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Ninja Jajamaru-kun

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Jajamaru 1-3

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Jajamaru Portable

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Oira Jajamaru! Sekai Daibōken (おいらじゃじゃ丸! 世界大冒険) / Maru's Mission - Game Boy (1990)

Japanese Cover

American Cover

This Game Boy title is the only entry in the actual Jajamaru series (not counting Ninja Taro) to make it to the States, under the name Maru's Mission. (The Japanese title means "Hey Jajamaru! Great World Adventure".) It's a side scrolling action game similar to the second Famicom title. Jajamaru primarily attacks with shuriken, although he can find other weapons - in addition to a homing boomerang-type weapon and the tram cart (like the original game, it grants you temporarily invulnerability), you can also call firestorms and lightning waves to cleanse the screen of foes. Your life counter is located in the lower right corner of the screen - you can take plenty of hits before you die, and each captured spirit from a fallen foe with net you five health points. You only have a single life and no continues, but it's so easy to replenish your health that the journey shouldn't prove to be difficult at all.

Jajamaru and Sakura (dubbed "Maru" and "Cori" in the English release, just like in the prototype version of Squashed) are vacationing in America, when Sakura is abducted by some evil creature. Jajamaru must travel the globe - beginning in New York, and fighting through Romania, Greece, Egypt, Brazil, and finally Japan - to find his Sakura. In certain stages, you can even flip Jajamaru's gravity and travel on the ceiling. Each location has some creature from myth or folklore - you fight the Wolfman and Dracula in Romania, for instance. Each level has a mid-boss, some of whom will reward you with a special weapon to fight the main boss. So for example, when you beat the Golem in Greece, you'll be rewarded with a mirror, which will help you fight Medusa. Strangely, the designers couldn't think of anything interesting to do with Brazil, so you fight the Hydra and Cerberus there, which are definitely not part of Brazilian lore. Every few stages, whenever you need to cross the ocean, you're sent to a brief underwater stage. Rather than swimming to the end, you just dive around in a small pond, shooting spears at sharks until you've killed them all - something Greenpeace probably would've freaked out about, had they found out.

Despite its relative simplicity and immense amount of slowdown, Maru's Mission is actually a lot of fun for an early Game Boy title, and its humorous premise makes it worth looking into. The final boss even urges you to write to Jaleco of America - I wonder if they ever wrote anybody back!

Quick Info:

Developer:

Jaleco

Publisher:

Jaleco

Genre:

Action: Side-scrolling

Themes:

Damsel in Distress
Ninjas!


Maru's Mission (Game Boy)

Maru's Mission (Game Boy)

Maru's Mission (Game Boy)


Additional Screenshots


Ganso Jajamaru-kun (元祖じゃじゃ丸くん) - WonderSwan (1999)

Cover

The WonderSwan Jajamaru-kun is essentially an enhanced version of the original Famicom game. The tiny portable screen isn't tall enough to display the entire vertical playing field, so it needs to scroll up and down as necessary, but otherwise it's pretty much the same. There are a few new power-ups, like a sword and a boomerang-shuriken. Additionally, collecting the cherry blossoms thrown by Sakura is now mandatory - if you miss one, you have to play the stage over again when you reach the checkpoint. These checkpoints come every four stages. This is followed by a special stage which scrolls vertically upwards, culminating in a boss fight. It adds some much needed variety to the formula, and they're generally harder than the regular stages.

Even though it's in black and white, this version is actually preferable to the Famicom game, if only because it controls smoother and feels more stable. There's also more variety in the backgrounds. It also has a tremendously heartbreaking Game Over screen: You see Jajamaru getting beaten by the Catfish Pirate, who laughs at him, before a different ninja comes out of nowhere, kicks the bad guy's butt, and rescues Princess Sakura on his own. Then you see a heartbroken Jajamaru, having failed in his mission, witness some other chump winning the girl. How sad!

Quick Info:

Developer:

Jaleco

Publisher:

Jaleco

Genre:

Action: Side-Scrolling

Themes:

Damsel in Distress
Ninjas!


Ganso Jajamaru-kun (WonderSwan)

Ganso Jajamaru-kun (WonderSwan)

Ganso Jajamaru-kun (WonderSwan)



Jajamaru Jr. Denshōki (じゃじゃ丸Jr.伝承記) - Game Boy Advance (2004)

Cover

Even though there are numerous Jajamaru-kun titles, the series went through so many different genres that few of them play like the original game. The Game Boy Advance game, Jajamaru Jr. Denshōki, is about as close to a follow-up of the original Ninja-kun/Jajamaru-kun games as you can get. Playing once again as a tiny cute little ninja, you need to run around a short stage and kill all of the enemies, most of whom are the same as the original game, and are even introduced in the same order. Every five stages, you face off in a boss stage against the Catfish Pirate, who tries to confuse you with multiple clones.

Unlike the Jajamaru of the past, Jajamaru Jr. attacks with bombs, although they work the same way as the shuriken. You can eventually unlock two additional characters - the original Jajamaru, who wears a different color outfit, and Jijimaru, an old ninja master. ("Jii-san" is the Japanese word for "old man" or "grandpa", hence the pun.) Although there are no more blocks or ceilings to break, there are now straw treasure chests throughout each level that holds power-ups. These take the form of four different elemental scrolls, which can be activated at any time for a variety of special powers.

This game does a good job of expanding on the elements of the original titles, but it can get a bit cheap and annoying. In the original game, if an enemy bumped into you, you'd be stunned for about a second. Here, you're incapacitated for several seconds, during which the enemy continues to bounce on you until something finally swipes in for a mercy kill. The small screen makes it hard to see off-screen enemies, who, like the original game, can attack without notice. Some of the stages are annoyingly designed, sticking you in narrow passages with plenty of enemies, making it difficult to face against them all at once unless you have a magic scroll. In other words, expect lots of cheap deaths.

Jajamaru Jr. is kind of fun, but ultimately rather insubstantial. Apparently Jaleco felt the same way too, and that's why this is labeled "JaleCore" (short for "Jaleco Collection") - in addition to Jajamaru Jr., you can play emulated version of five old Famicom games. These include the first two Jajamaru-kun games, City Connection, Exerion, and Formation Z. The extra titles aren't particularly great, and the graphics are squished due to the lower resolution of the Game Boy Advance.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Jaleco

Publisher:

Jaleco

Genre:

Action: Side-scrolling

Themes:

Ninjas!


Jajamaru Jr. Denshōki (Game Boy Advance)

Jajamaru Jr. Denshōki (Game Boy Advance)

Jajamaru Jr. Denshōki (Game Boy Advance)


Additional Screenshots


Ninja Jajamaru-kun: Sakura-hime to Karyu no Himitsu (忍者じゃじゃ丸くん さくら姫と火竜のひみつ) - 3DS (2013)

Tentative Cover

Final Cover

In 2006, Jaleco announced a new Jajamaru game for the Nintendo DS, with the subtitle Pen wa Ken Yori mo Tsuyoshi de Gozaru - "The Pen is Greater than the Sword". This was obviously meant to allude to the stylus controls. After some magazine spots, the game soon fell of the release schedules, and only resurfaced eight years later on the 3DS. Since Jaleco has fallen under the radar soon after being bought out by the online game publisher Game Yarou, the reborn game was now published by a company called Hamster.

Princess Sakura is once again kidnapped by the Catfish Pirate, but there's a female playable character nonetheless: the kunoichi Shizuha. The game looks to be another example of the series' traditional platforming format, although it uses very different graphic designs. The most interesting of the promotional screenshots shows a kite flying scene. Unfortunately, the game remains a Japan exclusive, which on the region locked 3DS means it's not easy to get to play the game.

Quick Info:

Developer:

Jaleco

Publisher:

Hamster

Genre:

Action: Side-scrolling

Themes:

Damsel in Distress
Ninjas!
Player Character: Woman


Ninja Jajamaru-kun (3DS)

Ninja Jajamaru-kun (3DS)


Additional Screenshots


Unreleased NDS Version Screenshots


Other Stuff

Ninja-kun Pachislot

Ninja Jajamaru-kun Musical Poster

As with almost every reasonably marketable brand in Japan, there have been several slot machines with Ninja-kun artwork. One early one from the 1980s even carries the UPL logo.

When CatalyStar released mobile versions of the original two arcade titles, the company also produced a number of original tie-in games for mobile phones. In Ninja-kun: Makyū Densetsu the little hero rides a mine cart and has to navigate between branching tracks to avoid traps and enemies. Furthermore, there's a Ninja-kun Pinball and a puzzle game called Ninja-kun: Shitei Majō. A few years later another application appeared, this time branded for the Ninja Jajamaru-kun line. This was a collection of simple mini games.

For an in-game event in 2007, the MMORPG Nostale added Jajamaru and Sakura as playable characters. The most surprising appearance, however, was the Ninja Jajamaru-kun Musical! It was performed by the Retro Game Theater, who apparently specializes in adapting old games for the stage. (At the time of this writing, their current project is Spelunker.

Ninja Jajamaru-kun Musical (photo by Repotama)

Nostale Artwork



Related Articles


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Ninja-kun Games

Page 2:
Jajamaru 1-3

Page 3:
Jajamaru 4-5

Page 4:
Jajamaru Portable

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