Reviewed on Nintendo Switch

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Ninja Gaiden on the NES will destroy you.  With its repeat patterns, returnable enemies when you return to a section, the birds, and quick reflexes, it tested your patience at every tune. If you can survive the game with a sweaty controller, you were a master at one of the hardest games for the NES (not the THEE hardest but one of them). Decades later, a 2D side-scrolling Ninja has arrived in The Messenger for Nintendo Switch and PC. As the Ninja Gaiden references and comparison are made for the game, you may be surprised that its way far from that game.

You play as The Messenger who must bring a scroll to a mountain after your Ninja Clan has been attacked. At a certain point, time travel comes into play which turns the 8-bit aesthetic into a 16-bit Metroid level design. That’s the basic premise for a basic game like this.  That’s not a slam to the developer, Sabotage but there’s not much to the game.

The Messenger is more Shovel Knight mixed with Strider.  The challenge in the game is quite mild and since there are infinite continues, the frustration will come from fighting long bosses. Bosses have the color-coded display to tell you when they’re close to defeating.  If you die, you return to that last save point and have to redo everything with that boss. The levels, on the other hand, are manageable and you’ll be able to slash, jump, grapple, and more throughout the journey.

The transition from 8 to 16 is flawless and doesn’t stutter.  With clever platforming to find secrets and gems, you can make it through to a boss in no time. Unfortunately for Switch owners, it may become difficult playing a long time with the joy-cons.  The layout of the small buttons may affect you the flow of actions and you may hit the wrong button which can cause your death or you lose a hit point. Other than that, the controls are tight and precise. One gameplay mechanic though is problematic and that’s the double jump. You have to hit a lantern or something in the air in order to do it. Since some parts can make your hands sweaty, you might have to do some jumping sections over and over.

The soundtrack in 8 bit sounds terrific while the 16 bit sounds like a Turbographix-16 chip.  It might dip into a Sega Genesis quality at times but its quite good when you get further in the game.  If you want better music, play something else while this is on mute since there’s no voice acting or pop in Just Shapes And Beats when you take a break from the game.

Other than that, The Messenger is a solid offering. With minor problems, funny dialogue, and hidden surprises, The Messenger is looking to be a high contender for Game Of The Year. This game truly delivers.

4 out of 5 Yoshi Coins

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