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Today in Retro Gaming – Zen: Intergalactic Ninja (NES)

There are more games featuring ninjas, about ninjas, or with ‘ninja’ in the title than there were actual ninjas throughout all of human history [citation needed].  Konami’s Zen: Intergalactic Ninja for the NES is totally one of them.  And you need to play it, or the eco-terrorists win.

By golly, if you were anything or anybody in the early 1990s, you were a ninja.  And if you couldn’t be a ninja because you were too young, too weak, or too American but not enough Michael Dudikoff, then video games were the next best thing.  Who has time to train for 20 years to be a real ninja when you can just pick up your NES controller and go kick some ass?  Well, not to toot my own horn or anything, but just look at me: I’m a couch-bound geek writing about video games who also uses the sacred arts to behead Tyrannosaurs and rescue beautiful princesses who would like to step into that alley over there so they can properly express their gratitude.  I know, some guys have all the luck, right?  Don’t tell my wife.

But of course he is.

But of course he is.

Zen: Intergalactic Ninja is as amazing as the title sounds.  It’s a comic-based Captain Planet ripoff: a space-traveling master of ninjitsu comes to Earth to destroy Lord Contaminous (see above) and his horde of ne’er-do-welling ne’er-do-wells.  When faced with that level of awesome, sneaking undetected into rival clan compounds and assassinating shoguns by poisoning their cherry blossoms (ninjas did that shit all the time) seems downright pedestrian.

“Long hair means higher water bills, Earth-hating harlot!”

Konami gets a few things wrong here, as Zen spends more time rescuing firemen and sorting his recyclables than beating toxic waste dumps and contaminated rivers to death with his big, manly Photon Stick.  I’m willing to forgive some historical inaccuracies though–this is the 8-bit era we’re talking about.  And whether he’s bringing flowers back to life in the rain forest or racing mine cars through the Temple of Doom [It’s a f&*@ing mineshaft, NOT the Temple of Doom! –ed], Zen does it to the throbbing beat of a soundtrack that kicks almost as much ass as he does.  Zen: Intergalactic Ninja is an ideal example of how to treat a licensed property while throwing in enough tree-hugging hippie crap to give Cartman a rage-boner the size of Rhode Island.

Not pictured: The Temple of Doom
Also not pictured: My editor’s sense of humor

And because we love you, here’s a highly-coveted retro ad goodie, just for awesome, loyal readers like you.  Because you know the only way to save the planet is to have an interplanetary ninja lay the smack down on those who refuse to reduce, reuse, and recycle refuse.


Zen - Intergalactic Ninja

Michael Crisman

In 1979, Michael Crisman was mauled by a radioactive Gorgar pinball machine. After the wounds healed, doctors discovered his DNA had been re-coded. No longer fully human, Michael requires regular infusions of video games in order to continue living among you. If you see him, he can see you. Make no sudden moves, but instead bribe him with old issues of computer and video game magazines or a mint-in-box copy of Dragon Warrior IV. If he made you laugh, drop a tip in his jar at (If he didn't make you laugh, donate to cure his compulsion to bang keyboards by sending an absurdly huge amount of money to his tip jar instead. That'll show him!)

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