Ninja Master's: Hao Ninpo Cho

STORY:  Ninja Master's focus is on the main character Sasuke, whom is on a quest to kill Lord Nobunaga and end his reign of terror and war.


Choose your ninja... master's. lol. 

REVIEWNinja Master's: Hao Ninpo Cho (roughly translated as "Ninja Master's: Scrolls of the Supreme Ninja Arts) was developed by ADK and released for the NeoGeo on June 28th, 1996. Ninja Master's is one of the more "sleeper" fighting games to come out for the Neo Geo. With a comparable theme to SNK's hit Samurai Shodown series, it would seem ADK set out to attract the same audience with Ninja Master's. Most of the characters of in Ninja Master's are based on real historical figures of Japan, which is interesting at first glance. Also... at first glance, they couldn't manage spell the game's title with correct punctuation. Ninja Master's? Does that apostrophe somehow make the game's title sound more unique? I think not. (Nice first impression guys.)


The backgrounds are pretty nice... which you can see especially well thanks to the tiny and rather "thin" characters.


Some would say Ninja Master's is yet another "me too" 2D fighter in the mid 90's... but there might be enough unique content in Ninja Master's to warrant more attention than other "copy-paste" fighters attempting to ride the coattails of the successful games that came before them. In fairness, Ninja Master's offers a pretty innovative gameplay element. The characters in Ninja Master's have the option to fight bare handed, or draw their weapon. It's a cool idea on paper, and was one of the first games to implement this particular gameplay nuance.

The gameplay system of Ninja Master's is pretty traditional for a 2D fighter, which doesn't have to be a bad thing. The animation / action onscreen isn't nearly as exciting as other fighters, but passable. While Ninja Master's offers some semi-decent-looking environments, the characters are probably the game's weakest attribute. There a few cool character designs here and there, the overall roster lacks flash and excitement... there isn't much here that hasn't been done before (and done better).

These ninja's seem to be sponsored by the ADK CORPORATION. How... fitting.


At a glance, some of the characters almost seem like generic "baddies" straight out of a 90's beat-em-up title. One could suggest that the dev-team was going for a "more realistic" twist on the weapon-based genre, but sadly, the movesets of the characters also come up pretty bland. The characters sprites themselves are noticeably "skinny" and small on-screen... yet another negative contrast to the brighter and larger sprites of the top 2D fighters in 1996 (and years earlier). If this game was released 3 years earlier, it might've stood more of a chance.

Ninja Master's
claim to fame gameplay gimmick of "drawing a weapon" just wasn't enough to allow the game to stand out in the crowded 1996 arcades.
Any fighting game connoisseur of the mid 90's could name at least 10 games that were far superior to Ninja Master's graphically and gameplay-wise. In fairness, ADK did put some "heart" into this title if you look close. Good try, ADK. Good try. (But there's a reason ADK stopped making games, just putting that out there.)



Page Updated: June 18th, 2022
Developer(s): ADK
Publisher(s): SNK
Designer(s): Kazuhiro Shibata
Artwork By: Kazushige Hakamata
Platform(s): Neo Geo, Wii Virtual Console, PS2, PS4 (PSN)
Release Date(s): June 28th, 1996           NeoGeo
Dec. 18th, 2008
               PS2 - in ADK Damashii
March 1st, 2017            PS4 / PSN - in ADK Damashii
Characters Sasuke, Kamui, Karasu, Unzen, Natsume, Kasumi, Tennoh, Goemon, Houoh, Raiga, Ranmaru, Nobunaga

ninja-masters-kasumi-natsuma-select-screen.png (27932 bytes)

Featured Video:

Related Games: Aggressors of Dark Kombat, World Heroes, World Heroes Perfect, Samurai Shodown 4, The Last Blade, Art of Fighting 3, King of Fighters '96, Savage Reign, Kizuna Encounter, Power Instinct, Aggressors of Dark Kombat, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, Street Fighter EX, Street Fighter Alpha 2, X-Men Vs. Street Fighter, Golden Axe: The Duel, Soul Blade

Gameplay Engine  5.5 / 10
Story / Theme  5.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  6.5 / 10
Animation  5.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  6.0 / 10
Innovation  6.5 / 10
Art Direction  6.0 / 10
Customization  3.0 / 10
Options / Extras  3.0 / 10
Intro / Presentation  7.0 / 10
Replayability / Fun  4.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  4.0 / 10
Characters  5.0 / 10

 5.2 / 10

 Review based on Arcade version    


Final Words:

With groundbreaking 2D fighting games like Samurai Shodown 4, Street Fighter Alpha 2 and X-Men VS Street Fighter blowing up the arcade scene in 1996... let's just say it was difficult to be "drawn in" by Ninja Master's. Also, 2D fighter dudes, let's not forget 1996 was the year Soul Blade released on PS1. Another hugely influential title. I suppose if you didn't acknowledge or play the aforementioned games, perhaps you might've been far more impressed by Ninja Master's than I was.

Objectively, Ninja Master's isn't a completely terrible game, from its most flattering angle, but it certainly doesn't hold a candle to any Samurai Shodown title of the era... and there's 4 great games to pick from in 1996, so pick one. Not to mention, The Last Blade was released less than a year after Ninja Master's... again demonstrating the inferiority of this game. "But
5.2 is pretty low, Frank... is the game that bad?" No. Not really. It's just wack. Honestly, after playing many other 1995-1996 fighting games, it's preeeeetty tough to be impressed by Ninja Master's... on any level. Most importantly, Ninja Master's gameplay lacks snap, speed, and fun factor.

The basic theme of Ninja Master's is definitely cool... I've loved the idea of "Ninja Vs. Samurai" ever since I was a kid. Speaking of which, I could've come up with a better title for a game than "Ninja Masters" when I was 9 years old. (And I would've used correct punctuation, I hope.) This game actually gave me legit flashbacks of seeing "cheap knock-off" ninja action figures when my mom used to take me to random dollar stores. That's what some of the characters of Ninja Master's remind me of... dollar store knockoffs. Alright, I've had my fun. I'll stop picking on this game now. "The backgrounds are pretty at least."

In retrospect, if you're a fan of weapon-based 2D fighting games and/or samurai and shinobi... I suppose you can find something to appreciate about Ninja Master's. But there's certainly nothing in this game that you can't get in SNK's Last Blade or Samurai Shodown. If you've never played Ninja Master's, you're not missing too much.
~TFG Webmaster | @Fighters_Gen

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