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Mini Ninjas - Wii Review

Game Info
Mini Ninjas

Wii | EIDOS Interactive | 1 Player | Out Now
Controller Compatibility:  Wii Remote and Nunchuk
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10th June 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

With its inspired elements and its fun gameplay mechanics, Mini Ninjas by EIDOS Interactive is a really fun romp. Don't let the look of this game cause you to think otherwise. Although the game is certainly not targeted towards action game lovers who long for gore and violence, this game certainly isn't made just for the kiddies to enjoy.

    Heading on a quest to battle the evil Samurai Warlord, Hiro, the most unlikely of heroes, is tasked with rescuing his fellow comrades for a group effort against the evil forces that plague the land. Being the youngest ninjas of the bunch certainly has its disadvantages, but thankfully you're not alone. Soon after your preliminary training, you'll head off in search of your best friend, Futo. Once you meet up with the big guy, you'll be permitted to leave the confines of the safe ninja school out into the dangerous, open world. As you travel to different worlds, you'll find your captured friends and be able to use them in battle. Each character has their own fighting style that carries its own set of advantages and disadvantages, but even up until the end of the game, you'll likely stick with Hiro the most.

There's a lot of hand-holding as you try to understand the controls, not only at the beginning, but even as you proceed to later levels. Firstly, movement is mapped to the analog stick and if you have enough energy, you can increase your speed by holding the Z Button. If you ever get lost, press the + Button to meditate and you'll be directed on where to go. In terms of combat, pressing the B Button will execute your weapon-based primary attack. Using the A Button will get you to jump and pressing the B button or swing the Wii Remote down whilst airborne will execute a devestating aerial attack. Shaking the Wii Remote while on the ground will perform your stun move which can be used to counter enemy shields. To take a defensive stance, you press and hold the Z Button and if you move the control stick, you can roll off to the side to dodge an attack and then proceed with a counter. Understanding the controls come very naturally, so don't feel intimidated if this sounds like quite a bit to digest.

    On the right of the screen are three transparent slots that can hold red orbs that will allow you to make use of a special Power Attack. To activate it, hold the A and B Button and watch as your character executes his or her exclusive move. For example, Hiro jumps into the air and freezes time Matrix-style, and then players aim their cursor at the screen to highlight a selection of lit-up icons to select which enemies to attack. Then, Hiro will drop to the ground and hit each enemy with a super-fast slice. Some of the other characters have pretty cool specials as well, such as Shun who can slow down time to select a target using the Wii Remote's pointer, and then release to fire an exploding rocket that can affect a good range of opponents. As you go along in your travels, you'll have to experiment with each individual character and see how their strengths can prove invaluable in the heat of the moment. 

Using the +Control pad, you can bring up one of four different pop-up menus. The Up button will bring up your Inventory which displays your current stats, potions, and more. Holding Left will allow you to swap your current character out for another one by using the Nunchuk.  Pressing Right will open up your Quick Inventory wheel where you can assign one of the many items in your inventory to your pocket, represented by the icon at the bottom-right hand corner of the screen. And finally, pressing Down will activate the item you assigned and in some cases, holding it will bring up a circular target that you can direct using the Remote's pointer to aim your throw. At first, it's kind of confusing to understand the menus, and I would've preferred if there were a picture on the screen showing what each of the buttons on the +Control Pad do, like in MySims Agents. Accordingly, younger players will likely utter expressions like "How do I change my character again?" as they try to make sense of these menus.

    In addition to the standard melee attacks, each character also has a series of other special Ninja moves. For one, you can perform cool acrobatic moves such as crawling up walls to reach ledges, wall jumping to climb a narrow ascent, or temporarily walk on walls to dodge enemies or dodge obstacles. You can even sneak along thin ropes and balance beams for a more stealthy approach. Swinging your Nunchuk down will equip your on-screen character with a Ninja hat that can be useful for absorbing arrows from enemy archers, and for embarking along a body of water. The execution for this item works, but it just feels a tad gimmicky.

wise Tengu creatures run special crafting shops whereby you can purchase weapons (such as Shurikens) and recipes, all for a price of course. Coins are the main currency of the game and you'll only find them hidden inside specially-marked barrels, rather than on the paths in each level. The items they sell are very useful, particularly the recipe scrolls. As you go exploring in each level, you'll come across flowers, herbs and other assorted ingredients that can be picked up by holding the A Button and swinging upwards. And once you know the recipe, these items can then be used to mix potions that can help when you need it most.

    In addition to having a number of secondary weapons, many levels contain hidden shrines whereby you can learn new abilities that prove to be a major help when you're in need. Before these can be activated, though, you'll need to find a special flower to unlock the secrets of these strange Kuju shrines. There are 12 scrolls to discover in all, with a variety of useful effects. You can use fireballs, tornadoes, turn into a bush, activate sunrays to defeat ghosts, and a lot more. In order to use these special powers, though, you'll need enough Ki energy, represented by the blue meter at the bottom-left of the screen. these aren't necessary to complete the game, but they certainly make the game easier to play through.

The samurai forces you'll encounter sport good AI. You have a variety of formations, including a horizontal line of archers, units hiding in pitched tents, a cluster of sword-wielding enemies, as well as souped-up giants that have more resistance. Whether they attack you close-range or otherwise, once you're spotted, the music in the game changes to a very fitting set of battle drums. Once enemies are defeated, they turn into animals that scurry along into the nearby area. This feature will likely strike a chord with SEGA fans who have played Sonic games of old. What's cool about these creatures is the fact that they can be possessed and used to either get past a group of enemies or even scare them. Although they do have limited use, this element in the game is also good fun to try out, especially with the different kinds of animals that are in the game.

    Killing enemies will rack up experience points in the circular gauge at the bottom-left hand corner of the screen, and once it's full, you'll level-up and have improved stats. Once you level up, your character will soar into the air and slam the ground with a powerful move, a nice feature to indicate when you've made progress during a fight. This is yet another aspect to the game that carries RPG elements, and although you can't control which attribute to improve, it's still a good system overall. Plus, it will take a lot of points to max out your character completely.

    It's also a lot of fun to perform 
stealth kills. By holding the Z Button while on rooftops or in tall grass, you can be more sneaky by hiding in bushes to one-up your opponents from behind or a distance. For this reason, Shun will likely be your second-most selected character because, being the skilled archer that he is, he has the ability to aim at enemies from afar. Camouflaging in the environment and taking enemies by surprise is a lot of fun and it truly lives up to the 'Ninja' appeal of this title.

    I really appreciated the superior sense of variety in the different levels you travel to. There's the typical grassfields filled with bamboo sticks and lush trees, areas where you'll need to navigate treacherous rapids or contend with stormy weather, head into a dojo with paper walls, escape from an avalanche and more. The Living Castle stage (i.e., the level that precedes the final boss) is also pretty epic, as you maneuver through rubble, thin walkways and dodge flames to reach the top of the tower. Different seasons are represented in the game, including winter, spring and summer. The maps look really nice with some nice focus towards environmental aspects such as cherry blossom trees and the like.

    In addition to the normal stages, you'll also face bosses, but these could've been more eventful and less child-friendly. Almost all of them consist of exploiting a weakness by means of QTE's, either by sneaking up on someone, waiting for them to run out of steam, or getting them to attack a certain part in the level. Only one or two of the boss fights were actually kind of fun, the others were a mix between silly and just dumbed-down.

The entire game has a really strong feel going for it that will instantly pull you in. Stylized renderings introduce each level, and the character models and stages all make use of a cartoony that still proves to be quite sleek. Music is well-balanced, never proving to be too overpowering or out of place. Mini Ninjas can almost be labelled as wholesome, with no blood or major acts of violence to speak of. What prevents it from being completely clean is its uses of magic, but thankfully, these overtones were fairly mild. It might appear childish, but as you play, you'll realize that it carries a significant sense of appeal, in addition to lovable visuals that motivate you to continue playing.

    Loading screens take a few moments but they're worth waiting for. Rather than having the game load each time you access a new area, the entire map is loaded all at once which is just excellent. On that note, in some cases you'll need to open doors to proceed, but this feels a bit gimmicky. You'll need to point at the screen, hold A and shake the on-screen cursor back and forth to the edges of the screen. To me, it would've made more sense to instead require players to thrust both controllers forward, but it's just something to get used to.

Including boss battles, there are 22 stages in total which is quite a bit, especially when most environments feel quite different from one another. You could probably complete the game in about 7 to 9 hours on your first go, but you can still go back and replay all of the levels upon demand. Completionists will likely find motivation in searching for all scrolls and Jizo statues, but everyone else won't bother. There are Extra movies as well which look fantastic, but these become unlocked before your complete the game. The lack of substantial replay value is definitely the biggest issue with this game

    Moreover, this game practically screams for co-op! I was so shocked to find that it wasn't included, especially when it seems like such an obvious feature. I strongly feel that this could've easily turned out to be one of the best co-op games for the Wii, so to not have it is awfully disappointing. Additionally, there's no sort of battle or duel mode of any kind, and this also would've gone a long way to extend the experience. If you're feeling adventurous you can play the entire game under the Hard difficulty and even challenge yourself to focus more on stealth kills, or only use Hiro for the whole game. Had the developers focused their sights on improving this element in the game, the game definitely would have had an even stronger recommendation.

    You can probably find this game for $20 now and at that price, I recommend that you pick it up. If you have a child that has a fascination with cool, hooded fighters, I strongly recommend you get this for them. Once they start playing, they'll find it quite hard to stop playing. With the appalling lack of co-op, I could easily see the developers creating a sequel to this game and I sincerely hope it happens. So long as you don't mind the lack of visible replayability, Mini Ninjas is still a lot of fun for not only for your young'un, but older gamers as well who are willing to try new things.

25/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 9/10 - Great mechanics, controls work well albeit gimmicky at times, secondary weapons, Power Attacks are especially fun, multiple characters
Presentation 10/10 - Environments look brilliant, music is suspenseful and very fitting to the style of gameplay, very appealing overall
Enjoyment 4/5 - Lots of fun even for older gamers, could've been more challenging, using Shun for stealth kills can be exciting
Extra Content 2/5 - Lack of co-op, kind of short, multiple difficulties, could've had more to extend gameplay such as a Time Attack or Battle mode

Equivalent to a score of 83% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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