A lot of the chat around Commodore Format can often centre around how late into the C64’s life the magazine appeared. But what is lost is that for the first eighteen month’s worth of issues, Steve Jarratt’s magazine arguably got to cover some of the greatest games ever to appear on the machine. Release schedules in 1991 were relentless. Advertisers were plentiful. The magazine still had 100 pages.

Often, the games were some of the very last from major software publishers. But wow, what swansongs they were! Take a look at issue 6, for instance: there’s Turrican II. Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge. Creatures. And the utterly magnificent cartridge release, Last Ninja III.

When you boot up, the introduction sequence really sets the bar for what’s to come.  You see our ninja, Armakuni, making his way across a desert as lightening flashes and the rain pours. Movie style credits roll. He approaches a temple, climbing up a wall – and the action begins.

System 3 used the same engine that had worked so well in Vendetta to create an incredible looking world for our hero to navigate. It’s a unique, 3D flick-screen world viewed slightly from above. There are five stages, each with seventeen screens. The screens have sixteen different types of bad guy – in all, 512k worth of fighting to smash your way through!

Each stage is based on one of the five elements, with puzzles based on the theme. So on the fire stage you have to muck around with molten to make a key and progress. On the water stage you must stop a huge waterfall flowing in order to move on. Later stages involve wind, earth and void. All can be fought through using logic and the objects that you find. And, er, by attacking the baddies in a variety of grisly ways.

No amount of words can do the epic nature of Last Ninja III justice. It oozes class, from the intro and outros to the detail in the animation and the violent combat. The control method takes practice yet eventually feels spot on – but the best thing about it is the mix of puzzle solving and fighting. It goes beyond the punch-punch-move gaming of the time, and current stuff like Uncharted owes more than a nod to its themes.

With the collapse of Commodore and the discontinuing of its GS console, most people eventually only ever played the game on cassette and disk. It’s a darn shame – because this monster adventure really shows you just how far ahead of the NES our favourite computer was in the right hands. This, surely, was the sort of the thing Commodore envisaged for its doomed project. It’s one of the machine’s true highs. CF

CF SAID: “Treat yourself to something very special indeed”

WE SAY: At the time we were all wooed by the graphics. But go back today and you’ll find a wonderful game underneath. 


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