It seems something has awoken at PixelHeart, first the sequel to Andro Dunos and now another sequel to a cult Neo Geo title called Ganryu, are we seeing a resurgence of cult titles or just some cheap names with cheap pops?.
Visco Corporation seem to be having a right good ol’ time lately, Breakers is seeing a fantastic re-release, Vasara saw a re-release and as mentioned Andro Dunos saw a sequel which we covered recently, Ganryu was obviously very patient and it has paid off.
REVIEW UPDATED DUE TO PATCH RELEASING ON 06/05/2022
The original title is a game that frankly I was never aware of until the press release of this game dropped into our inbox, A “Shinobi” style game that had avoided my radar was now getting a sequel that looked very much like Shinobi III and it has a Shmup style level? Sign me up Senpai!.
Ganryu 2: Hakuma Kojiro seems to be a sequel to the original game, I still haven’t played it and there isn’t an “Arcade Archives” so I’ll just take its word for it.
The game opens with some nicely drawn 16bit “inspired” cutscenes and the story is as follows taken word for word from the PixelHeart website.
“Musashi decides to meditate and try his hand at art, in the north of Japan in the province of Hokkaido. During one of his meditations, a spirit made contact with him. “Miyamoto Musashi, our fight is not over, I am waiting for you to finish it once and for all! All of Japan will pay for your insult! I’m waiting for you, Miyamoto Musashi! There is no doubt that this voice was that of Sasaki Kojirō, his body was defeated, but his spirit still remains and his intentions were destructive. Miyamoto Musashi then understood that he would have to travel across Japan and go to the island of Ganryû-jima, in the south, where he fought Sasaki Kojirō for the last time.”
Interesting premise but this game is as old school as they come so you don’t NEED to know any of that, press start and get your Musashi on!.
Controls are basic, you’ve got a Jump, a Melee, Throw kunai, Dash and a Magic button alongside the buttons to change your magic from screen clearing fire to healing sunshine.
You can double jump and wall jump which aren’t really taught to you so it’s more of a case of instinctively knowing or learning through experimentation much like the “olden days”.
You have a finite stock of Kunai you can throw though you can add to them through pick up, should you die they all go away sadly.
Killing enemies gives you a magic power which builds over time and allows you to do some of your screen clearing magic, again same rules apply so untimely deaths can see you missing out on this.
Gameplay is basically Revenge of Shinobi/Shinobi III, it’s an action platformer with mountains of enemies to whittle down, an almost EuroJank platformer level of collectables to find ranging from points to 1ups, bosses to learn the patterns of and set pieces which include jumping from minecart to minecart.
It does a fine job initially of representing why people enjoyed Ninja games back in the 90s but wonky level design later on shows that this title is a little more front loaded with the good stuff and chucked out quickly at the end.
Each Level is made up of 2 acts and you have your stock lives plus any you find to complete them, 5 stages no continues does smack of the old school but fortunately should you reach a new Stage, not Act you’ll be able to start from that stage going forward.
Overall the game would be a fine homage to the 16 bit era and a title I could easily get behind, if it didn’t perform like death warmed up on the Nintendo Switch.
From what I understand the PlayStation 4 version runs fine whereas the Switch version is met by some of the most cripplingly bad frame rates I’ve seen, the odd crash, checkpoints infrequently saving and button inputs just dropping randomly.
I’d made my peace with the visuals after the initial trailer dropped, while 16 bit inspired it has that awkward sharpness of a mobile game BUT the gameplay is solid, when it works which if you choose to play this title on the handheld hybrid that could, is rare.
As it stands I can’t suggest picking this game up on the Switch, should it receive a patch and negate the overly long initial load and the generally unpleasant performance throughout then yeah it’s a solid 4* for fans of the old school all day long.
In its current state though either pick it up on PlayStation, avoid it and pick up Shadow Gangs instead which performs like butter and replicates the gameplay from the original Shinobi and Shadow Dancer.
As of May 6th Ganryu 2 on Nintendo Switch recieved a patch so I had a quick replay of the game to see what difference it has made, if any.
Fortunately I am more than happy to report that the patch does alleviate most of the framerate issues which also played into inputs not reacting as much.
While not 100% buttery smooth 60FPS it is night and day different from the state it was released in.
The frame rate remained stable mostly throughout though Stage 2 both acts initially chugged in the first 20 seconds or so.
Inputs reacted much quicker and coupled with the smoother framerate it’s much easier to recommend Ganryu 2 to fans of titles like Shinobi III and the classic Ninja Gaiden franchise.
It’s now a smoother, still action packed and heavily enjoyable retro Samurai inspired romp with a lot of charm.
After a patch, Ganryu 2 is a much improved, highly enjoyable retro romp, a must play for Shinobi fans.
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Straight from the streets of SouthTown, all Dunks Powah'd and ready to Bust A Wolf. Catch me on Twitch/YouTube.