I knew very little about Mini Ninjas before I downloaded the demo for Xbox 360, and that’s okay. There didn’t seem to be much that I needed to know. Only this: I am a ninja, and I will probably do ninja-like things. And in that respect, the demo delivered fully.
You start out in a forest, meandering down a linear path until you come to a small village being assaulted by local samurai warriors. Taking control of either three ninjas (Hiro, Suzume, or Futo), you’re tasked with taking out the bad guys and exploring the local landscape.
Hiro is your Average Joe of ninjas, with a special attack move of dashing in and hitting multiple enemies. Suzume is a master of the flute and can use her musical gift to get samurais a-dancing like “Kung-Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas just came on the radio. Lastly, Futo is all muscle, swinging his mallet without speed, but with all his might. I played the majority of the demo as Hiro.
Along the way, you’ll free animals from locked cages, discover ingredients, and search of for hidden Jizo statues. Mini Ninjas seems to balance the collectathon and action/platform parts fairly well. I’ve seen folks on the forums saying you can possess animals, too…but I must’ve missed that during my playthrough.
While the graphics are mediocre (you’d think this was a first generation Wii title), the art style is simply wonderful. The ninjas all have a distinctive look and are cutesy, and the forest level is lush with greens and blues and bouncing animals. Voice acting worked well for those that did some talking. I don’t remember there being much music, but the thump and thwack of your weapon against the skin of your enemies is always a nice sound no matter how it is recorded.
So, fun, colorful, and varied bits of gameplay. The Xbox 360 is severely lacking in great platformers (I’m thinking about the Jak series, the Ratchet and Clank series, and the Sly Cooper series here), but Mini Ninjas might just be what it needs to stand out. Hopefully, it won’t retail for $60, but anything around $30 would be worth picking up.