Review by ScrawlKnight
"Lots of fun to play and definitely not just for kids!"
This game was an impulse purchase for me. I'd heard next to nothing about it but saw it sitting on the shelf of a games store and thought I'd give it a try. I have a love for Japan, Japanese culture and cute characters so this seemed like a cool mix of those things! Luckily, I was not disappointed by my buy!
-- Story: 7.7/10 | Good --
It's a pretty cliche story really. An evil samurai warlord has risen again after being defeated hundreds of years ago. The ninja master sends off his best pupils to try and defeat the warlord, but none of them return. Finally, there are only two ninja left: Hiro and Futo. The master does not believe either of them are ready for the task, but he has no other options. Thus, he sends the two ninja off on a quest to rescue their friends and restore peace.
So, if it's cliche, why did I score it as good? Well, it's funny. Plain and simple. From the stereotypical ninja master to the ninja who thinks he really is a tiger to a giant samurai boss that farts at you. It's hardly a script writing masterpiece, but it's an enjoyable plot to follow and never takes itself too seriously.
I just wish they had spent some time developing the five main ninjas more. They seem like very interesting characters, but their background and motives are never explored. There are some bonus animated shorts you can unlock that introduce each one. These movies are really great to watch, but only leave you wanting more.
-- Gameplay: 9.0/10 | Excellent --
You have to remember when you play through this game that the developers wanted to make it kid friendly. As a result it's on the easy side of the difficulty scale and there isn't a point where you have to think too hard about anything. That being said it's still a lot of fun and the simple mechanics work surprisingly well.
Mini Ninjas plays through in a traditional game style: level progression. You have to reach the end of each level to then progress onto the next one. The level design for each is absolutely brilliant. The developers provide you with many different ways to approach a level. Like stealth? No problem! Work your way from bush to bush and through the tall grass to sneak up on your opponents. Enjoy picking your enemies off? No worries! Switch to your bow and arrow master Shun, plant yourself up on a cliff and start shooting. Prefer action? Then draw your sword and run straight into that enemy camp! Basically, you can take any strategy you want.
Each level is also significantly different from the others. There are a large amount of environments to explore such as grasslands, forests, castles, volcanoes, rivers and snowy mountains. Each has been designed so it feels different from any other level you have done. As a result, the game never gets boring. The same goes for boss fights. The five bosses of the game require very different strategies and tactics to defeat.
The only downside to the gameplay is its simplicity. Combat is limited to a regular attack, a stun attack and a power attack when you have a power orb. Don't get me wrong, it works very well and is easy to pick up on. However you can't help but feel some added mechanics, such as combos, wouldn't have gone amiss. Another thing that would have been nice is tasks in a level that can only be completed by a certain ninja. There is little incentive in the game to actually play as anyone except Hiro.
-- Graphics: 9.0/10 | Excellent --
I was pleasantly surprised when I popped the disc into my PlayStation, started a new game and saw the lush environments this game has to offer. The scenery has been done exceedingly well. It's vibrant, colourful and really enjoyable to look at as you run around. Cherry blossom trees sway beautifully in the breeze, dense grass swishes as you sneak by and clear, blue water laps gently at the rivers edge. It really is beautiful.
Likewise, enemies look terrific. The enemy samurai you encounter with their purple or red army and glowing yellow eyes look great. They fit in well with the environment and suit the feel of the game. The only downfall here is that there isn't much variation in enemy appearance. All enemies tend to look pretty similar to each other.
Finally, we have our heroes. The five Ninjas all look great as you watch them from behind doing their ninja thing. Unfortunately, when you see their face during a cut-scene, it's a bit of a let down. The area around their eyes look a bit blocky. It seems the developers took a bit of a shortcut considering you don't see the ninjas from the front very often.
-- Sound: 9.2/10 | Excellent --
Beautiful Japanese music will follow you as you progress through the game. There is some really great scores you will hear as you go from level to level, particularly more dramatic moments. The fast beating of drums as the samurai spot you lurking in the grass really pulls you into the moment as you throw a smoke bomb to try and escape.
Speaking of smoke bombs, the sound effects are equally good. The slicing of swords, the twang of arrows and the sound of the waterfalls work really well and are realistic. The highlight of the sound is when the samurai start screaming "mini ninja ninja!" in a high pitched voice as they attack you. It adds to the hilarity of the plot.
-- Value: 8.0/10 | Very Good --
As has been already stated, Mini Ninjas is a fairly easy game. You shouldn't have much trouble playing through the levels, particularly if you are an experienced gamer. On the plus side, there are a lot of collectibles to find on each level. If you don't enlist the aid of the internet to help you find them, this will add a lot of play time to the game. On most levels you can opt to search for magic scrolls, small statues, caged animals, gold coins and potion ingredients. All of these will help you in your quest if you hunt them down.
Personally, I thought there were just the right amount of levels in the game. A couple more wouldn't have hurt, but I reached the end of the game satisfied with my play through and purchase. I can certainly understand why some people may want to see some extra levels though. Even a bonus one after completing the game would have helped.
-- Tilt: 9.0/10 | Excellent --
I just found Mini Ninjas loads of fun to play. I was hooked to the plight of the five ninjas as soon as I began playing. It is one of the first games in a very long time I have literally just sat down and played for hours on end. It's also the first in a long time where I spent the extra time to unlock absolutely everything this game has to offer. That should speak for itself.
-- Overall: 8.7/10 | Great --
If you have any interest in Japan or Ninjas, you should definitely give this game a go. You may want to rent before buying, but I don't believe you would be disappointed. It's a really enjoyable, relaxing game to play through with a great cast of characters. It may not take all that long to beat, but you'll certainly enjoy it while it lasts.
If you're a younger gamer or a parent looking for a good game for your child, Mini Ninjas is worth a look. Whilst it may be fun for anyone to play, I'm sure kids, especially younger boys, will love it!
Thanks for reading!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/29/09
Game Release: Mini Ninjas (AU, 09/24/09)
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