Developer(s) – IO Interactive, Magic Pockets & Robosoft Technologies
Publisher(s) – Eidos Interactive, Warner Bros. & Feral Interactive
Director – Jeremy C. Petreman
Producer(s) – Jonas Lind & Luke Valentine
Developed as a game that the creators personally wanted to be able to play with their children, Mini Ninjas was a combat-oriented adventure game, which was well received upon release and ever since, there has been fairly high demand for a sequel. To me, it all comes as no surprise after playing it for myself. Though perhaps too linear, it’s still a pretty enjoyable game for how long it lasts.
Graphics – 7.5/10
Making use of cel-shaded visuals, the game bears a striking resemblance to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker; it’s not quite as strong in terms of conceptual design, but the attention to detail is extremely well adhered to. The scenery, particularly trees and grass, give it as realistic a feel as a game like this could possibly have. There’s also quite a bit of variety to be experienced in terms of individual level design, with the game taking place in a multitude of different locations; many representing the contrast between natural man-made structure synonymous with Japanese culture.
Gameplay – 7.5/10
Though there is quite some variety in level design, the true variety this game has to offer is in its gameplay. Eventually, the player will have access to six different characters, each with their own specialist abilities and fighting styles. The main character Hiro, in particular, has many different types of magic spells to attack enemies, stop time and possess wildlife among many other things. There are also a fair few side quests to add to the game’s longevity, but I couldn’t help but think how much better it would have been if set in an open world. That’s why I believe it would be quite easy to develop a better game in a possible sequel.
Controls – 10/10
The controls also come with no complications; despite the fact that there many different functions to be taken advantage of throughout the game, and many different functions mini games that must be undertook in order to advance. As well as regular gameplay, there are boat-riding mechanics, as well as context-sensitive sequences in most boss fights, which add an even greater element of legitimate challenge. Players may see it as being overly easy, but I’d personally have it this way than it being the other way round.
Lifespan – 4/10
Because of it’s linearity, the game can only be made to last around 7 to 8 hours, which I believe given the sizeable amount of variety in gameplay, is far too short a time for it to last. It’s a shame that the franchise has been left to languish since the release of this game, since I think there is a lot of potential in it, as well as a lot of leeway to expand on the game’s core mechanics, as well as room for introducing even more than what was offered with the first game.
Storyline – 7/10
The story of the game follows a young ninjas named Hiro, who along with his best friend Futo, set out to find and released four imprisoned ninjas, as well as defeat the evil samurai warlord, who resolved to dominate the world. The story is pretty basic in scope, and partly hearkens back to the days of when story in video games was scarce in general. But it’s kept relatively fresh with the comedy element that it has throughout. There are additional cut scenes to unlock, which also add more to that comedic element, but for the most part, the story merely offers even more leeway to expand on the franchise’s potential.
Originality – 6.5/10
Though it isn’t particularly unique to the entire gaming medium, this game certainly stands out among the many others released throughout the seventh generation. During an era when First person shooters had become the most prominent genre of games, it was refreshing to me to be able to play a pretty laid back adventure game hearkening back to the fifth generation of gaming. To me, it was like a breath of fresh air at the time. It had many elements that were not uncommon for its time, such as cel-shaded visuals and context sensitive gameplay, but it had a level of variety that made it stand out among many others.
Overall, Mini Ninjas is a quietly satisfying and fun game to play. Though there was room for improvement, it has most definitely been illegitimately overlooked, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a seventh generation diamond in the rough.