, which apparently have even more innuendo and bizarre content. It's not difficult to believe. Kid Niki is the embodiment of one of those news stories about Japanese fads and products that we either don't understand because of the difference in our cultures, or we get the joke, but know they couldn't sell something like that in America. So...I wonder...How did the Nintendo censors miss that middle finger and those splattered frogs, anyway?
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