Way back in July I got the chance to sit down and ask some questions about I-Ninja with Argonaut. I was quite excited by the responses and was even more excited when the game showed up at my door. Let’s see what I thought.
The look of I-Ninja is a cross between Bomberman (Ninja looks like he jumped right out of one of those games), Anime and a bunch of platform games you’ve seen before. The graphics won’t astound you or anything, but they do their jobs very well. Ninja (yes, that is the main character’s name) is well animated as he slices and dices through opponents (literally). Do a jumping slash on an opponent and he splits in half leaving a green goo on the ground. In fact, there’s lots of green goo to go around from your enemies.
I-Ninja has a wide variety of mini-games that brings it above the standard platform genre mechanics. Early on you will go into a large robot and take on another robot in a hand-to-hand beatdown. Another one is where you fire from a cannon trying to keep ships from reaching shore. All of the minigames have pretty darn good graphics on them and it’s a nice change of pace for a platform game.
There are always minuses though. The biggest problem with I-Ninja on the PS2 is that it has noticeable jaggies right from the start. They’re tough to ignore because they are so prevalent. The jaggies seem to tone themselves down though once you get past the first beach area, maybe the jaggies are present because of the brightness of the opening level versus some of the underground levels you go through.
Ninja, his big round head and the anime influences just won me over in the graphic department despite the jaggies that were present.
I’m not too high on the music. It is at an uptempo style to go with the general frantic pace of the game. The problem is I’m not too big of a fan of the music that is in this game because it repeats itself over and over. When you’re stuck in a section it can get quite frustrating to listen to the same music over and over again.
On the reverse side of things the sounds is fantastic. As Ninja upgrades his belts and gets new swords and weapons they all seem to have a different sound to them. The sound is also presented in Dolby Pro Logic II, which certainly shows that Argonaut/Namco are serious about the sound effects in this game. The voices are also very good…except for Ninja, which is disappointing. Ninja has that “old guy” sounding voice instead of a wiseass child-like voice that I would expect given the hilarious situations he puts himself in. His voice just doesn’t fit with what he is portrayed as. I can understand he is a hardass, but he also makes jokes here and there, I just think a younger voice would have worked well. The Sensei’s voice is easily the best one in the game and he is hilarious in himself.
Think Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and tone it down a bit, that is how I-Ninja plays. Ninja can walk up walls and blocks (hit X to jump and up on left analog stick), but only special ones. He can also run along walls (hit X and push left analog stick diagonally toward where you are going), but only in designated areas. He can also jump off walls (X when hitting walls to hop back and forth), but you can guess what I’m going to say next (only special walls). However, Ninja has some tricks up his sleeve that even the Prince doesn’t have.
First off he has a grappling hook that has a pretty cool use. Just like in the Zelda series and the hookshot, Ninja can swing across on special rings via the R1 trigger. His grappling hook can also do something cool. In some areas you have tracks that you race down and have to do a 180 degree turn while going verticle. When you pass by red arrows you press R1 and the grappling hook grabs onto the ring in the center and turns Ninja around the half-circle and on his way back to horizontal ground. It’s very cool to watch in action.
Ninja can use his sword in many ways as well. He can strike horizontally with Square or do a spin attack with the Circle button. He can also spin his sword like a helicopter and glide over distances with the circle button. He also has some cool combo moves such as an uppercut thrust (X plus Circle together) that allows you to juggle your opponents.
Early on Ninja will also get the use of darts and shurikens. Darts are fired by holding the L1 trigger for first-person mode, aiming and hitting square to fire. Shurikens are fired off by hitting the triangle button. They both give you some nice long-range weaponry, especially useful against the rocket launchers in levels.
The control is just very tight, but the camera presents some problems much like in other 3D platform games. You can control the camera with the right analog stick, but for the most part the camera tries to angle itself into the correct place behind Ninja. Unfortunately early on when you are on moving blocks that you have to jump over lasers on you will find that the camera is not as forgiving as you would like it to be. For the most part it works well though.
This game is just straight fun. The most important thing to remember is you shouldn’t dwell too much on the story because it’s utterly confusing, just like most anime shows. We begin the game with Ninja defeating a red dragon and deciding to grab the object that comes out of its mouth. It releases Ninja’s rage and he has no control over it so he ends up beheading his Sensei accidentally. Of course the Sensei comes back Obi-Wan Kenobi style and becomes your overall narrator and confusing metaphor spouting character.
Seems a man called O-Don is evil and its up to Ninja to take him down. I-Ninja is set up much like other new generation platform games where you have a hub and branch out from there. Ninja takes on missions behind doors that are not behind colored force fields at the beginning. The first 3 missions he has is getting the 2 eyes and heart of a giant robot together to receive his first upgrade in belts (you go from white to yellow, green and finally black in the game as you receive Grades…items at the end of missions) and gets to pilot the robot to take down another giant robot in a hand-on-hand combat mission. I also failed to mention that once you get to each piece of the robot that Ninja grabs onto the ball and you then take the ball through obstacle courses in order to get them up from the underground. It’s funny to see Ninja as he gets rolled over while continuing on his quest. He never falls off or gets squished though.
You’ll have other different types of missions as well. Some of my early favorites were beating a lit fuse before it got to the explosives at the end of the level, rolling along on a gunpowder barrel to a cage at the other end of the level (did I mention you had to dodge exploding barrels, rockets being fired at you, etc.?) and shooting ships as they try to make landside.
Ninja can also upgrade his sword by killing off the Ranx army. Everytime the green goo gets to the end of the sword in the Mission Complete screen, Ninja gets a new and more powerful sword. Ninja also gets to use some rage abilites that he used on his Sensei when he beheaded him in the beginning. He has 4 he can use and each one corresponds to a direction on the D-pad. Some you will get later on in the game, but here they are: Ninja Beserker (up arrow), Ninja Revive (right arrow, gives more health), Ninja Shuriken (down arrow, ride a large Shuriken and kill enemies) and I-Ninja (left arrow, Ninja turns into a being of Iron and is even more powerful).
The cutscenes are also pretty funny. They were done by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, names that may be familiar to old-school arcade players. They made such landmark games as Dragon’s Lair, Dragon’s Lair II and Space Ace as well as movies like An American Tail and Titan AE. It’s good to see they are back at work and the cutscenes are just great.
As I said in the opening paragraph of this section, this game is just fun. It does enough to make it stand out in the plethora of platform games that are out with all of its mini-games, all of which are fun to play. This is also a game that has no qualms about just being a crazy game, but the fun factor is just top notch.Takes about 8-10 hours to beat this game, so it isn’t especially long. However you can go back and try to get 100% of all items. You will have lots of fun in those 8-10 hours though, I can guarantee that.