Ninjatown - NDS - Preview 2
If Ninjatown had been a 1950s comedy, they might’ve called it “I Love Ninjas.” This oddly humored strategy game may have that too-family-friendly-for-words appearance, but don’t let its graphics deceive you: this is not a kiddie game, nor is it one that the average action-seeking child will enjoy. Fans of strategy games, however, are in for a delightful treat.
This screenshot doesn’t say much about the game…until you play it.
If You Build It, They Will Protect
The real-time gameplay of Ninjatown could be described as a mix of simulation building and a nontraditional RTS. In this game, ninjas are your town’s guardians – loyal protectors who will stop at nothing (except their own death) to prevent the enemy from invading. Enemies come in waves, as shown on the top screen with numbers to indicate the group you are currently fighting. If the town – or whatever else you’re trying to protect – survives the invasion (in other words, if you destroy most or all of the attacking monsters), you’ll win the mission.
Mission survival is not what you’ll expect, however. The same could be said for the game’s defense methods, which include ninjas who attack automatically. Players throw themselves into the battle by building various ninja structures along the path that enemies are expected to invade. Each structure yields a different kind of ninja. Black, orange, white, green and gray ninjas have been found thus far, with a few blank slots left indicating that there are more to uncover. Each type (color) of ninja yields a different result. Orange and black ninjas, for example, like to pound on monsters with their bare hands. Green ninjas, however, come equipped with slingshots, allowing them to attack aerial monsters with ease.
Thus, when you build a ninja structure, its inhabitants will stand guard on their own, waiting for enemies to approach. You don’t manually select or influence the ninjas in any way outside of a few pre-set commands. (I currently have mine on the default setting, which tells ninjas to attack the nearest enemy).
Ninjas really love their pie charts.
Ninjas on Patrol
In spite of what sounds like a lack of interactivity, Ninjatown has been very deep and addictive thus far. While you do not have to fight the war yourself, and while you do get a breather in between most enemy waves, Ninjatown is frequently a frantic and intense experience. At any given time, during any given battle, players will have to build new structures (if they can afford it – starting funds vary by mission and will only increase by defeating monsters) and watch over their ninja army.
Special items, such as ninja dung, may be placed on the map to inflict damage on nearby enemies. Another item, which looks like a baby ninja, slows enemy movement by distracting them as they attempt to infiltrate.
These items can be the difference between success and failure. However, they are not available in high quantities – you’ll obtain them one at a time for each mission you complete. Luckily, missions can be repeated to improve your score (yes, you are graded for ninja-managing skills) and to obtain additional items.
To get the edge over your opponent, Ninjatown allows players to enhance their buildings with upgrades. Like anything else in the game, upgrades cost money. Buildings start off at the one-star level – should you pour enough money into a building, it can grow four times to achieve the ultimate five-star rating. The costs are high and the trade-off may not always be worth it – money spent on upgrades could be used to buy additional buildings, which in turn would increase your army. But upgrades are the only way to increase the power of individual ninjas, a bonus that is absolutely necessary to defeat some of the game’s toughest beasts.
This screenshot doesn’t make any sense either. But if you like strategy games,
don’t let the imagery become a distraction – just play it yourself.
On top of the promising gameplay engine is a quirky story (only certain kinds of gamers and anime fans will appreciate it), quirky art style and quirky music and sound effects. When combined, do they make for the perfect strategy game experience? Or is it solely the gameplay that will carry Ninjatown to victory or defeat? Stay with GameZone for the final verdict, as we’ll have our full review when the game is released on October 28.