Ninji Direct

There was another Nintendo Direct yesterday. It was a big one, but it actually didn’t show too many games that really excited me. There’s a new Yoko Taro card game coming out next month. That’s… I mean, I’m not all that excited about a card game, but it’s Yoko Taro, so I must. The expansion for Monster Hunter Rise and Kirby and the Forgotten Land are things that I am naturally quite “hype” about, but they’re dated for next spring, so I don’t need to think about them for a good, long while. Triangle Strategy still has a dumb name and still looks great, but again: March 2022.

I’m still excited as heck for Metroid: Dread, but it’s out in exactly two weeks, I really don’t need a new trailer? And the Deltarune: Chapter 2 announcement would have driven me wild, if I had not just played Deltarune: Chapter 2 last weekend on my computer. It was excellent!

What really blew my socks off in this Direct was the content update for Mario Golf: Super Rush. Not because I’m excited about a content update for Mario Golf: Super Rush (I have not purchased the game). No, this announcement had my jaw on the floor because of a character design for a golfer that’s being added to the game: the humble Ninji.

If you’ll indulge me, please take a look at the image below. The little, blakc critters featured alongside Princess Toadstool are Ninji. This is what Ninji has looked like from 1988 to 2020, as far as I was aware.

Ninji, at least to me, has always just been exactly what it looks like here: a black, star-shaped creature with rosy cheeks and a giant Sonic the Hedgehog eyeball. I didn’t ever think about it any further, and was never given any reason to consider that Ninji might be more than what the simple 2D sprite was able to express. Alas!

This is what Ninji really looks like! It’s a Fall Guys potato-person!

But seriously, those aren’t rosy cheeks? They’re actually buttons!? And apparently it’s a white guy in a suit? With two regular-sized eyeballs? My whole world has been flipped upside-down!

Now, despite me having believed in my interpretation of what a Ninji is for the last 33 years, Nintendo disagrees. Ninji’s little red spots have officially been buttons since Super Mario World (you can vaguely see it in this promotional poster), and somehow I did not catch on in all of those years. It’s not 100% my fault though, as the Ninji’s sprites and 3D models haven’t ever been entirely clear about the nature of those buttons. Have a look:

Looking at them now, I can’t really see anything but the “intended” Ninji design, but you can probably understand how I was mistaken for so very long. Even Nintendo’s artists weren’t always totally sure what the character looked like, if the Super Mario All-Stars sprite is any indication.

It is kind of interesting to see, though, that after Super Mario World, Ninji basically weren’t allowed in anything but Mario RPGs. Though I suppose that is the fate of most of the monsters that originated in Subcon. Ghettoed, but not forgotten.


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