Ninja Town (DS) Review
Creative visuals drip with personality
Single and Multi-cart wireless multiplayer modes
Some balancing issues
With an adorable interface, Ninjatown offers DS owners a different look into the life of ninjas while displaying a truckload of personality.
Ninjatown is a creative blend of tower defense and RTS gameplay. The goal of the game is to stop invading demons from stealing the sacred ninja cookie recipe, and no, I am not making this up. This is just one aspect of the uniqueness that is Ninjatown. Using bright colors and the simplest of 2D art, everything from the visuals to the plotline is unconventional, offering both humor and entertainment.
By using the stylus as the main tool for user input, players are tasked with stopping the incoming bad guys by setting up bases and deploying ninja troopers. Knowing when and where to set up ninja huts, which troops to upgrade and when to deploy them are keys to success. Instead of trying to manage one big battle field, all enemies are dispersed in waves, giving the player a little time to think and plan ahead. But unlike mining for resources in a typical RTS, Ninjatown rewards the user with special points for each unit that is defeated on the battlefield. Kill enough baddies, and get rewarded with one of the Ninja Master’s super moves, aiding units on the battlefield. Also, the more enemies you defeat, the more upgrades you will be able to purchase.
The first stage in the game acts as a tutorial and quickly gets the player up to speed. But before long, the difficulty really starts to ramp up by offering new units and ways to defend. Like a game of rock-paper-scissor, one type of ninja will attack or defend better than other types of ninja depending on which enemy the player is confronting. Sniper Ninjas are great against aerial attackers but are not as useful against ground troops. White Ninjas can throw snowballs to slow incoming attackers but are not as powerful as the strong but sluggish orange Ninjas. The game’s many types of friendly and enemy units always keeps the game at a fast and well strategized pace.
Structures can also be upgraded to improve each produced ninja. Unfortunately, the game’s only indication of an upgraded structure is simply displayed by the number of stars that are placed at said building’s doormat. Also, each ninja that is deployed from each upgraded structure looks exactly the same as lower leveled units, making no indication which unit came from which structure. This flaw is retained through the game’s extremely simplistic interface. Instead of using an archaic doormat star structure, why couldn’t the building receive an overall new and upgraded look? The same goes for each unit as well. Using the simple 2D sprite design has a definite flair and suits the overall tone and personality for the game, but it would have really benefited from a little more definition.
The game makes great use of both screens and simple play control mechanics. The stylus controls the user input while the d-pad is used to scroll the screen. Half of the top screen is a dedicated mini map of the entire battlefield, giving the player a quick glimpse at where the action is. The other half of the top screen is reserved to display the Master Ninja flying high in his hot air balloon, acting as a commander and overseer of the battle.
There is definitely enough single player game to last for hours, but the developers have also included both a single and multi card link function. While there is no co-op mode, the vs mode pits two players against each other on a quest to be the first to defeat each wave of attackers. Using the single card for multiplayer is just about the same experience as the multi card mode except all of the playable levels are not available.
If you look at Ninjatown with a magnifying glass, it is easily seen that this game was created using nothing but existing gameplay mechanics from games before it. The key here is that this title has so much unique personality, it really gives the RTS/Tower Defense genre a whole new feeling. For the most part, the simple 2D art design works extremely well in generating the game’s overall appeal; it just could have used slightly more definition in terms of upgrading structures and deploying more powerful units. However, toss in both a single and mulit card link mode, and Ninjatown is really one DS game that should receive some positive attention this holiday season. If you want to try before you buy, there was a downloadable demo available via the Nintendo Channel on the Wii.