Side-scrolling games have always been a personal favorite of mine and it’s always fun to discover how, even though each one is generally similar (you move forward, beat up enemies and dodge hazards), each one has it’s nuanced differences that make them feel distinct. You’ve got classics like Final Fight that have you slowly moving forward until you take down each brawling thug and you’ve got modern ones like Muramasa: The Demon Blade that have tons of customizable weapons and beautiful art in the background. Sometimes you come across a side-scroller that’s just really difficult and that’s what draws you in—enemies with attacks that are impossible to dodge, moving stages that require nimble footwork. It’s dying and re-trying that at once frustrating and another captivating. This time around, we picked up a particularly difficult side-scrolling game featuring all sorts of ninja badassery: Hagane: The Final Conflict for the SNES.
Hagane: The Final Conflict has you controlling a ninja-turned-cyborg named Hagane who’s out to get revenge on the evil ninja clan that exterminated his own ninja clan and left him for dead (until he was reborn as a cyborg). The world is an odd mixture of classic Japanese architecture fused with futuristic metalwork all around—overall a very cool look in the scene and character design. The colors were a little too dark for my taste, but it didn’t bug me. Felt very much like a Metal Slug game in terms of color scheme. Hagane looks like a little like Alphonse from Fullmetal Alchemist, but we won’t go into that.
Controlling Hagane is fun: he’s fast, he’s nimble. He’s got a double jump which takes skill to master (especially in those hard-to-navigate floating platforms). He’s got a trusty katana to hack enemies with and he can throw items like grenades to do a quick blast at enemies place in overhead angles. You can (at your own risk) go around backflipping to dodge and move closer to enemies, but it won’t always work out. He’s got a slide dash, an air dash, and even an overhead eagle drop kick, which makes him a distinctly mobile character. But there’s the challenge—even though the character’s extremely mobile (by 2D standards), the obstacles are even harder. They are enemies like these weird priests guys who shoot fireballs with odd trajectories, ninjas with swords that like to jump, and gunmen who shoot machine guns at you (you have to duck to dodge those bullets). There are several bosses who require jumping on platforms to approach and attack and jumping off them to dodge. The enemies are strong, the stages are challenging to navigate, the bosses are difficult, but the hero is just as powerful to boot—what more could you ask for?
Be warned, however: the game is pretty difficult! Be prepared to die multiple times if you’re not gaming master. Learning the right patterns of dodging and attacking take practice and memory. There’s limited ways to recover health and there’s no way to save your game. Yeah—this was a game designed to be beaten in one go. I’ll admit, I wanted to throw the controller angrily at the screen dying constantly at the last boss (you have to chase this weird alien-looking rocket as its launching through a bunch of platforms that contain enemies who attacks can prevent you from jumping). This is a challenging game not for the faint of heart but perfect for the competitive folks out there. Good luck ninja adventurers: you’re going to need it.