Review by Auron255

"Quirky and unique, but definitely not perfect..."

What do you get when you mix a little bit of anime/manga, a short ninja, lots of funny one-liners and a wisecracking mentor in the blender? A game like I-Ninja of course.

Some games are known for their epic scale of everything while some others are known for their light, fun affairs and fortunately (for me and many others) I-Ninja falls into the second category alongside classics such as Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden. A short little ninja, whose actual name is Ninja, stars in this third person action adventure game (which also acts a lot like a platformer) as the hero. He may lack the height but he majorly makes up for it with his arrogance and one liners. At the beginning of the game we learn that Ninja has accidentally beheaded his master, the wisecracking Sensei, during a rescue mission – but fear not, the Sensei's spirit is there to help him – and must now gather the Rage Stones before the “ever lovable” evil Master O-Dor and his army of Ranx can.

Nowadays games need eye-catching gimmicks to attract the consumers and boy oh boy, does this game have some. As I said before, Ninja may be short but he is a cocky bastard and he's not afraid of showing it. When attacking he will often be taunting his enemies with one liners such as “You want more? I got more.” And at other times the dialog can be funny too

*just after the Sensei's spirit comes into view*

“You are dead!”

“Your grasp of the obvious is astounding”

“What was that thing?” says Ninja.

(after his master explains the Rage stones and that he must get them)……

“Ah, he's dead and still all he can think about is my training.”

These sort of dialogs are strewn throughout the game and I just couldn't help but laugh during these times. At times they can get a bit strained but nobodys perfect.

He can swim, jump, double jump, run on walls, slide on rails, swing and tons of other movies. Of course you also get the standard Ninja fare – sword, shurikens, Belts are all there. He also has this Rage meter of sorts which is activated whenever he gets hit. This meter has levels with 4 abilites – Berserk where his sword does extra damage, Revive where he canr estore his health, Shuriken where he can ride a giant shuriken and do some serious ass kicking and I-Ninja where he becomes invincible (!!). All this is designed in such a way that it enables the players to use a solid amount of combat, platforming and a superb dose of mini-games most of which are unique and enjoyable to say the least.

Controlling Ninja is pretty simple and they are very responsive too. He has two main attacks – the spin and fast attacks. Each has variations that adds up to the power but you'll be vulnerable for a few seconds after you strike – this can take its toll on you as you'll be facing multiple enemies at once and you cannot stun them all out together. The damage at times can be weak also, one of Ninja's moves reminds me of Dante's juggling move in DMC2 – where he'd throw his sword back and then front again for a powerful strike that'd lift the enemy up and you could smash down on him causing lots of damage – this move is sorta here in I-Ninja but not well executed because it causes less damage than expected.

There are 4 main areas in the game plus an additional showdown on the moon. The areas range from space to jungles and beaches to mountains. Each of these areas are unique in their very own way and have 4 different big bosses. This is where the belt system kicks in – there are areas in each world/level which require you to have a certain belt ranking to reach it. The system in theory seems like a good idea as it works as a grading system, whenever you finish a level the Sensei grades you (and also upgrades you and your weapons) but in practice it can be a bit frustrating. There was this one instance where the Sensei would not let me in a door because I didn't have that belt ranking, so I had to go through the level again to achieve that ranking.

I-Ninja carries its own distinctive graphical style – its color graphics may make it look like a kids game but look deeper and you'll find it very appealing. Its adorable character designs and the boss designs are impressive even though some of the enemies seem to be a little less detailed than the others. The framerate is steady at all times (even when theres lots of stuff happening on-screen). The texture work done for the game is not great but gets the job done, on the other hand, each level/world carries its own unique graphical touch. Its as if each world has a life of its own – you'll believe me when you see it for yourself. The game might look simple but has great effects like reflections, sparks and lasers going off all over the place.

As I said before, this game will make you laugh once you have delved deep into it and sound plays a big factor in doing that. The developers have somehow pulled off an amazing feat – fusing todays beats with that of the ‘80s. The beats in the game may remind you of the SNES – which is a good thing – the beats may be generic but they are catchy rhythmic tunes from good ‘80s bands.

Its also of note that the main character was voiced by Billy West – the same man responsible for the voice of Fry in Futurama – and he pulls off an amazing job on Ninja! Ninja sounds a lot like a wise-a$$ as he's always being arrogant and spitting out one liners to his enemies and his Sensei – its as if he's suffering from superiority complex. It's the magic in the delivery of the speech that makes it all so enjoyable – Ninja may look cute but he's a warrior and a bad-a$$ one at that. Even though the main speeches and music are all good I'm afraid I can't say the same for the other sound effects – they are average at best.

So whats my final verdict on this game? This game shines in (almost) all departments except for the replay factor, experienced players may take a maximum of 8 hours to finish this and there is nothing much to come back to. But if you want to get a fun game that's gonna make you laugh (and doesn't really take itself seriously but still pull of some amazing stuff) then be sure to put this one in your list.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 05/30/04

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