Ninja copy fails Black Manta
People were apparently wild about ninjas in the ’80s. Really wild. I’m guessing this because it seems to be a million and one games about ninjas that were made in the 1980s. These were all made with various degrees of success in getting the point across about the ninja experience. Out of the coterie there were two that stood out: Ninja Gaiden, a timeless classic in the way of the ninja arts; and, Wrath of the Black Manta. Note that we did not use any sort of kind tribute for the latter. There is myriad reasons for this distinction.
Wrath of the Black Manta is your standard adventure game centered on finding missing children in New York City, the apparent bastion of all evil and where the most heinous crimes take place in the video game world. A drug fiend named El Toro is hellbent on turning these children into addicts and it’s up to you and your ninja skills to make Toro get down or lay down with the War on Drugs.™
The premise is run of the mill, the controls confusing and clunky and the action extremely repetitive. The backgrounds do change from level to level and there is a lot of ground to cover. But, all you’re going to do is walk around searching warehouses for children and ganging up on informants from the cartel to get information. What should be an absolute clean sweep is a cluster because getting that information without being killed from ridiculous hits is a nightmare.
The fact that most of the action is ripped off from the infinitely better and more interesting Ninja Gaiden doesn’t help here because you’re going to die a lot from terrible jumping and those aforementioned hits from enemies. The soundtrack also does Manta no favors as it’s just barely serviceable. Even the art is ripped off from somewhere else: Word on those mean streets of NYC is that some of the art was taken straight from the book “How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way” when the Japanese version was ported to the U.S. I’m guessing they thought no one would notice, but it goes over with the subtlety of a ton of bricks. Speaking of a lack of subtlety, the obvious “stay away from drugs, kids, if you want to live” message and the hit-you-over-the-head irony of characters named Tiny (a in no way surprisingly large boss character who tries to stomp you to death in the first level) means you’re in for a long ride with this whether you want to or not.
The key to this battle is, if you want to play a ninja adventure just play the released at the same time Ninja Gaiden. Gaiden is far superior in every way and has more appeal in terms of story. Wrath of the Black Manta is the poor man’s Ninja Gaiden and is in no way stealthy enough in its subtlety to earn any sort of title of ninja anything.