There are good ninjas, and there are bad ninjas. The former kind, such as Ninja Gaiden‘s Ryu Hayabusa, generally try to repay their debts to society by vanquishing upstart arch-fiends, decapitating demons and performing other valiant, good-ninja-like deeds. Bad ninjas, on the other hand, do things like plot to kidnap the President and loiter with their buddies outside of Wal-Mart. And so, as you fire up Bad Dudes and read the first line of the game’s prologue, you know that you are dealing with some bad, bad ninjas:
The President has been kidnapped by ninjas.
There it is – a megaton bomb dropped on your world, right off the bat. The secret service has utterly failed at the one job entrusted to them, and there are only two people left on the planet with the skill, courage, and Van Damme-like muscularity to get the President back. They are The Bad Dudes.
The dudes’ quest to get the President back will be treacherous. Legions of bad ninjas of all shapes and sizes will hurl themselves at our tank top wearing protagonists. Some of these ninjas will toss shuriken, others will attack with swords, and even others will light themselves on fire and rush at our beleaguered heroes. But the dudes are prepared. They’ve got 80s parachute pants and open-fingered fighting gloves. And they’ve got a répertoire of moves to handle almost any type of situation – quick jabs, low sweeps, spinning kicks, and even a flaming punch that will take out most ninjas with one explosive wallop.
Bosses, however, are a different story. Our dudes will have to pay attention. Patterns will have to be memorized. Quick hit-and-run tactics will have to be employed. The likes of Karnov (yes, Karnov is on the side of the bad ninjas), Mr. I’m-A-Crazy-Midget-Ninja-With-Claws™, and Green-Holographic-Ninja-Guy® will require more than a few quick jabs to take down. But The Bad Dudes are up to the task. Because they are bad, and they are dudes. And if that’s not enough (doubtful), they can scoop up some life-replenishing Coke or weapons (all dropped by those always bumbling red ninjas) to even the odds.
But all is not well with our heroes. First, our dudes never take on the enemy together. Billy and Jimmy Lee from Double Dragon had it right. Two against five is much preferable to one against five. But the Bad Dudes will have none of it. One dude will take on a level full of ninjas, and if he gets eliminated, the next dude will step in (at the beginning of the stage) to take a stab at it. There’s about as much teamwork going on here as there was between Mario and Luigi in the original Super Mario Bros. Second, those bad ninjas can flicker and disappear. This would be great if the ninjas were using their real-ultimate powers to confuse and disorient the dudes, but, sadly, it’s just the result of game programmers overworking the NES’s limited hardware. And then there’s the stuttering, shuffling nature of the dudes’ movement, which makes opening up a can of Steven Segal-esque whoop-assery a bit less precise than it should be.
In the end, though, the dudes will prevail. They will brawl through seven (mostly) fun levels of ninja stomping madness (including memorable stages on a speeding 18-wheeler and on a moving cargo train) and they will rescue the President. They will also experience one of the most amusing 8-bit endings of all time. Hamburgers will be munched. High-fives will be performed. And, in the garbled, digitized voice of an eighty-year-old woman with tuberculosis, the dudes will yell, “I’M BAD!” To that I say, yes dudes, you are bad. But only enough to knock four points off the overall score.