Mini Ninjas Preview
Back in January, I uploaded some screenshots for a game called Mini Ninjas, and I couldn’t help but chuckle at its simple cartoony art style. Now, though, we’ve learned a bit more about the game thanks to a recent first look by IGN, and it’s exactly what one might expect: a game that won’t offend any parents but still doesn’t sacrifice anything in the way of fun factor. Charming little titles like these do play a significant and important role in this new generation of unparalleled flash and panache, as we can now enjoy a great deal of contrast and diversity. When you’re done sweating through the amazingly intense experience of Killzone 2, you can pick up Mini Ninjas and unwind; relaxing and smiling as you slice your way through legions of enemies in a landscape that holds abundant amounts of charm. The bottom line is that, these days, regardless of your mood or state of mind, there’s a game somewhere out there to suit your needs. Need a happy pick-me-up? Check this out.
Io Interactive is at the helm for this title and it’s a definite departure from previous projects; they’re responsible for the Hitman franchise, and we wouldn’t have expected to see Mini Ninjas come out of their studio. This is just a straight-up third-person hack ‘n slash title that doesn’t use blood or shock value to get its point across. If you need a premise – and we’re certain it’s more of a cosmetic addition rather than a substantial plot – you will have to take down the Evil Samurai Warlord who wishes to rule the world…of course. He has access to something called “Kuji Magic,” which transforms cute and cuddly woodland creatures into deadly samurai warriors, and naturally, this isn’t…er…natural, so the eco-balance falls out of whack. This doesn’t escape the eagle-eyed protective gaze of the Ninja Master, who, in true guru fashion, watches the horror unfold before him and decides to send his best soldiers into battle. Sadly, none of them come back and the evil continues to advance. What to do?
Well, there are only two pupils left: Hiro and his best friend, Futo. Obviously, the intrepid duo faces seemingly insurmountable odds, so it’s going to take a whole lot of skill and fortitude to overcome the Evil Samurai Warlord’s ceaseless swarms. You will have access to normal attacks and special skills, but Hiro will also be able to use some Kuji Magic himself. If things are getting dicey, you can call up some fireballs or lightning bolts; only Futo will have to rely almost entirely on his large size and strength. He wields a massive hammer that ought to decimate most enemies, so he will probably lead the charge into the oncoming foes. However, you can tap into each character’s special Power, too: Hiro can actually freeze time, when you’re allowed to target as many enemies as humanly possible. When time resumes, Hiro will immediately land a series of blows on any target you selected; this is a mechanic we’ve seen before – we saw it in a third-person shooter last year, although we forget the name – and it should be a definite crowd-pleaser in Mini Ninjas.
Hiro has one final skill that’s going to prove invaluable: he can actually use some magic to possess nearby malformed animals. So, if you’re facing a whole bunch of enemies and one of them is bound to cause more problems than others, try and take control of it through magical possession. Not surprisingly, this will take a lot of pressure off as you progress through the game. Furthermore, it’s not all about incessant button-mashing; stealth will indeed play a small role. If there are ninjas in the game, how can you not include a stealth element? Right? Hiro can hide and wait for foes to pass without seeing him and then, when their backs are turned, our little hero – get it? – can attack from behind with grim accuracy and effectiveness. It may not be accurate to use the word “grim” in describing this particular game, but we’re just trying to add some extra flavor to the description. Anyway, combined with the colorful, appealing environment, the on-screen action should be enough to keep you playing for quite a long time. If we have slashing, magic, special skills (that freezing time ability sounds sweet), and even stealth, how can we not be encouraged?
Mini Ninjas is scheduled to arrive some time later this year, and as far as we’re concerned, we figure we can always use more titles like this. Sometimes, we all take this hobby just a bit too seriously and it’s always good to step back and relax every now and then. The PSN games have been good for that so far (Flower, Burn Zombie Burn!, etc.), and when we’re done with something like Resident Evil 5 we could definitely use some time to decompress. And so, enter Mini Ninjas!
4/8/2009 Ben Dutka