A Personal Prelude
Before we get into the review, I need to make a confession: Ninja Smasher was my survival guide for last weekend. No, I’m not making this up! This was literally a game that kept me sane during a bit of my personal difficulties last week. What essentially happened was that last Thursday (7/21), just a few hours after redeeming this and another eShop game I’ll be reviewing a terrifying windstorm came and destroyed a lot of our vacation cabin camp, leaving to lost power, a not-fun effort of picking up endless amounts of tree branches and washing myself off with soap in a nearby lake. It was horrible. Luckily I charged my 3DS the night before and it was full, allowing me to check the game out for a bit before I make the car ride back to my home area, (Where we had power, although as of the 24th the power was repaired in the camp area too) and the few minutes I planned to spend seeing how the game played turned into a half-hour. Of course, I had to shut it down to save battery, but I knew on the long six hour car ride to get to safety I’d need something to play, and since there was a big storm coming through on our way home, (something that actually terrifies me now due to the windstorm) I had to get focused, which this game ended up helping me do by slowly relaxing my increased anxiety. While I unfortunately have to return to the vacation area next weekend, I hope a storm like that never happens again. Still, because of how much time I poured into Ninja Smasher during that car ride and beyond when I got to a power source, I feel it’s important to share my honest thoughts on this game as soon as possible, now that I’ve unlocked everything major in this title. For those wondering why my activity was slow from 7/21-7/23, there you go.
Thanks to PUMO for the review code
Title: NINJA SMASHER!
System: 3DS (eShop)
Release date: 07/21/2016
The main game/story
In yet another retro themed Metroidvania, you take control of a Ninja who’s tasked with saving the Princess from the evil Lord Tengu. An incredibly simple story that pretty much fades into the background shortly after you start the game, only to remind you that it exists once you beat it.
While this game does have a retro feel thanks to these visuals, it’s actually rather difficult to classify this game as “8-Bit” or “16-Bit” with the visuals appearing to be a mix of both, with sprites that are colorful without being too pixelated, and backgrounds that are clean and fit with each area accordingly, sorta reminding me of a PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 style of game. However, in motion the game can be a bit too choppy at times, something I’ll mention in more detail in the Gameplay Section.
Music and Sound
Unfortunately, while the visuals do look colorful and feel retro without being yet another NES art style, the music still follows the generic chiptune format of the NES era, with very few songs and an overworld theme that tends to drag on and on and on for every single outside area of the game. The cave and dungeon themes are a bit better, not irritating the ears nearly as much, but the boss themes end up being forgettable, and I wish they at least had a different theme for each area of the game instead of recycle the same few themes over and over again. Not even the bonus characters get their own special themes which is a bit sad.
When you first begin the game, you’ll be presented with a beginning that’s to be expected from your typical Ninja Action game. Mysterious Ninja sneaks into a castle to rescue a princess, and must do whatever he can to get her back, even if it means returning to the castle after getting kicked out. You’ll gain the traditional Metroidvania abilities on the way, from a double jump, wall climb to even a ceiling climb powerup not unlike the one from the NES classic Blaster Master. With these extra abilities comes access to more areas, as per the genre standard. Unfortunately, during the default story, the world ends up being a bit too linear, requiring you to go from point A to point B with only a handful of Health and Ninjitsu upgrades to find, with a few of these upgrades being only available from the shops found around the in-game overworld for crazy prices. There’s also some ugly cases of slowdown when tons of enemies appear on screen or even during some transitions, although the game is still playable enough that it doesn’t usually cause unfair deaths to occur. Still, it ends up being a short, yet fun experience with some clever levels here and there, and backtracking is usually not a problem thanks to a cave that interconnects the different areas of the world. In around 3 hours or so, depending on if you go for 100 percent completion, you’ll complete the game, feel like you’ve done all that you need to do and will want to call it a day due to the low price tag.
However, when I completed Ninja Smasher for the first time, I was shocked to discover that I was only a fourth through everything the game had to offer, since three new characters with their own play style are unlocked upon beating the game, along with a touch-screen control option. This essentially means that if you want to 100% the game and get every achievement, you’ll have to play the game a minimum of eight times, or possibly more depending on how fast you complete the game. (with the game encouraging you to speedrun it with each character completing the story in under two hours for some achievements) While at first this seemed like an irritating way to pad out the game, once I got to controlling the other characters, I actually had a lot more fun going back and doing things a bit differently, especially with the Chain Ninja, which starts out with an awesome weapon that pulls you to any wall it attaches to (excluding spiky walls), allowing you to destroy the order of events and sequence break the game, doing things in a completely different order. As a person who absolutely loves to sequence break in games like these using glitches, seeing a mode that pretty much makes this official made me really happy, as it gave me a reason to go back to the game and do things differently, eventually leading me to beating it with the Chain Ninja in a hour and a half thanks to the ability to skip a dungeon and an entire area of the game due to the ability. The female ninja unfortunately is limited in the same way as the main Ninja, which means the game is still a linear adventure if you decide to go through with her, the only major differences being the way they attack enemies. (Which is pretty much a run and gun.) In regards to the final character, the Robot Ninja, he’s a bit of an oddball. His jumps are more floaty, his default weapon is horribly weak and he can get an odd powerup that lets him fly pretty much everywhere. While this sounds like it could lead for an experience as fun to mess around with as the Chain Ninja, for me it ended up being a bit dull and empty, mainly due to how floaty he is compared to the other members and the fact that it takes a tiny bit longer to be able to break the order of events, while with the Chain Ninja you can do it as soon as you enter the overworld.
That just leaves the extra Touch Control mode to cover, and it’s a messy thing to discuss. Similar to how the original game was on mobile devices and was controlled with the touch screen, in Touch Control mode you do pretty much everything with the stylus and the touch screen, including jumping, targeting and movement, which also counts as an attack due to it using the special move to attack enemies. For some characters like the female Ninja, this can work in your benefit, making her a devastating attacker thanks to the touch controls making her use her kunai spin attack, allowing for quick travel and a lot of damage. The Chain Ninja also works great with this mode, allowing for precise use of his weapon along with quick movement in general. However, for the other two characters, it can be a torment to play, mainly due to their slow movements leading to a lot of issues targeting or moving around with the controls, leading to a lot of unfair deaths, ESPECIALLY with the Robot Ninja who likes to glide a lot when using these controls. Still, it’s an interesting way to play the game, and mandatory to get some achievements (Which are really repeats of the ones done using the normal “Console Mode” setting)
In conclusion, Ninja Smasher ended up being a game that surprised me more than any other eShop title this year. While at first appearing to be yet another short Metroidvania title at a low price point, it ended up being a game with a surprising amount of replay value due to the multiple ways you can play the game and the achievements to unlock, making it a game that’s a lot of fun to replay similar to Fairune. Unfortunately, some minor problems like the touch control mode for certain characters, the slowdown and the frequent choppiness make this just short of a perfect budget experience, but if you won’t mind those issues and are looking for a quick metroidvania with lots of replay value, then this is your game, well worth the $4 price tag, as you’ll find an addicting game to enjoy and want to replay over and over again until you get all the achievements, or at least until you get your fill of all the characters. I give NINJA SMASHER a 9 out of 10, and strongly encourage anyone who wouldn’t mind the choppiness to grab this title as soon as you can, as I have a feeling this will be yet another hidden gem on the 3DS eShop!