|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PC, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Io Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Eidos Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Q4 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Amanda L. Kondolojy
April 22, 2009 - Anyone who enjoys ninja media knows that the world of these stealthy icons is vast. From the colorful world of Naruto, to the dark shadows of Ninja Gaiden, you could say that ninjas are the "rainbow coalition" of gaming. With characters that are white, black, and even purple and blue, Ninja lore leaves no race (real or imaginary) unrepresented. Mini Ninjas looks to continue this inclusive trend by showcasing a new kind of ninja: a small one.
The premise of mini ninjas is fairly simple. There is an evil ninja warlord (living in a Fortress of Doom, naturally) who is changing cute little animals into evil ninjas through Kuji magic, and this is upsetting the balance of nature as well as the order of the ninjas. Since the world's animal population is rapidly decreasing, an increasing amount of natural disasters are occurring. Logically, if this evil warlord is not defeated, the world will end, which is why the Mini Ninjas must spring into action.
Your hero, appropriately named Hiro, is a ninja-in-training who is on an epic quest to go to a fiery mountain to face this evil warlord, converting evil ninjas back into cuddly animals along the way. The story doesn't sound like it is going to be all that deep, but the lighthearted eco-friendly story should make for some cute (not to mention humorous) moments.
The combat system here will rely on your ability to use both standard physical attacks and ninja magic to take care of enemies. The main character will also be able to take the form of nearby animals as well. Instead of just summoning animal help, Hiro will actually be able to take over their consciousness and attack enemies as that animal. Although the extent of the animals Hiro can possess is not known, we know he will be able to take the form of bears and boars, which is a pretty good start.
In addition to Hiro, players will also be able to use lumbering side-character Futo in combat. Futo is a lot bigger than Hiro (though still mini by comparison with other characters) and can use more powerful physical attacks, due to his larger stature as well as his giant hammer weapon. Of course, there has to be some sort of tactical trade-off, and it looks like Futo will be a lot slower in combat than Hiro. In addition to these two main characters, the official trailer hints at a third playable character that can use a pea-shooter type weapon for long-range attacks.
In addition to the combat, Mini Ninjas will also emphasize stealth gameplay. Characters will be able to hide and wait for enemies to come within a certain range and will then be able to attack from a strategic point of view. This stealth tactic certainly isn't new in the realm of ninja games, but it is nice that small, tactical touches are being added to a game that looks to be appealing to the casual/family sect.
Another interesting thing about the game's battle system is that much of the combat will use the environment. Much like other ninja games (which shall remain nameless), the game will challenge you to find alternate ways to dispose of enemies, such as using traps or nearby architecture to foil their attacks.
But combat and story aside, what has me excited about Mini Ninjas is the visuals. The game has a very cutesy style, with big-headed characters and cartoonish environments. The game's look is almost comparable to Pirates vs. Ninja Dodgeball, but I hesitate to make a full comparison between these two titles, as the graphics in Mini Ninjas look much more polished and complete. The game's cutesy style carries over from main characters to enemies, and even animals. There are plenty of bright colors, and characters have many over-the-top mannerisms and expressions.
Mini Ninjas definitely looks like it is going to be a very cute and family-friendly title, and the gameplay doesn't look all that shabby either. Although it probably won't be as deep as some of the other ninja-inspired games out there, this one looks to trade the blood and gore for pandas and puzzling, which is certainly not a bad thing. And of course, throw a whole ton of cuteness into the mix and it looks like you have a winning title. Mini Ninjas has a tentative release date for this fall and is coming to the Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and the DS.
Amanda L. Kondolojy
CCC Staff Contributor