Ninjas have a reputation as being smart, quiet, and powerful. I-Ninja is a louder and more humorous type of game that looks and plays somewhat similarly to Mario 64.
The main character in this game is named Ninja. Ninja’s sensei has recently been killed but he still guides Ninja in ghost form just how Obi-Wan did for Luke. The way levels are accessed is quite witty. Ninja first starts in an outside environment that links to all the main levels in the game. At first, only a few doors will be unlocked but more will be opened in time. When each level objective is completed, Ninja will receive grades. Grades, small tokens, are used to upgrade the color of Ninja’s belt. Hence, green doors can only be opened when Ninja has obtained the green belt. Just like Mario 64, the belts act like the stars did.
Besides upgrading Ninja’s belt, his sword can also be upgraded. Each enemy killed adds to the sword’s experience and when enough has been gained, a new sword is obtained. Ninja also has a power attack that builds when he constantly attacks enemies. This Rage Attack can also be used with subweapons such as darts and shrunkens.
I-Ninja is an action platformer. Fighting and jumping around are its main game play elements. Ninja can pull off some pretty cool moves to get from point A to B. And of course, no platforming game would be complete without a double jump. Ninja also has a little bit of Tony Hawk in him. He can jump and grind on rails and gain speed in a half pipe. Ninja can also do the classic wall kick maneuver. However, one of Ninja’s coolest moves lie with the use of his grapple hook. Gaps can easily be cleared when a grapple point is available. Ninja also needs his grapple to help him slingshot around sharp bends.
Besides from regular platforming levels, the game often strays off into a mini game or boss battle. Each one of these extras adds a ton of variety to the already pleasurable game play. Ninja will find himself doing crazy things on a grand scale like fighting a giant beast from within a huge robot, flying through hyperspace to defeat enemy guards, rolling around on a ball Monkey Ball style, and manning a turret gun to keep ships and planes at bay. Each one of these extra missions are so different and fun, the player will want to find the next one as quickly as possible.
Everything in this game is very enjoyable and fun to play. However, I wish just a few more elements were added. Since this is a ninja game, I would have liked to see some stealth kills. Sure you can snipe enemies with a dart from far away, but I would have liked to sneak up behind an enemy and pop his head off. Secondly, there are no health recovery items. There should be the occasional health item to appear from time to time. It can be rough beating an entire level without regaining health. This leads me into my next topic of checkpoints being too far apart. Since no health recovery items can be found, reaching the next checkpoint can be difficult. Also, the right analog stick is used to rotate the camera in the corresponding direction. Usually in games that give the player this camera control feature, the height of the camera can also be adjusted by using Up and Down. I-Ninja only lets its viewer look left or right. On occasion, there were times where it would have been helpful to look and see what was directly below me. There is first person view option but using the second analog stick would provide faster game play.
Fans of the cartoon, Futurama, will instantly notice that the voice of Ninja is the same voice that plays Fry. The voice work adds humor to the game as Sensei will say things that don’t make sense and Ninja will scream funny phrases at his enemies. The music is lively and keeps the mood of the game but is overshadowed by the laughable voice acting.
The graphics in the game focus on the hilarity and deformation of characters. Each character model is very clean with reasonable detail. The environments are also nicely done. The forest level is very green and lush while the bay area gives the player a sense of depth. This game has been released for all systems (Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox) and I am sure that each game will contain the same level of graphical quality.
If you liked Mario 64, then you will probably enjoy I-Ninja. I-Ninja is about quality over quantity. Most gamers can probably finish this game in about 9-10 hours but each minute will entertaining. While not nearly as serious as Tenchu, I-Ninja provides a unique and comical experience that will definitely prevent the controller from leaving the player’s hands. The boss battles and extra stages keep the player anticipating what’s coming next. The voices and music add to the cartoony theme of the game while the graphics are meaningful and crisp. Even though I-Ninja was recently released, it can now be found for the cheap price of $20.00 or below and it is worth every penny.