Ninja games have come thus far: 3D graphics, full stealth-combat and stealth oriented missions, and a wide new range of abilities and possibilities. I-Ninja sets a new funny/true meaning for ninjas, by doing outrageous stunts and feats, such as: take control of a giant robot and box, or grind on rails with sandals.
I-Ninja, being an arcadish - yet compelling - ninja game, is more complex than a normal arcade game. It's not just mindless running around, killing enemies, and doing small quests; the developers thought it over much more deeply. Instead of having to roll a barrel from point A to point B, they make it difficult. The barrel contains gun-powder, and is very fragile to any attack or fall, which makes you keep on your toes (or in this case, sandals) to make sure it doesn't blow up (and you with it!). Included in the quests, are more than just running around. You get to control a turret and fend off enemy ships while collecting power-ups and keeping the enemy off the beach you are on. Diversity comes in all shapes and sizes in I-Ninja.
As I said the game is arcadic, it has simple controls. Square attacks with your sword (and you can keep attacking continuosly just by pressing a direction and Square more and more times), X jumps, O does a 360 degree attack (and also 'Sword Hover's when in the air), and Triangle does a shuriken attack (when you acquire them). These controls are very simple, but in the end turn out very very handy.
In the game, you can do stunts like grinding and wall running without a huge combo of button presses. For wall-running, all you do is jump and run up or sideways and you can go right up it. Grinding you just jump onto a rail like you are skate-boarding. The cool moves are simple to do, and look great. Other moves consist of hopping left and right from wall-to-wall and running up and down ramps and using chains to swing around to the other side.
Progressing through the game is dealt with 'Grades'. Each level you complete earns 1 grade, and each grade is tallied up towards the next Belt. Each Belt is a new color, leading up to the black belt and so forth. Unfortunately, you have to repeat levels up to 3 times with different hard tasks like with a time limit, coin-searching, or a killing spree of enemy ninjas (each time rewards a grade). There are a couple different 'campaigns' where you travel to another part of the large island, and do all of these missions that lead up to a boss battle. Boss battles are a mixture of trial and error / mastering the controls. Most of the time, these battles aren't staged having normal control of 'Ninja', as you control a giant robot, fling bombs to defeat the bad guy of the campaign.
One feature I liked about the gameplay was the fact that you sort-of pull a Dark Cloud type of system. You rack up kills of these enemy ninja's called 'Ranx', and these kills go to the 'Ranx Bank'. When this bank fills up to 100+ kills, it upgrades your sword. From the original crappy katana, to a golden edged katana with more power, you earn more and more upgrades.
Controls are easy, gameplay is fast/slow paced (at times), missions vary, and theres plenty reason to stack up kills and coins by replaying maps. Overall, Gameplay is excellent, yet at many times, it can get tough.
One thing that caught my attention was that Ninja sounds suspiciously like Stimpy (From Ren & Stimpy). It made me like him a lot more, and also his big ego.
As he makes random comments at the start of a mission, and slices / dices his way to the objective, everything seems to peice together nicely. He makes small grunt noises, and the occaisional remark like 'Taste my blade!' or 'Eat Steel!'. Ninja's voice is done with talent, and I'm sure the guy who did it had fun too (As a matter of fact the voice talent used to bring the Ninja to life is indeed Billy West, familiar to most of us for the awesome work he's been doing in Futurama and Ren and Stimpy. You can find out more about this from our recent interview with the game's developers. -Editor) . The sound effects themselves are clear and crisp, but not extremely detailed.
Arcade games usually don't go to the extremes of detail. Battle Engine Aquila is a rare example of dedication to the genre. I-Ninja, just like BEA, is an exception from the rule, as it is not anywhere near bad looking games. The blade of Ninja has smooth weapon trails, the enemies have gooey green blood (to make it a little more kiddish for young'n's), and the animation of all of the characters is very smooth. Like: Ninja runs down a hallway, then jumps onto a climbable area, and runs right up it flawlessly. Levels look nice, not perfect, but have nice textures and color palettes. Some levels are really freaky, and others just slightly odd. Overall, graphics while not perfect are pretty good, and the character animations are exceptionally nice looking.
I-Ninja is both for the hardcore and novice 'fast-paced-arcade-action' gamers. It features no foul language, green blood to be kiddish, and funny remarks. The replayability of it is not very high, as you mostly play the games and replay the levels you just beat for more and more grades. Arcade gamers, buy it if you like ninjas and arcade games, Others, try renting it first, or buy it if you want to, it's overall a good game.