Tag Archives: Mini Ninjas

30 Days of Gaming, #20 – Favorite genre

If you thought the answer to this topic was gonna be racing or cooking sims, well…you’ve clearly not been paying much attention to Grinding Down. I’m all about the roleplaying games, but it did take me some years to really get into the genre and stay there, as many JRPGs almost ruined me, as they have almost ruined others before me. Thankfully, standout titles like Suikoden, Suikoden II, and Final Fantasy VII literally blew my genitals, taking me from teenhood to manhood in a matter of dozens of hours, thanks to intricate plots, fantastic battle systems, soaring sounds, elegant pacing, light grinding, addictive gameplay, and endings that still resonate with me to this day. Plus, y’know, they let me play a role in their worlds.

I’ve always been a big reader, and much of the credit can go to my sister Bitsy who, from an early age, passed along books she had already read to me. Many of these turned out to be fantasy novels–works by Mercedes Lackey, Piers Anthony (oh my), and Anne McCaffrey–and it wasn’t too hard to leapfrog from them to more “adult” work, devouring things like The Belgariad series by David Eddings, The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, and stuff by David Gemmell. Throw in the classics like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and the entire Discworld series, and well, I was hooked on stories.

And here comes along a genre of videogames that promises epic stories…and more! The majority of RPGs, more often than not, at least five or ten years ago,
were fantasy-themed. Sure, there’s the occasional sci fi-themed RPG, and many could argue that Final Fantasy VII is more space and metal frames than swords and dragons, but these videogames gave all their love to royalty and kingdoms and knights and dragons and magic spells and small-time villages trying to make ends meet before war destroyed everything everywhere. So I ate it up, even the bad meals like Beyond the Beyond and SaGa Frontier. It didn’t matter–I just wanted to be in a realized world, growing as a character, growing into a story.

Character customization is not as important to me as character crafting is. Whenever a new RPG begins and you’re given the chance to mold how your dude or dudette looks, I click around, raise their cheekbones, lighten or dark their skin, find a cool beard, and call it a day. I can easily see that hours upon hours can be spent noodling with dozens of options, but that’s not important to me. Once we’re in the game, spending skill points or focusing on this spell or deciding what kind of armor Mini Paul will wear are the bigger decisions.

While RPGs are my favorite genre, this also can be problematic. On average, a RPG can take around 30 to 40 hours to complete. However, having an addictive personality, I end up playing most RPGs for double that. See: 130 hours logged so far in Dragon Quest IX, over 100 hours for Fallout 3, eighty+ hours for Fallout: New Vegas, and so on. Playing more than one RPG at a time is like juggling balls of fiery acid with no gloves, and yet it’s something I simply can’t avoid.

Last year, I needed a break between some RPGs I was eating up, and so I picked up Mini Ninjas for the Xbox 360, thinking that an action title would be a good change of pace. I completed the game in under five hours. That’s it? I’ve played prologues in RPGs for longer than that (think Suikoden V, people), and I was a bit taken aback at how much quantity I look for in a game these days. Quantity over quality, especially when discussing bug-ridden games like the Fallout series. I don’t care how broken they are…there’s so much stuff to do to distract me from such bummers.

But yeah, RPGs. Love ’em. Always will so long as they continue on, which we all know they will. Can’t wait to see how big and massive Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is gonna be, as well as the multiple choice quiz that is Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Sorry, upcoming Cooking Mama 4 for the 3DS…I DON’T GIVE TWO STEAMED CAULIFLOWERS ABOUT YOU.

A roundup of lately achieved Achievements

I’ve been adding to my Gamerscore as of late via multiple games, and I think now’s a good time to share with you some of my grand accomplishments. I’m talking about Achievements, naturally. Y’know, those little blooping bloops that pop up now and then when gaming on the Xbox 360 and doing something, um, specific. I love ’em. And hate ’em, too. Facebook lists my relationship with them as “complicated.”

Moving along…

From Borderlands, I pinged–or rather dinged–this one last night after clearing out three to four “trivial” difficulty quests:

Ding! Overleveled (15G): Reached Level 51

The game’s a bit dull now that I’m a pretty high level, playing solo, and on my second run through the same ol’ quests. I do sincerely doubt I’ll climb much higher with Roland, but maybe I should try playing as Lilith to mix things up for a bit.

From Fallout: New Vegas, I completed a number of quests recently, but only one was actually tied to an Achievement:

Return to Sender (20G): Completed Return to Sender

This quest was…a bit of a downer. In many ways. First, you have to find a bunch of ranger stations and tell them about fixing their radios. Then you have to go back to each ranger station again to ask about odd reports coming over their radios. This means a lot of fast traveling, which doubly means a lot of loading screen. I swear I’ve stared at that spinning roulette wheel so much that I’ve seen its very soul. And then it ends sadly with a cloud of confusion over Jareth’s head.

From Street Fighter IV, I got a couple Achievements recently as I continue the long climb to the top, but this one is a goodie:

Super Combo Master (10G): Perform 100 Super Combos.

Why is this a goodie? Weeeeeeeell…super combos are hard to perform! There. I said it. Now you know just how much of a fighting game n00b I am.

From Mini Ninjas, a not-so mini (ninja) amount of Gamerscore for a grindy Achievement:

Now You See Me… (40G): Defeat 100 enemies with stealth attack

And lastly, from Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, we have this one from Super Thunder Blade, a game I never played and never will play again:

Get to the Chopper (15G): Super Thunder Blade: Score over 1,500,000 points in the first level

This ol’ shoot and flying as frantic as possible game is horrible. You have a limited number of lives and must dodge an array of bullets–the biggest problem is the controls as moving the chopper out of death’s way is tougher than expected. But the Achievement’s name gets points, both from me and the Governator.

Okay, that’s all for now. Quite a roundup, eh?

REVIEW: Mini Ninjas

Developer/Publisher: IO Interactive, Magic Pockets/Eidos Interactive, Warner Bros.
Platform: PlayStation 3, Microsoft Windows, Wii, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Mac OS X
Genre(s): Action-adventure, stealth
Mode(s): Singe player
Rating: ESRB: E10+
Time clocked: Around five hours

Ninjas never have it easy. Not even mini ones.

See, many moons ago, an evil samurai warlord was banished after too many evil deeds, and the empire in feudal Japan sat in peace and tranquility for a good, long while. But we all know that could only last so long; dark storms began to brew over distant mountaintops, floods and earthquakes became common happenings, and mysterious figures were caging wild animals for unknown purposes. Guess who’s back? Evil Samurai Warlord™, duh.

Growing worrisome, the Ninja Master, the classic relic-old being of supreme skill and wisdom seen in every ninja-related medium ever, sends out his best ninjas to discover the truth about the storms and what evil is stirring nearby. However, none return. With only two ninjas left under his chest-high belt, he reluctantly puts Hiro and Futo to the task of rescuing their friends and saving the world.

And that’s the plot in Mini Ninjas. There’s not much to it; no surprises, no twists, no explanations whatsoever on what these evil soldiers plan to do with all their caged animal friends. As Hiro, you sneak/fight forward until you battle one of the Evil Samurai Warlord’s henchmen, defeat it via a Quick Time Event (sigh), and continue on until the end of the game. The levels are structured as pseudo-open boxes, with multiple paths to explore, but ultimately only one will lead you to its end. A couple cutscenes show the ESW getting mad at his peons, offering a pinch of humor, but other than that, there’s little story being actually told here. Evil is evil, and good is good, and when they throw down arms, good will defeat evil (but only for a limited time).

There are six ninjas to play as, and unfortunately you don’t get the best one until near the game’s end. Each has their own set of skills and uses. Hiro can use Kuji magic and target multiple enemies at once; Futo wields a mallet and rolls into a ball to attack; Suzume plays an enchanting flute song; Shun specializes in bow and arrows, sniping soldiers from afar; Tora is part-tiger and a waste of character selection space; and lastly, Kunoichi, the spear wielder, is the best ninja next to Hiro thanks to her far reach. Each ninja is adorably designed, and unlocking them in-game rewards you with a special bonus video to watch that shows how they arrived at the Ninja Master’s dojo. These are so beautifully animated that it is jarring to the in-game’s visuals, which are, well…maybe a centimeter above the Nintendo Wii. My personal favorite character trailer is, not surprisingly, Kunoichi’s, as shown below:

Unfortunately, the challenge to save the world is no challenge at all. I started my playthrough on medium difficulty, the standard as it were, but switched to hard by midway through and found there to be little difference. The only time I ever died was when I miscalculated a ledge jump and plummeted down the abyss; only I didn’t actually die, but rather respawned on the ledge with one less heart to my name. So, uh, guess that doesn’t count. The enemies are not very tough, and only a couple require a specific strategy, such as the big guys or the stealthy ones. Plus, the alchemy here allows one to make a ton of healing potions, and there’s always a tree or bush of fruit at arms’ length. No worries, really.

What Mini Ninjas is though is charming and stylish, but a bit bland. Co-op (both local and online) is missing, and that’s a shame because it’s clearly a videogame designed to be played by parents and their kids. It would’ve been awesome for one player to scout ahead and another to circle around until the signal sounded and then they both attacked at once. I loved the tranquil music and style of it all, but found myself moving through it very fast, as well as a bit disappointed. The boss battles are a smelly joke, and yes, Boss Windy Pants, I’m talking mostly about you. I’d probably be even more disappointed if I shelled out $60.00 for this when it was first released, but I got this copy for around $20.00, and so it was a decent filler, a mediocre platformer, and a healthy reminder that not all good things come in small packages.

Mini Ninjas won and lost points with me in a single hour

You know those commercials for Sour Patch Kids candy where the little candy dude/dudette is first sour to someone and then really sweet? That’s kind of how it was the other night in Mini Ninjas. Let me bullet point it for y’all.

SOUR: The second boss battle you encounter is against Windy Pants, a towering beast of a man that got his namesake from…well, his strong skills with flatulence. He farts. He farts at you, and that’s how he attacks. Fart, fart, fart. Big green gassy clouds of stinky death. Braaaaaawp. It’s a silly, stupid fight–a QTE to boot–and I can’t believe a number of people thought this was a good idea; I mean, I can see them wanting to add in some humor to the game, but they don’t really do much funny stuff anywhere else (unless Futo eating lots of apples is a riot?) so this was a bit jarring.

SWEET: Of all the mini ninjas you’ll control, Hiro, the main, uh, “average Joe” one, can use Kuji magic. He has to spend Ki (a blue meter at the bottom) to cast spells like turning into a walking bush, taking control of animals, and throwing sonic booms at samurai grunts from a safe distance. And after you spend 1,500 Ki you’ll unlock this Achievement:

No Conjurer of Cheap Tricks (20G): Expend 1500 Ki using Kuji magic

Mmm…Gandalf would be proud! There’s a couple of other good non-LOTR Achievements unlocked now, most of which are punny or kind of jokey, such as Boardom and Bow Before Me. And I’m just breezing through the game too, a tad disappointing. I suspect that the next time I sit down to play I’ll probably complete it, and then go back for any collectathon Achievements and such. I am having fun as Hiro just attacking and sneaking and all that, but overall, the game’s very easy, very stylish, but a bit hollow once you get inside it.


As of late, I’ve been craving some old-school style action platformer action first fed to me by games like Jak and Daxter, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, and Ratchet and Clank. Alas, the Xbox 360 is not really a great home to these kinds of games. It prefers shooters and…uh, shooter hybrids? Seems to be that way. Which is a shame. It’s not a dying breed, it’s just one that hasn’t gotten a lot of platform support (mind the pun there). For a bit, I really thought I was gonna be at a loss on what to look for…

But then I remembered playing the demo for a kid-friendly wee game called Mini Ninjas. And I had a fun time with it! I concluded my demo impressions then with the point that I’d not buy it if it retailed for $60.00, and unfortunately it did at its release time. Too pricey for my skin. But I’m a patient hobbit, and waiting is what I do best. Stopped by the local GameStop tonight after getting very depressed about packing up all my shtuff and got a used copy for $20.00, which is a much better dealio. The clerk though never heard of the game and had me repeat it for him like so:

GameStop clerk: Mini…Ninjas?
Me: Mini…Ninjas.

So far, I’ve played through the tutorial level and first level which has you rescuing a female ninja from a cage. The gameplay is varied and fun, and I get a kick out of putting on that huge woven hat or using it to float down a stream. The controls are solid, and I am kind of paying attention to the storyline…not really. Something about missing ninjas and an evil dude? Oh, and you get to collect plants to make items. Every game should have alchemy in it. Every. Single. Videogame. Yes, even you, Rock Band. Right now though I’ve more or less played the same parts that I got to play in the demo version and am looking forward to new terrain and troubles.

IMPRESSIONS: Mini Ninjas demo


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.