Review by JPeeples

Reviewed: 12/05/03 | Updated: 12/08/03

Supa! Happy! Ninja!

I-Ninja is one of the most fun and inventive platformers I’ve played this generation, while it’s not quite as enjoyable as Klonoa 2, it does a great job of making use of classic platforming elements, while mixing in some new stuff along the way. I-Ninja also has quite a bit of humor in it, something that I enjoy seeing in a platform game, as it tends to make the game more fun to play through, and enhance the light-hearted nature of the game itself.

I-Ninja is a pleasant brew of classic gaming mixed with some new gameplay elements, such as “eye bowling” that remind me of Marble Madness, and neat little racing areas where you have to outrun a laser while using your chain to grip onto things to turn corners. That chain comes in handy as well during gameplay as it acts like a grappling hook of sorts, allowing you to swing from area to area, kind of like using a vine in Pitfall. There are also fun little half-pipe areas that allow you to run up and down each side of them like a crazy person until you build up enough speed to reach a platform at the top of the half-pipe. These sections of the game are a blast, and there is some complexity to them as well. The same goes for the kick-jump areas, which see you jumping from one side of a wall to another in order to reach a platform at the top of one, or both, sides of a wall.

Speaking of walls, I-Ninja allows you to run up some walls, and run on the side of them as well. While doing this, you can collect coins (a must in a platform game), and practice how to properly angle the left dual shock stick so you don’t fall off of the walls when running alongside of them. Another cool thing you can do is grind on pipes that litter the levels, which gives me some Jet Grind Radio déjà vu, which is certainly a good thing.

All of these fancy gameplay elements compliment the main method of attack (hacking foes to bits with a sword) quite well. You’ve got an assortment of sword-based attacks at your disposal, including a spinning attack and an amazing jumping attack that splits your foes in two. The secondary gameplay elements help break up the sword-slashing stuff, which helps keep the game from getting stale. It also keeps the pace of the game brisk and lively, which makes for a more enjoyable game in the long run. This pacing reminds me quite a bit of the original Sonic the Hedgehog in the sense that it has an inherently fast pace, but it never comes at the expense of being able to absorb yourself in what you are doing in the game.

This is all topped off by responsive controls, which make the game more of a joy to play, and the fantastic button configuration makes it that much easier to get things done in the game. Words can’t express the joy that comes from playing this game, there are many things to do, and none of them are the least bit difficult to get done.

The only real blemish on the gameplay lies in the camera, which tends to get in the way of things when you least expect it to. Now there are a plethora of camera options available to you, and you can adjust the camera on your own to some degree, however, you can’t zoom the viewpoint out, which means that you tend to be left with a short-sighted viewpoint of the landscape. This might not sound like a huge problem, but when jumping from platform to platform, it can cause you to miss some jumps, which is never a good thing. Thankfully, the camera problems merely hobble the game, instead of crippling it, which is a testament to the overall greatness of the game.

Graphically, I-Ninja is quite solid, with lots of little touches throughout the environments. The character models are simplistic, yet quite charming. They feature a super-deformed look to them, which works pretty well thanks to the tongue-in-cheek nature of the game. The animation for the characters in the game is pretty robust for a platforming game. I came into it expecting to see simple animations for moves, and was shocked to see how rich the animation was for moves in the game. Chain swinging showcases the animation quite well, as do wall climbing and half-pipe running. Enemy attacks, oddly enough, tend to feature the genre-standard of basic animation, which is fine by me, as it puts the emphasis on the main character.

Sonically, I-Ninja is pretty stunning. There are voiceovers for the main characters in the game, usually done with some kind of over-the-top accent or sarcasm that, again, highlights the tongue-in-cheek nature of the game. I-Ninja’s music is kind of forgettable due to it being so bland. The generic tunes don’t really hurt the game, but they don’t help it either, and when a game has this much personality in it, it’s a crying shame to see it go to waste with bland music.

In the end, I-Ninja is what most games out there should be, fun. If you’re looking for something to remind you of days gone by, or are in the market for something you can either spend a lot of time with, or just something to pick up and play for a bit, give it a shot. I must commend Argonaut for coming up with something so unique and creative, while at the same time mixing in classic gaming elements along the way. Most of the stuff in the game works out well in execution, with the camera and music being the only things that bring it down in the least.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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