Ninjas are nothing new to the gaming world, with games like Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi. As time passed, Ninja Gaiden reigned supreme as the top ninja game series. While I respect the popularity of the series, I think it’s held back by its super difficulty that only limits it to certain gamers. Yes, there is a market for hard games, but it’s not that big in my opinion. However, recently I played Mini Ninjas on my Playstation 3, and I think there is a new horizon for a new series of ninja games.
The story goes that an evil samurai warlord has risen again from a slumber that was put upon him due to the ninja master’s brave actions. The newly awakened samurai warlord has now started to use his dark magic to turn all the animals in the forest into his own personal samurai army. To counter the evil warlord’s actions, the ninja master sent out many ninjas that he had trained to see what is up with the warlord’s plans. Sadly, the first four ninjas the master sent out never came back. The master only has two ninjas now named Hiro and Futo. The two ninjas must go out and save their friends, and defeat the evil wizard. Mini Ninjas was developed by IO Interactive. IO Interactive is mostly known for the Hitman, and Kayne and Lynch series. They are also known for a small title known as Freedom Fighters. For a company that makes pretty violent games, this is very different than what they usually do.
The game play featured in Mini Ninjas is a mix of an action/adventure/stealth game, where you control 6 different ninjas during the game. The first two you use are Hiro and Futo. Hiro is the main ninja, who can use what the game calls kuji magic, where he can use different spells to help him out, along with his katana. Some of the spells he can use are summoning lightning, throwing a fireball, making thunder come down, and even making a bush to disguise yourself with. Futo, however, is the big tough guy of the team, and is more useful fighting bigger enemies. The other ninjas include Shiro the long-range archer of the group, Tora the fast tiger-like ninja, Kunoichi who can use a flute to mesmerize enemies, and Suzume who uses a spear and is useful for taking on crowds of enemies. This game doesn’t really revolve around stealth, and you can easily just run head-on into battle, but what are you, stupid? Be creative and use that stealth element to your advantage. For example, Shiro is really good when no one can see him, and then you can use his special attack to take out a horde of enemies without them seeing you. Every character has a special strong attack they can use, like Tora can run really fast, Kunoichi can use her flute to mesmerize enemies, and Hiro can attack multiple enemies at once. There is a small RPG element where you upgrade Hiro and his health and abilities. You also buy weapons and items like potions, bombs, and shurikens, to name a few.
The presentation in the graphics is really nice, in my opinion. I like the whole cute and charming look of the characters and its world. The enemies are also well designed, and are cute to look at. The voice acting, while cheesy at times, can pretty much fit the situation and the game, as a whole. The music is also very well done, and I enjoy listening to it. Kunoichi is a good example since she uses music to her advantage. The bosses are also creative since there is a more of a puzzle element to them instead of straight-on fighting. They do get a lot of time taken up by quick-time events, but let’s say it feels good to only see them in the boss fights.
Sadly though, the ninjas can’t hide these poor sides of the game. First off, with six ninjas, you kind of expect a two-player mode, however, no such mode exists. There is also very little replay value unless you’re a trophy kind of guy, and only play games to unlock all the goals. I also wish there were more unlockables, like artwork or interviews. My final complaint is with the ninjas themselves. While you will use them all for different situations, I feel like Tora is not that well executed as a ninja, since his attacks seem weak and he doesn’t have a great range.
Overall though, I find this game to be really good. Yes, there are some small bad parts, but the good parts outweigh them. I would say if you got this for Christmas or whatever, you would not be disappointed, but if you didn’t, I say buy it or rent it. Either way, you will get an enjoyable play-through when you put this game into your system.
This game gets a 9 out of 10