(Wii)

Mini Ninjas (Wii)

Game Review

Mini Ninjas Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Desiree Turner

With a boss named 'Windy Pants', you know this game was made for the kiddies

The developers at IO Interactive - previously known for such mature titles as Hitman, Kane & Lynch, and Freedom Fighters - decided to switch things up this time around and try to create a game that they could play with their children; thus, the story and gameplay in Mini Ninjas is all fairly simple and squeaky clean, with no messy killing involved. More than three hundred years ago, the Evil Samurai Warlord, a master of forbidden Kuji magic, was defeated and an era of peace settled upon the land...but predictably, he's now back and ready to take over the world with his army of cute-little-forest-animals-turned-cute-little-samurai-guys. Thankfully, you get to take control of the last remaining ninjas and battle tyranny in this free-for-all Wii action title. But is this light-hearted ninja action adventure all it's cracked up to be and can it hold its own against some of the more impressive Wii action titles we've seen released recently?

Though the Ninja Master sends protagonists Hiro and Futo out together - and you will eventually be able to switch between all the other ninjas as you rescue them - this game is an entirely solo experience. Hiro, the most well-rounded ninja in your little group, is the main character. He can defeat almost any enemy with his sword as well as with the Kuji magic he'll find at hidden shrines scattered throughout the levels; with his magic, he can cast fireballs, possess animals, slow time, and a whole host of other interesting feats. He's also the only ninja available for use during the boss fights.

The other ninjas, though unable to use Kuji magic like Hiro, each have their own special abilities. Futo is large enough to take on really big enemies with his mallet; Kunoichi uses a naginata (a type of spear) and has a spinning power-attack; Shun is an archer with a power attack that involves an explosive arrow; Suzume wields a flute like a club of some sort, but has the ability to charm and stun enemies with her music and Tora is the swiftest of them all with his long, sharp claw weapons, his power attack being a quick dash across the area that ends in a flying pounce onto the enemy. The differences between each character, their fighting style, and their chosen weapons really make this game fun, and the levels are so open-ended that you can play however you like. Want to have Hiro just blast enemies with magic? Or would you rather have Shun pick off everyone from a distance with his arrows? No matter what methods you choose, there's almost always a character to oblige.

Of course what ninja game would be complete without the use of stealth? You can sneak around in bushes, tall grass, or on top of buildings with the (Z) button, and if you come upon an enemy, with one downward swing of the Wiimote you'll have it poofed back into a bunny, or a frog, or a raccoon, or whatever it really was. You may also decide to take advantage of the ninja paraphernalia at your disposal to get through each level, including shuriken, caltrops, and various bombs which, along with recipes to craft various potions from plants you collect along the way, are available for purchase from some of the helpful Tengu bird-people at temples. There's no one 'right' way to get through a level, and figuring out new strategies quickly becomes the most enjoyable part of the game...well, aside from the whole 'possessing animals and small samurai' thing, which, surprisingly enough, never really gets old.

That said, with Hiro being such a well-rounded character (and especially with him as the only magic-user in the group), the only other ninjas you may ever have to rely on to get through the trickiest parts of the game are Shun (for long-distance enemies if you're low on health), Futo (for really big enemies), and Tora (for super-fast enemies). It is possible that you may not have to use Kunoichi and Suzume at all to get through the game, though they do have their own aforementioned advantages. It would have been much better had all the available ninjas had the ability to use some magic, at least... it's a shame that you have to constantly revert to using Hiro, as there will be times you'll get all the way to the end of a level with him and realize that you completely forgot to switch back to the other ninja you had meant to play the level with. Oops.

But enough about the good guys. The Evil Samurai Warlord's army is mainly comprised of cute little samurai that poof back into their benign animal forms (as well as drop experience spheres and Ki refills) upon being defeated. With their high-pitched cries of 'Ni-ni-ni-ni-ninja!' as you approach, you may hear them coming long before you'll ever actually see them. It can be a real pain when you're trying to save at a checkpoint altar - no matter how far away they are or how safe you are from them at the time, if you can hear enemy yelling, you will not be able to save at the checkpoint until they have been defeated or otherwise evaded. They make the same noises every time you come across them, too, which is cute at first, but may annoy you by the time you reach the latter levels of the game, as you'll have fought groups of them over and over...and over, and over, and over again. The battles are repetitive and fairly easy, even with the super-large samurai and the magic-using samurai you may face in later levels, though on Hard you'll want to consider your strategy somewhat carefully, especially if you're low on healing items and there's no trees or bushes around to shake down for healing fruit.

The game is controlled via the Nunchuk and Wiimote, and coming from other action/adventure games with the same controller setup (think Twilight Princess, Okami, or Lego Star Wars), one thing in particular takes some getting used to - the basic attack. Instead of waggling the Wii Remote to attack normally, here the (B) button performs your basic attack. If you're already well-used to waggling, there will be times you'll find yourself frantically shaking the Wiimote and wondering why nothing is happening. Also, again unlike those games, keeping the Wiimote pointed at the screen at all times is a near-necessity. Certain Kuji spells require aiming at target enemies within a limited amount of time, and if the Wiimote is not aimed at the screen when you press the button to fire it off, the camera will suddenly go off in a random direction and you'll end up missing your shot entirely.

Though there is no map screen available in this game, you do have the option to meditate with the + button, which will tell you what you need to do and which way to go next to progress through the level (though it will not tell you how to do it, leaving your options wide open). Meditating will also regenerate your Ki at a faster rate than normal. Ki is used for sprinting with (C), as well as for powering Hiro's magic abilities. The boss battles are easy enough, though confusing at first; the game will offer a vague hint about what to do to defeat the boss if you take too long. Once you're close enough to the boss to begin your attack, the game will begin displaying a sequence of icons above the boss consisting of the (A) and (B) buttons, as well as a shaking Wiimote, each of which you must copy successfully in order to inflict damage to the boss. Three successful attacks, and they're out.

Visually, the game is somewhat stylized and cartoon-like, but that's par for the course for a game aimed at kids. Hiro and the other ninjas travel through a world that begins in a verdant, flower-filled springtime and gradually deteriorates into a bleak, stormy, snow-covered winter before erupting into cracked earth and molten lava. Truly breathtaking landscapes abound, and yet all that wide open space is filled with intricate detail - tree branches and tufts of pine needles waving in a storm as you vault over a courtyard wall, the shadows of fish swimming beneath the surface of the water, individual tiles on tiered pagoda-like rooftops stand out against looming gray storm-clouds as they float heavily across the sky. You can literally get lost in just exploring the world around you (but not really, thanks to the + button).

Repetitive battle-cries aside, the music and sound effects of this game are very natural and, combined with the incredibly detailed settings, make for a superb game environment. You start off in the Ninja Village, where a shakuhachi and koto come together in playful, relaxing harmony as a soft breeze sets every tuft of grass and flowering tree to gently swaying; a level where you attempt to infiltrate an authentic-looking castle during a snowstorm features at intervals a shakuhachi with a wild, breathy quality that matches the sound of the wind and snow swirling all about; and later on, energetic taiko drumming accompanies you as you attempt to outrace an avalanche, passing startled samurai enemies as you go weaving your way through the trees in your hat. Most levels will intersperse phrases of music amongst the sounds of nature happening around you as you progress - flowing water, birds singing in the distance, thunder and lightning, or other sounds depending on the area. Every time you come under attack, the background music is superseded by an inexorable drumbeat that does not fade until the danger has passed, and yet, at no time does any of the added music or sound effects feel as if they don't fit into the game. Even the voices of the Tengu, the Ninja Master, and the Evil Samurai Warlord all have an accent to match the Japanese-inspired theme. All in all the audio performance is about as varied and thorough as you could expect from a ninja-themed outing.

Conclusion

There is a world of incredible detail to be discovered in this game. The music and sound effects are top-notch, the developers really did their homework in terms of creating a series of lush, deceptively simple-looking settings to explore, no two ninjas are exactly the same (the way they move, the way they fight, each are distinct from one another) and in nearly every level you're absolutely free to simply explore to your heart's content.

The graphics are truly adorable, and the game is genuinely amusing. That said, the story is short, sweet, and straight-forward, and there's not much in the way of outright encouragement for you to use every single ninja at your disposal, nor are you really encouraged to go out of your way to beat the game at its hardest difficulty level. There's also not much in the way of replay value in this version of the game, unless you fall in love with some of the levels and decide to have another go once you've already beaten them.

Mini Ninjas is obviously a game that was created with children in mind, and in the 'good, clean, wholesome fun' department, it truly excels. Of course adults used to more meat on the bone in their action titles might find it a bit lacking.

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Game Trailer

Silly Tora, tigers don't eat apples.

User Comments (40)

y2josh

#1

y2josh said:

I still need to pick this up. I will be playing this before the year is over.
Didn't know you were going to reviewing as well.

Chunky_Droid

#2

Chunky_Droid said:

Hey, nice review! Is this your first?

I saw a video review on a local TV show here in Australia and it looked very fun. I may have to pick this up now, thanks!

CorbsAdmin

#3

Corbs said:

Great review Des. I'm going to play this one as soon as I get a free moment. Looks great!

James

#5

James said:

I played this on Xbox 360 and absolutely loved it. I'd really like to give this Wii version a try.

Welcome to the team, Des :)

Luigi-La-Bouncy

#6

Luigi-La-Bouncy said:

How did this one slip under everyone's radar? Seeing as Mini Ninjas is a cross platform release, is there any reason to think that the Wii version is the one to get? How does it stack up against it's HD siblings?

Thanks for the review.

Chunky_Droid

#8

Chunky_Droid said:

Yeah, I probably should've welcomed you too, lol. Welcome! You've always been a user whom I've respected the opinions of. The team at NL are a great bunch and have always been helpful with my news items and review :)

y2josh

#9

y2josh said:

@theblackdragon: HAHA. Congrats on your first review. And Vendetta said it best, only I'm behind at work, so I'll read it in a couple hours :D.

WolfRamHeart

#10

WolfRamHeart said:

Wow, congratulations on your first review Dragon! It was extremely helpful and informative. Excellent work! I have been considering getting this game for quite some time and I think I will definitely pick it up now. I am really glad to see that this game turned out to be pretty good one after all.:)

DazzaAdmin

#11

Dazza said:

What a great Nintendo Life debut, I tried out the 360 demo of this and enjoyed it. After reading your review I think I will probably pick up the Wii version when the price drops a bit. Looks like a winner.

Sean_Aaron

#12

Sean_Aaron said:

Nice review, I was going to skip this game completely, but I might pick it up after all.

Machu

#13

Machu said:

That was good reading, thanks tbd. I was intrigued by this and it's defo on the list now.

Ristar42

#14

Ristar42 said:

I bought this when it came out, its pretty and pretty good, though it froze on me the last time I played it, which is always annoying just after you complete a level... I think I'll go back to play through though, when I have time.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#15

Philip_J_Reed said:

Awesome review, Des. I've heard good things about this game; maybe I'll pick it up this weekend.

At long last...It's Ladies' Nite on Nintendo Life!

Chunky_Droid

#16

Chunky_Droid said:

@Chicken: Does this mean we need to stop peeing in the drinking fountain?

EDIT: Also can you lock my watchmen topic? lol

EDIT 2: Thank you!

Adam

#17

Adam said:

What? Just an 8? Someone needs to fire her.

Actually, I haven't played this game. But it needed to be said, and I thought it would hurt less coming from me.

Also, :D @ Chicken. I had forgotten about that thread somehow.

Objection

#18

Objection said:

Nice first review. I liked how it was written almost as though I was watching or listening to someone play it.

JayArr

#19

JayArr said:

Oh jeez, Des always gives eights!

Since the seven jokes are banned I thought I get in on the ground floor of a new joke. :) J/K Good review tbd. Can't wait to see more from you.

vherub

#20

vherub said:

I enjoyed this game, I agree that because only Hiro can use magic, I found myself using Hiro most of the time. Swiveling the camera around also wasn't as easy as it should have been. And on the last level, the camera feels like an enemy that has to be defeated at times.
I'll also add that possessing animals is great (and the final upgrade is also goo- almost too good). But the bonus of possessing an animal, is that every item/plant that can be collected, gives off a small gas cloud. So while it can be difficult to spot items, wandering around as an animal makes it much, much easier.

Knux

#21

Knux said:

Very nice first review, TheBlackDragon. I might buy this game in the future. :)

The_Fox

#22

The_Fox said:

Your first review? Cool! Now , since this is the internet you just have to wait for someone to come along and pick apart your review word by word and tell you why you're wrong and why they're right.

pixelman

#23

pixelman said:

Great review, dragon! I was just asking about this game yesterday in the chat, so nice timing. :3

Noire

#24

Noire said:

Congrats on your first review, dragon. It was a fun read for me, and hey, not too bad of a game, it looks like. Excellent job, and I look forward to any more reviews you take on in the future.

Ren

#25

Ren said:

I really like the standard that Nintendo life has set for their reviews and Desiree has done a fantastic job here. This is really what I look for in a review.
I think many others would balk at a score like this and complain that the number is high for what seems like an easy and family friendly game, but she's made it clear in the text that it is reviewed with that in mind; That it is a great game for the group it is designed for, but if you need more continuous challenge you may not agree.
Far too often it seems that people simply look at the number and then whine that it wasn't for them, so it doesn't measure up and needed a low score. You have to read a review, determine the perspective it was written from and then ask yourself if you are that consumer. If you are, then that high score suits you perfectly, if not then take it with a grain of salt. It's made so clear here and I really appreciate it. I applaud N-life and Desiree for their top notch, detail oriented work in that regard. Thanks.
Also I can't wait to try this one myself.

theblackdragonAdmin

#26

theblackdragon said:

@Chicken Brutus: hahahaha omg, i suppose he's in for a surprise when/if ever he comes back. :3

@vherub: actually, that last level before the final boss is my absolute favorite in the whole game. I did have issues myself with the camera in earlier levels of the game (had to get used to keeping the wiimote pointed toward the TV), but in that level, i love how the added effect of the camera jerking and swaying about contributes to the overall atmosphere. I thought that entire level, camera and all, was ingeniously designed, lol. :3

Stevie

#27

Stevie said:

Nice review TBD, its great to see the review team growing at Nintendo Life along with the site itself whilst maintaining a high standard.

This game had completely slipped under my radar and this is the first I have heard of it, it may well be a future purchase for me know after I have cleared the backlog of games I need to buy and complete.

FuzzyYellowBalls

#31

FuzzyYellowBalls said:

i have this on PS3. just started playing last week.
highly recommended... even for us "older" gamers.
if you like Super Mario 64, then this is probably for you.

Crazed

#33

Crazed said:

Excellent first review, Black Dragon!
Also, I'm glad that this game is doing well. Thankfully adult gamers are giving this game a good amount of credit, which is always a good sign of a good "kids" game.

Bassman_Q

#35

Bassman_Q said:

Since when was BlackDragon a part of the reviewing team??? Anyway, nice review. Don't think I'll be getting it, though, unless its really cheap.

Twilight_Crow

#36

Twilight_Crow said:

Wow! Great first review theblackdragon :), very deep and it explains very well what to expect from this game, thanks. The game sounds like good fun, I love 3D platformers, if I ever see it at a good price, I'll get it.

Slapshot

#37

Slapshot said:

Great Job on the Review Dragon. Honestly I followed this game for months and had no clue it was geared specifically toward a youger audience until I played the demo on PS3. Great informative review, Nice Job. As a HD game I found it very unimpressive and repetive in the demo version but as a Wii title and added motion controls I could see it giving it an edge over the HD consoles.

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