When you use both ‘Samurai’ and ‘Ninja’ in your game title, certain epic expectations come along with it. If the name sounds at all familiar, you might have stumbled upon the previous release of this game back on 3DS. Now having lost one screen while making the jump to the Switch, can Link Kit’s charming feudal Japan castle defence adventure possibly live up to its namesakes?
Everyone in Japan was at war back in the day and since there both firearms and artillery introduced by the Portuguese in the 16th century present in Samurai Defender: Ninja Warfare we can extrapolate that it takes place sometime in the Muromachi period. Your lovely castle is under siege by some other guy’s clan and it is up to you, a lonely archer sat on top of the castle gate to defend it against orders of enemies that rush it from the left side of the screen. Sounds like an uneven fight… at first.
The initial levels act as ongoing tutorial, so after you kill the first few enemy hordes with deadly accurate arrows, you are awarded with copper and gold coins for your successful castle gate defence duties. As usual in this game genre, you use these to upgrade your defences, including enhancing the power and speed of your arrows or even add extra defenders (up to five) on the roof with your copper coins. Gold coins buys (or reinforces) stratagems (the equivalent of magic spells since they cost self-recharging mana) that can be used in both attack and defence. One can even buy new classes to be used on the rooftop, such as the titular ninjas or fire archers.
It's a tried and tested formula so you will find no surprise to learn that the whole concept works perfectly fine on Nintendo Switch. The mobile roots become evident when you play it in portable mode – you can simply tap the touchscreen to where you want your arrows to fly into and drag and drop stratagems straight into the single screen playing field. Using the Joy-Con or Pro Controller in docked mode is fortunately no deal breaker – the cursor moves fast and precise enough to ensure there are no mishaps in the heat of battle.
The more you upgrade your units and stratagems, the more your enemies will send deadlier units to your gates - so after a few dozen rounds, the sparsely populated battlefield become an epic painting of cartoon violence. New to this entry are bosses, who pop up every tenth level and possess not only huge amounts of HP, but also their own unique stratagems. We were slightly concerned when the second boss summoned a screen size naval warship heading straight into our castle, but some cool-headed planning and samurai line stratagem spamming prevented a shameful defeat. When you do find yourself stuck on a particular mission, you can simply play the previously cleared ones in order to grind copper or gold to upgrade your defences.
The graphics are cute, colourful and drawn with big bold black lines which helps ensure you don’t mistake enemy units for your own. The best bit of this package comes with the soundtrack. It features quite a few lovely melodies employing classic Japanese instrumentation that perfectly set the mood for some feudal Japanese warfare.
Samurai Defender: Ninja Warfare may not bring anything new to the table among the castle defence genre, but it does so in a charming feudal Japanese cartoon wrapper. Despite not setting the video gaming world ablaze (unlike the poor fools rushing at your door) anyone looking to blissfully slaughter wave upon wave of enemy cannon fodder soliciting at your castle gate need not look further.