The Last Ninja Soundtrack (C64), Ben Daglish / Anthony Lees, 1987
The Commodore 64 is home to more than a few legendary titles and The Last Ninja is no doubt part of that select group. However, its development turned out to be an unexpectedly protracted affair after the initial group of developers – Budapest’s SoftView – were unable to make progress on the project. System 3’s Mark Cale took the code back to London, with the game’s engine then rewritten for the C64 by John Twiddy. Cale’s vision for the project was an ambitious one. He envisaged an isometric ninja adventure that would create a far more expansive world for gamers to explore than what your regular C64 game accomplished. Blending exploration, adventure elements and arcade-style combat, The Last Ninja struck a chord with both critics and the masses, going on to sell about four million copies (according to Cale) and kicking off a massively successful franchise.
Like the game itself, The Last Ninja soundtrack has become the stuff of legend, again excelling on a platform that had no shortage of outstanding music. Scoring duties fell to the duo of Ben Daglish and Anthony Lees. Daglish had already built a sizeable portfolio of 8-bit computer soundtracks and was well on his way to becoming one of the most heralded game composers of the decade. Lees’ involvement was more of a surprise. He had entered a competition (run as an April Fool’s Day joke) by ZZAP! 64 magazine and his winning composition drew the attention of Cale. Lees would later write music for Last Ninja 2, but his score was rejected as the developers found it didn’t suit the style of the game. Many of the 16-bit computer games Lees would later write for unfortunately remained unpublished, before he retired from the game music scene.