Last Ninja 2 Soundtrack (C64), Matt Gray, 1988
The Last Ninja had been a multi-million smash hit, so developer System 3 didn’t upset the apple cart when they created Last Ninja 2: Back with a Vengeance. The main novelty was the change of scenery: protagonist Armakuni is mysteriously transported from feudal Japan to 20th-century New York City, where he has to defeat evil shogun Kunitoki once again. The new locales added just the right amount of innovation, while the core gameplay largely remained the same. However, System 3 also tweaked and improved important aspects of the formula it was following – better sprite animation, more locations and a greater number of puzzles. The result? A whopping 5,5 million copies sold and ports for the Amiga, Atari ST, NES, ZX Spectrum and MS-DOS following in due course. And let’s not forget the confusingly titled Last Ninja Remix, a slightly enhanced re-release of Last Ninja 2 for 8-bit computers.
Ben Daglish and Anthony Lees’ work for The Last Ninja was one of that game’s main selling points, channelling the required sense of Eastern mysticism into one of the most energy-packed and dense 1980s action game soundtracks. Anthony Lees wrote some material for Last Ninja 2, which unfortunately was rejected by the developer, who deemed it unsuitable for the style of the game. In stepped composer Matt Gray, who had already worked on a handful of 8-bit game scores since entering the industry in 1987. However, Last Ninja 2 was his biggest assignment yet, which he landed after System 3 had made him their in-house composer based on his impressive, quickly composed loading track for Bangkok Knight. After three more years of game scoring, Gray became a dance music producer and remixer, co-creating songs for the Pet Shop Boys, Kylie Minogue, Girls Aloud, Sugarbabes – oh, and Cher’s “Believe”.