I-Ninja

Review

posted 12/4/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: PS2
Admit it, there’s something intriguing about rooting for the little guy. It’s the reason why you rooted for the Marlins in the World Series, the reason why the NBA’s Earl Boykins is so damn entertaining and the same reason that gives us hope in our own endeavors. Size doesn’t always matter and a spunky little guy named Ninja has his own adventure to prove it.

Today’s game needs an eye-catching gimmick and I-Ninja has it. He’s a cocky bastard and he’s not afraid to let everyone know it. Watching him in action reminds me of those prancing little poodles in the Westminster Dog Show. You know you can tear it to shreds if you wanted to but there’s something so sinisterly arrogant about it that you just can’t help but fall in love with it. I felt exactly the same way about Ninja, his showboating persona was just what the doctor ordered.

He can run up walls, run along walls, race along tracks, jump off of walls and run up the sides of half-pipes. These moves seem a bit overwhelming but their implementation is made simple thanks to some ingenious tutorials. On the first level of the game you’ll be introduced to each of these facets. If you have trouble figuring them out you can push select and watch a demonstration of how to perform them. After you have an idea of how it works you can successfully utilize them throughout the game’s levels. As you progress you’ll also gain access to special moves which allow you to go on rampages and regain health.

Level variety plays a key role in the manner which I-Ninja pans out. While Namco bills it as a traditional platformer it features a number of varying mission types. One moment you might be chopping through a horde of Ranx (the enemy soldiers) while the next has you rolling around atop of an explosive gunpowder-filled keg. Variety acts as a dual-edged sword in this manner though because most of the elements lack balance and some types of gameplay are crafted better than others. While I welcomed the Monkey Ball-esque sequences and the on-foot sequences I found myself loathing some of the other game types.

Some of them are really neat and will keep you entertained. When you fight the first boss you’ll hop into a giant mech and step behind the controls for some good old-fashion Punch Out style combat. It’s pretty fun and beating up on a giant garden gnome gets a thumbs up in my book any day of the week. Sadly not all of them are quite this entertaining. There’s a gun game that really irked me to the point that I had to leave the game for an extended period of time. In it you’re forced to defend a beach from an onslaught of enemy ships. While it’s pretty fun to begin with it draws on for far too long and ends up being nearly a 10 minute affair. This frustration is multiplied by the fact that failure comes quite easily and doing so will force you to start over from the beginning.

Some of the combat elements are flawed too. You’re very limited in your methods of destruction and some of your moves don’t do very much damage, leaving you wide open to a counterattack. You’ll have a standard slash, a circular slash, aerial attacks, a rising attack and a jumping smash attack. Initially I was under the impression that the rising attack would hit enemies up into the air where I could juggle them a la Devil May Cry. Instead it just causes Ninja to hit them with such little force that he doesn’t even knock the enemies back as he jumps into the air, usually while they pummel him with attacks. There are problems with the spin attack as well because it doesn’t knock enemies back or stun them. He just sort of swings through them while they carry on as if nothing happened, yet again leaving you open to attack.
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