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Ninja Spirit :: Review by Chris

Ninja Spirit Album Title: Ninja Spirit
Record Label: Alfa Records
Catalog No.: 15A3-3 (CD), 15A5-3 (Tape)
Release Date: December 21, 1988
Purchase: Buy at eBay


While best known for their games for the R-Type series, Irem have produced a line of titles centred on ninja characters, including Ninja Spirit. Under the pseudonym OH!GI, R-Type II composer Masahiko Ishida scored the game by blending funk influences with Japanese tonalities. The resultant score was released as a stand-alone album, though is also available in the compilations Image Fight ~ G.S.M. Irem 1 and Irem Retro Game Music Collection 2.


The score for Ninja Spirit offers some interesting twists on Irem's typical sound. For example, the first stage theme "Theme from Butsuzo" is largely dominated by the punchy bass-heavy stylings typical of the soundtracks from the R-Type series. However, the tonalities are inspired more by traditional Japanese music and add a distinctive ninja feeling. It's not particularly elaborate in its composition or synthesis, in contrast to counterparts like Shinobi. However, it fits the scene quite well and is fairly enjoyable on a stand-alone level.

Ishida offers a range of more atmospheric themes to portray other environments in the game. For example, "Forest" presents an extensive ethereal melody above the typical funk riffs, while "Moon" is quite surreal with its chaotic synth glissandi. Some of the final stage themes are also quite dramatic, notably "Behind The Wind" with its urgent riffs and "Kizashi Part II" with its eerie soundscaping. However, easily the most enjoyable addition to the entire soundtrack is "Dark Blue", an old-school rock anthem more reminiscent of the battle themes of Square's RPGs.

Unfortunately, the soundtrack generally isn't elaborate enough to be an especially pleasing listen. Despite featuring some 17 tracks, the score lasts less than 20 minutes, meaning many tracks are brief ones. For example, the boss theme loops after a few bars, compromised of little more than sinister chord progressions and distorted synth parts. Furthermore, the moody ending theme "Deep Blue" doesn't really reach its full potential with its overly brief development and dubious synth choices. Rounding off the experience is a game sound recording, featuring snippets of the game's music set to arcade sound effects.


Overall, the music for Ninja Spirit is an effective blend of Irem's funk staples with traditional tonalities. However, the score is simply too brief and generic to be particularly satisfying against other great ninja scores of the era. The presentation on this album is a little better than Image Fight ~ G.S.M. Irem 1, given the first stage theme loops and there is a game sound recording. However, Ninja Spirit's album simply features too little music to be worthy of hunting down.

Overall Score: 5/10