Ninja Spirit, or Saigo no Nindou (Last Way of the Ninja) in Japan, is a 1988 side-scrolling platforming Action Game from Irem. It's most well-known for its port on the TurboGrafx-16 console as well as later re-release on the Nintendo Wii's virtual console, but also appearing as an arcade game and other consoles.
Tsukikage ("Moonlight"), a young genin in an order of shinobi headed by a "Blind Priest", has recently had Recurring Dreams of a mystic beast in the presence of his father as the latter is killed by some mysterious being. Deciding to investigate what could lie behind the dream, he ultimately makes a horrifying discovery—shortly after his birth, his parents tried to leave the order with him, only to be killed by the Blind Priest himself, who proceeded to have Tsukikage raised to be an implement of sowing discord in Japan. Tsukikage tries to confront him in a ruined temple, only for the Priest to escape and send the rest of the order—demons and undead included—to dispatch him...
Tsukikage's journey to avenge his parents and end the Blind Priest's machinations take him over seven platforming stages. He primarily uses a versatile katana but also has access to shuriken, explosives, and a kusarigama as well as a number of power ups.
The game contains these examples:
- Bubble Gun: Maxing out the katana's power turns it into a bubble-lightsaber.
- Classic Cheat Code: In the PC Engine version of the game Mr. Heli no Daibouken, also by Irem, the code for up to 99 continues was I, II, II, I, Select. Entering the same code in Ninja Spirit would just display the message "Do you play Mr. Heli?" This confused some American players, since Mr. Heli was released in the U.S. only as an Arcade Game under the Market-Based Title Battle Chopper.
- Deadly Gas: Plumes of dangerous purple gas regularly erupt from parts of the floor and ceiling in the final stage.
- Defector from Decadence: Tsukikage's parents, with the Blind Priest severely disapproving. Given Tsukikage's actual okuri-okami nature, one or both had probably been enslaved by the Blind Priest in the first place.
- Descending Ceiling: The area of the fourth stage leading to the Boss Room is a long corridor with a slowly descending ceiling, with Mooks to hinder you along the way. You have to reach the end before the ceiling touches your head.
- Doppelgänger Attack: One of your attacks allows you to split into four shadowy doppelgangers of yourself, each of them capable of attacking and following the original as if reflected on a mirror.
- Enemy Roll Call: There is a review of bosses at the end of the TurboGrafx-16 version. However, the names are in kanji even in the US version.
- Epileptic Flashing Lights: An unusually prolonged case of screen flashing appears in the ending (at least in the arcade and TurboGrafx-16 versions), where The Hero recovers his okuri-okami form.
- Eternal Hero: The ending text notes that the presence of malice in the minds of people means that evils like the Blind Priest will periodically appear in the future, but Tsukikage will always be around to help thwart them in turn.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The second boss is named Soufuki—"Twin Axe Demon". They're a tall, white-haired demon who constantly dashes at you with their twin axes leading the way.
- Flunky Boss: As tall as Makai Hanzo at the end of the third stage is, his sword doesn't swing that quickly, and he's not fast at all. The real problem is the Tanegashima gunners who keep coming in from the sides.
- The Nine Fuuma Clan Ninja at the end of stage five are a similar situation—the knife-throwing ninja on the edges of the kite keep coming back after being slain. You need to kill the pilot in the center who isn't throwing anything at you.
- Giant Mook: Makai Hanzo is an enemy ninja twice as tall as the Player Character, wielding an equally oversized sword with ease.
- Jidaigeki: This story is set in an alternate feudal Japan.
- Kite Riding: The Stage 5 Boss Battle is with the Nine Fuuma Clan Ninja, all nine of whom are arranged on a giant flying kite emblazoned with the kanji 影 ("shadow"). Smaller kites carrying individual enemy ninja appear in the following stage.
- Meaningful Name: The kanji used for "Blind Priest" can also suggest "Avidyan Priest". In Hinduism and Buddhism, Avidya refers to a lack of enlightenment. Appropriate for a priest more interested in strife and fear than peace.
- Ninja: The main character is one, as are most of the opponents.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: In the TurboGrafx-16 version, Moonlight has five hit points in PC-Engine mode, but only one hit point in Arcade mode.
- Orbiting Particle Shield: The Wheel of Fire powerup blocks attacks with flames orbiting the player.
- Our Liches Are Different: The Final Boss, the Dai Sokushinbutsu that is the Blind Priest's actual body, seems to be a variation on this. Sokushinbutsu were Japanese Buddhist monks who underwent self-mummification to ascend to a particular heaven where they could better aid humanity. This one seems to be more interested in controlling the souls of the wicked to cause various disasters—and isn't in any heaven or hell.
- Real-Time Weapon Change: This game was one of the first to have this feature - you can switch from katana to shuriken and so on without going into a menu.
- Recurring Dreams: Tsukikage had these before the game's events, leading to him discovering the Blind Priest was his parents' killer. The mystic wolf near his dead father was actually Tsukikage himself, not having yet shifted from okuri-okami to human.
- Sinister Minister: The Blind Priest. As you find near the end of the last stage, the Priest that Tsukikage interacted with throughout his life is actually a Remote Body, the actual Priest having long ago become a monstrous form of sokushinbutsu secreted deep within the cavern you're in.
- Spikes of Doom: In keeping with its Jidaigeki theme, this game's deadly spikes are made of bamboo.
- Spiritual Successor: Some consider this to be a worthy successor to The Legend of Kage despite being made by completely different developers.
- Spread Shot: There's a power-up that allows you to throw three shuriken in an arc with each throw.
- Stationary Boss: The Asura at the end of the first stage.
- Stealth Pun: Probably unintentional, but Tsukikage/Moonlight can create up to three "shadow clones" which follow his every move. Moonlight is casting shadows!
- Variable-Length Chain: The Rising Dragon is a kusarigama whose chain can be extended and spun to sweep across the screen.
- Wolfpack Boss: The end of the sixth stage involves Ochimusha manifesting one after another.
- Youkai: A number of these pop up, such as the inugami-like entities divebombing you in stage 2. Tsukikage himself is actually one, his okuri-okami form sealed by the Blind Priest from his infancy.