Ninja Reflex Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Ninja Reflex Review for the Nintendo DS (NDS)

Ninja Training: Relax your Mind, Body, and Spirit for Minutes a Day

Did you ever dream of becoming a ninja? EA gives you the opportunity to hone your skills and master the art of war without going to war at all. A ninja’s goal is to maintain peace and harmony; they should not be inspired by destruction. Therefore, Ninja Reflex will teach you how to maintain your concentration and act just at the right time. It will also teach you to relax and find inspiration in old and traditional oriental arts.

Ninja Reflex screenshot

The game is available for both Wii and DS. You’d think the game was tailored for Wii and its motion controls, but it also translated decently onto the DS. If you’re choosing between the two versions, think about what you prefer: testing your accuracy and reflexes though more physical work or with the stylus. The rest of the game is pretty much the same, except the visuals were shrunk to fit the DS screen. The game is not awe-inspiring, but I thought some of the outdoor scenes looked nice, peaceful, and true-to-life, although in a cartoonish way. The presentation is very basic, with wood-like buttons to access the different challenges, and some of the same backdrops and landscapes repeated throughout the game. I found the teacher’s poses pretty comical though, and the background music has a nice, zen feel that helps with concentration.

As soon as you start the game, the sensei (your master) will take over. He’ll start explaining why it’s important to find a balance between your mind and body and why everyone should fight for peace. The guy is long, skinny, and sports a long, gray beard, as you might expect. He also speaks with that great, genuine Japanese accent we’re used to hearing in martial arts movies, video games, etc. I couldn’t help but remember when I used to play a cool platforming game called I-Ninja a few years ago. Of course, this is a totally different game. I’d compare it to Brain Training, Flash Focus, etc. because it lacks a storyline and just focuses on the practice of numerous quick activities in order to train and adjust your human speed / reflex capabilities.

Ninja Reflex screenshot

Following the teacher’s advice, you’ll start with the Shuriken mini-game. You’ll throw metallic stars at the different targets that appear and move around the screen. You have to avoid hitting the random geishas that show up, as they’re all innocent. You throw the shuriken by taping on the lower part of the screen and then drawing a quick line towards the target. The goal varies a little bit as you play: sometimes you should only hit enemies of a specific color, other times there’s a time limit, etc.

Another mini-game is called Hashi: here you have to catch flies with the chopsticks. They buzz around the screen like in one of the Wario Ware mini-games, which you may or may not have played. You’ll catch the flies by just hitting them with the stylus at the right time, and then you must drag them slowly into the spinning bowl placed below.

Koi is the third mini-game. Koi is a variety of the common carp; it’s an ornamental kind of fish often used in Japanese gardens and ponds. In the mini-game you’ll have to follow the koi slowly with the stylus until it rises to the surface and then tap it to catch it. The smaller the fish, the more points you get; there are only three different sizes though.

Ninja Reflex screenshot

The Katana mini-game puts you in front of very ugly Onis (ghost demons). They’ll run towards you one at a time with the sole intention of slashing you in two pieces. If you guard properly by drawing an upwards line or from left to right or right to left (depending on his attack), you’ll stun the Oni, which allows you to slash him with the stylus before he escapes.

In the Hotaru game you’ll have to trap fireflies by tapping them with the stylus as soon as they appear. The quicker you do it, the more points you’ll snatch.

Ninja Reflex screenshot

Finally, there’s the Nunchaku game. Here you’ll have to sharpen your multitasking abilities. You’ll have to draw a horizontal eight figure (∞) with the stylus repeatedly; when an object flies towards you, you must hit the L or R shoulder button in order to smash it. Right away you have to continue drawing eights. If you lose concentration, you’ll be defeated.

It seems easy, but the mini-games get progressively more difficult. Most of the controls work smoothly, but I found some initial difficulties with the Katana and Nunchaku games. Everything comes with practice though, so just know that those two are slightly more challenging than the other ones. As you pass the different challenges, you’ll obtain jewels. These jewels represent the road towards the next belt rank. Like in most martial arts, there’s an advancement process symbolized with different colored belts. There are eleven belts you’ll obtain until you finally reach the third and most important black belt. After completing each Belt Test successfully, new challenges and ninja names (to compose your player name) will be unlocked. The new challenges are variations of the six main mini-games I just described.

If you get tired of sharpening your physical and mental agility by yourself, you can have up to three friends participate. There’s a multiplayer mode where you can all take turns and see who the next ninja star is. Also, the Meditation mode is quite unique. Most people initially interested in this title won’t find the meditation very appealing. I’d say most spiritual people are not really into video games and ninjas anyway. However, it’s a neat feature, as it guides you through a meditation exercise that helps you relax and let go of all the stressful and negative feelings inside of you. The sensei’s voice sounded pretty funny to me though, which didn’t quite help with concentration. I don’t usually do these things, but it’s definitely a positive thing to do for people interested in it. There’s also a Silent Meditation mode where you can set a timer, and the Sensei will only speak at the end to make sure you didn’t fall asleep!

All in all, Ninja Reflex is not (it is or isn’t a fun game?) a very fun game that will keep you playing for hours. The mini-games aren’t addictive enough. It’s more of a daily exercise for those with enough willpower to follow through. With so many games out there, I find it difficult to go back to the same game every day, especially when it’s based on training your mental and visual skills. If you’re looking to have fun being a ninja, I’m sure the new Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword won’t let you down. Ninja Reflex is probably more fun when played on Nintendo Wii, as it allows you to move your arms and do quick motions as if you were a real ninja. If you feel interested in the title, maybe give it a rental first.

Average DS visuals. Not very special, but they do the job. Some scenarios are very nice and detailed, especially outdoors. 3.7 Control
Good controls for most mini-games but a bit confusing at times. Overall, the game is not very challenging. 3.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The Sensei’s voice is pretty funny and authentic. The background music has a nice zen feel that helps you concentrate (as long as you take the game seriously, that is). 3.5

Play Value
The gameplay is not overly exciting but at least it will keep you busy for a bit. If you take it as a daily concentration routine it might help you lower your stress levels.

3.3 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Develop the reflexes of a Ninja and test your skills against up to three friends.
  • Master eleven belt ranks on your way to attaining your 3rd Degree Black Belt.
  • Six core Ninja training exercises with several variations and difficulty levels for each game – Shuriken: Defend the courtyard from attacks on all sides with throwing stars – Hotaru: Test your quickness against the flash of a firefly – Hashi: One who can catch flies with chopsticks can accomplish anything – Koi: Capture koi fish with your bare hands – Nunchaku: Crush incoming aerial assaults with your nunchucks – Katana: Strike down demons with your Samurai sword in a bamboo forest.
  • Choose a unique Ninja name from over 25,000 combinations.
  • Calm your body, mind, and spirit with meditation lessons from your Sensei.

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