In this episode we look at the ninjatastic Wrath of the Black Manta.Nothing was more of a guaranteed sell than a game about Ninjas. Ninjas were everywhere in the 80s. Movies, cartoons, and video games it was ninjas non stop. Some of the ninja things we got bombarded with were pretty good (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a good example) and some are not so good. I think Wrath of the Black Manta falls into the latter category.
Wrath of the Black Manta is a 1990 (U.S. release) ninja game from Taito. You play as the Black Manta which apparently is a dude in a light purple ninja outfit so I’m not exactly sure what is black about the black manta. Anyway, your on a quest to stop some drug dealers from kidnapping people including your old master’s apprentice. This is my best guess at the plot because much like many video games that weren’t that good I didn’t care about it that much.
Anyway there are 5 levels for you to “ninja across.” By Ninja across I mean you move around jumping and throwing shurikens. You also get ninja powers which let you throw fireballs, turn invisible, and tunnel underground to avoid enemies. At first glance this sounds awesome but much like everything in this game, it comes down to the execution and in that execution Wrath of the Black Manta falls horribly short. You have to power up each power by pressing and hold ing a button and a direction, but more than 40% of the time you will not pull the move off or it will be the wrong move. You can swap powers as you go but that original menu is incredibly confusing. Even after beating this game I still couldn’t pull off some of the moves. Also I should mention the final boss you HAVE to pull off a series of these ninja powers in an exact order and if you mess up the final boss regenerates all his health. What I thought was something I’d enjoy about Wrath of the Black Manta I ended up really hating it. Early on you can see it when I try to use a fire wheel spell on the 2nd level and it’s just a frustrating experience.
Speaking of frustrating, if you’re looking for a unique level design and interesting enemies, look for a different game. Each level was almost a mirror image of the previous one with a different color palette. The enemies are generic dudes that very quickly you stop caring about. You do have to find some random red enemies you can interrogate but for the most part they just tell you useless information. Even the notes you find along the way which I hoped would lead to hidden items proved fruitless and confusing at best.
The boss fights in Wrath of the Black Manta OK at best and in most cases were forgettable. Some of the bosses have weaknesses to some of your Ninja Arts a la Megaman, but it’s so fleeting you can almost miss it entirely. Boss fight mechanics feel cobbled together and in the end you normally just run in and try to do one more point of damage against the boss. Only the final boss is complex, but once you get the pattern down it’s easy enough. It surprised me a little that the boss took 4 different attacks in sequence to defeat. Whoever discovered the pattern has way more patience than I have. The music is forgettable but as with any mediocre game Wrath of the Black Manta cut corners when they could. Graphically it’s OK, your character’s purple coloring does help you pop out from the background. Enemies are forgettable and generic looking. The boss at the end of the first level is kind of cool in that it’s a huge sprite, but that’s really about it.
In the end, Wrath of the Black Manta feels like another “cash in on insert current pop culture wave” game. I really wanted to like it and I knew a ton of people who had it but it just never clicked with me. The powers part could have been really interesting but it really boiled down to making a final boss fight slightly more annoying than dodging and hitting.