NINJA BASEBALL BAT MAN / Irem / Arcade
In the wake of Final Fight and TMNT there was an absolute flood of clone beat-em-ups in the arcades. Many of these came and went almost overnight, getting boosted out of their spot at the local game hall in favor of something newer and trendier after only a very short run. Amongst this sea of forgotten fighters is a whole lot of mediocrity, but there's a few good titles that just had the misfortune of bad timing and perhaps bad promotion.
Ninja Baseball Bat Man is one such misfit. It's actually one of the better beat-em-up games of the early 90s, but generally no one has heard of it unless they happened to play it on an emulator. It's most similar to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in that four weapon-wielding fighters play simultaneously in side-scrolling levels, but it actually sports a better game engine and has a bizarre sense of humor that is just in a league of its own.
Captain Jose heads up a team of baseball ninjas, which is very fortunate as an army of evil baseballs has stolen the Golden Equipment from the Hall of Fame. Your task is to travel through various U.S. cities and states, smacking foes around in order to get all the equipment back.
The game features cute graphics and smooth gameplay, and there are a wider range of attacks than in most beat-em-ups of this period. Each of your ninjas has special moves that use Street Fighter-style button presses, rush moves, and can rattle off combos. Each of the four also sports distinct strengths and weaknesses. Any player at any position on the machine can also select whichever player they like (provided they aren't already in action).
As with all beat-em-ups it has issues with replay value, but this one is a bit less tedious and repetitive than the rest thanks to option-filled gameplay and a good variety of enemies (as well as levels that are nicely paced and don't have many sequences that drag).
* Gameplay Video