Ninjatown (DS) review
"Ninja Gaiden? Ninja Raiden? Forget those, this is an entire game about a town of ninjas. Ninjatown takes two things they most probably hadn’t ever expected to see together: cute animated ninjas based on a plush toy line, and the classic idea of a tower defense scenario. If you’re expecting to boot up the game and find bad dialogue and easy levels however, you’d better scoot on back down to your local game store and turn in this game for Resident Evil. Do not let Ninjatown’s cute, pastel flooded ..."
Ninja Gaiden? Ninja Raiden? Forget those, this is an entire game about a town of ninjas. Ninjatown takes two things they most probably hadn’t ever expected to see together: cute animated ninjas based on a plush toy line, and the classic idea of a tower defense scenario. If you’re expecting to boot up the game and find bad dialogue and easy levels however, you’d better scoot on back down to your local game store and turn in this game for Resident Evil. Do not let Ninjatown’s cute, pastel flooded characters and backgrounds fool you; this game is no walk in the park.
Ninjatown’s plot is a classic tale of good versus evil. The ol’ Master of Ninjatown must lead his ninja students in defense of the settlement after the evil Mr. Demon. Demon’s plot is to steal the secret formula of Ninjatown’s famous cookies, with double as both currency and a food source. To quote the game, “If they get that recipe, they’ll flood the market with substandard cookies, making my Sugar Stock worthless!” It is up to the player to stop Demon’s plans for cookie domination. Although the story doesn’t really get more complex, it is interlaced with tons of jokes for gamers and internet aficionados alike. How many? To again quote the game, “Well, it’s a big number. Over 9,000.”
Central to Ninjatown’s gameplay is of course, the defense of the town. All levels in the game are basically giant winding paths on which enemies will march, float, or dash towards the other end of the map, which is marked by a red flag. The objective of each level is to survive a varying number of waves without letting more than ten enemies pass through. How do the Wee Ninjas mount their defense of their precious food supply? It’s time to lock and load! Well, not quite. Ninjatown is likely one of the very few, if not the only tower defense game currently to be based mostly on melee attacks. Instead of building towers that simply fire bullets or other projectiles at oncoming enemies, the player builds huts. These huts house various types of ninjas, which can then be deployed along the path in order to beat the stuffing out of the demons. In addition to ground based troops, occasionally a wave of flying enemies will appear. The ol’ Master will need to build Wasabi peanut launching sniper ninjas, snowball lobbing ninjas, or bow wielding ninjas to shoot these beasts down.
Huts are built on squares marked off on the sides of the path. One square holds one building. In addition to huts, the ol’ Master can also build training dojos, guard towers, and tea bistros in order to increase the fighting efficiency of his troops. How does all this get paid for? The cookies mentioned before are used as currency, which is gained every time an enemy is defeated. Most huts can be upgraded, and having a large number of upgraded huts is generally the easiest way to beat each level. In addition to building defense, the ol’ Master can also deploy a variety of bonus items obtained at the end of each level in order to aid his ninjas or to hamper the efforts of the demons. Finally, when the ol’ Master himself has to roll up his sleeves and do some dirty work, there are a variety of special abilities that he can use once a certain number of enemies have been killed. Many of these abilities make creative use of the DS’ stylus and mic.
There isn’t a large variety of music, but most people will be so consumed with fighting for their lives (and cookies), that they won’t notice the looping soundtrack. The ninjas and demons have a few standard noises that they make when they punch and bite, although most sounds are probably ripped from some Saturday morning cartoon that everyone forgot about. While not particularly distinctive, not nerve grinding either.
Much of Ninjatown’s story is told in pastel doused, short cut scenes that lack any kind of dialogue. Although this may seem confusing, most of these scenes are basic and easy to understand. Before each level, the player can look forward to a little “briefing” from the ol’ Master, his advisor, and occasionally, the mayor. Although most of these scenes are simply to introduce the player to a new unit or map, some of the conversations are downright hilarious, and are definitely worth taking the time to read.
While it’s not exactly the tale of a hero battling huge demons to save the planet, an old hero on his last legs, or the journey deep into an insane character’s mind, Ninjatown provides a fresh coat of paint on an aged idea, and manages to provide a casual gaming experience for hardcore gamers. Although the steep difficulty halfway through the game might turn off less determined players, this is a portable gem worth checking out.
Community review by Probester (December 15, 2008)
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