Mini Ninjas - PS3 - Review
Some games fall under the radar not because of poor quality but because of their date of release. The yearly fall flood release schedule usually claims a couple of victims; games that were overlooked just because they were released too close to other big titles. Mini Ninjas could be one of those games that years later we’re re-discovering for the first time. Honestly, this isn’t the greatest game of all time or one that will win a 'game of the year' award; instead Mini Ninjas is a solid, entertaining and enjoyable game that doesn’t fall into the cookie-cutter trend of modern video-games.
The premise of the Mini Ninjas centers upon the story of Hiro and his quest to stop the Evil Samurai Warlord. The Warlord is trying to take over the world and Hiro’s clan has been sending countless ninjas to stop the Warlord. Unfortunately all the other ninjas were unsuccessful, leaving only Hiro as the remaining Ninja. It’s up to Hiro to rescue the other ninjas and defeat the Evil Samurai Warlord once and for all.
The game is an action RPG with some light-hearted comedy elements and a cartoon animated look. The visual style and comedy portions are really what makes Mini Ninjas stand out from the rest of the current gaming crowd. The majority of the characters in the game are all tiny, miniature characters that you expect to see in a Pixar movie or a show on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. Each time you destroy an enemy they turn into an animal that hops or bounces away from the combat. The characters are voiced in a slightly over-the-top way that keeps the tone from ever getting too serious. Even the boss encounters keep the humor going with one of favorites having a very bad case of gas that could sending him flying in the air.
The combat is primarily of the hack-n-slash variety but with some very tight and responsive controls. The game starts off easy enough with you facing only a couple enemies at a time. Gradually the game will unload with wave after wave of enemies swarming you. The game eventually allows you to select from a total of six ninjas instantly, with each ninja having their own unique combat style and weapons. Items can be used during the game to regain health or inflict damage during combat. The Power Attacks are a nice feature that allows you to pull off an extra powerful attack hitting multiple enemies at a time (depending on the ninja you control). However you are limited to a certain number of Power Attacks - so be wise in deciding when to use one.
The RPG elements are not too overbearing but enough to keep you motivated to explore everywhere in the game. You’re rewarded with experience points as you take out enemy soldiers, which will increase the types of attacks and the speed of the attacks. The experience points will also increase your total health and the amount of magic you can use (called Ki energy). Item collection is a big part of the game so make sure to take the time to explore each stage you’re playing. The items collected can be used in various ways, such as attacks (ninja stars and bombs) to combining ingredients to make healing potions.
There are also numerous magic spells that can be found in the game. All of the spells are located within Kuji Shrines that are hidden in various locations across the numerous levels. There are a total of 12 spells that you can find in the game. Most of the spells are combat focused, dealing damage to enemies in various ways. Some of the spells though can lead you to Kuji Shrines, allow you to take the shape of a bush to hide from the enemies or possess nearby animals temporarily.
However, actually using some of these spells, and pulling off some of the power attacks, can be bothersome at times. The spells are activated by pressing the R2 button which, depending on the spell, can bring up a cursor that you have to aim at your targeted enemy. However, the cursor feels floaty which can cause you to miss your target at times. Sometimes the spell will work if you’re close enough to the target, other times it won’t even though you thought the target was close.
The progression of the game is broken up into different levels/stages. This isn’t an open world that you can travel from location to location freely. Instead each level is made of a specific location you need to reach. Along the way you’ll encounter plenty of enemies, hidden shrines and numerous items to collect. At the end of the stage a scorecard will come up to let you know if you missed any items or spells. Then at the end of the level you have a boss battle that you have to clear before you can move on to the next level. If you take your time during each stage there is usually plenty to do. Most of the stages are very spacious with plenty of hidden areas to find and explore.
Unfortunately there are a few headaches that show up in Mini Ninjas. One is the game starts to feel a little repetitive after a few stages. The boss battles are unique but leading up to the boss battles starts to feel the same after a couple of levels. Second is the camera can get a little crazy during combat as it zooms in too close to see the action going on around you. Third is the game seems to speed up the difficulty way to soon, especially for what the target audience might be for the game. My five year old son really enjoyed the game but would get flustered when swarms of enemies would keep going after him. Even when I took over the controller it seemed strange that just a few minutes ago there were only two enemies on screen now there are more than 10 coming after me.
Even with some faults Mini Ninjas is still a fun-filled game that deserves to be given a chance. The presentation and style of the game is definitely unique with its cartoon influenced oriental/martial arts premise. The main portion of the combat is very tight and precise letting you cut down hordes of bad guys with ease. The RPG elements keep you looking for one more item while making sure you engage in combat to increase your levels. If you’re looking for something a little bit different for your PS3 don’t miss out on Mini Ninjas.
The majority of the time you spend in combat will feel like a breeze with the controls. Your ninjas will move from enemy to enemy like it was nothing. However, using some of the spells and having a wacky camera angle can cause havoc during keys points of combat.
The animated cartoonish style fits the game perfectly. There were some elements of pop-ins but the majority of the game ran very smooth even during intense portions of combat. As mentioned before the camera angle can get a little crazy at times and there is no way to auto-correct the camera.
The voice acting in the game is a little over the top but it adds to the style of the game. The music is based upon oriental music you’ve probably heard before in movies.
For me the game ramped up the difficulty way too soon. I found myself replaying parts several times before I was able to clear them.
We’ve seen plenty of action RPGs in the past but not many in this type of setting.
I’ve mentioned in plenty of previous reviews that gaming is about having fun. When we pick up a controller to play a game we want to have fun. Mini Ninjas is about having fun. It might not be the best game on the market but it should provide plenty of fun and enjoyment for almost any gamer.