Malik (5/7/04)

I-Ninja (GCN)


Well, here's yet another fairly good to great game that I overlooked thanks to the stupidity of a vocal minority. That minority, this time, being the commercial publications of gaming reviews...ever wonder why I write reviews when there are so many sources for them both on the web and in more tangible forms? This is why. 

I picked up I-Ninja mainly as a gift of sorts for Velveta to play. She had said a few times how it looked so "cute" and fun, and since it was down to $20 (new), I figured, "what the hell?". Little did I know that I would be the one who'd put in the most time playing. 

I came into I-Ninja with a few biases already in mind. For one, I hate the majority of platformers, with the Mario ones being the main 3D exception (most other platformers tend to throw in some lame-ass "innovative" twist that messes up everything). Secondly, the reviews all said this game was crap. Why did they say that? They claimed it was too damned repetitive. Was it, you ask? Read on to learn. 


Like a majority of platformers, there is not much of a story to speak of. Pretty much you are a ninja (no are "Ninja"...) who comes across a "rage stone" that fills you with unspeakable rage. While in a rage, you accidentally kill your master. So, his ghost appears and tells you that in order to overcome your emotions, you must find all the rage stones (which are conveniently held by some boss type characters). That's the plot (not in a nut-shell...that is literally the whole thing). 

Luckily, on top of this riveting plot (obvious sarcasm), you do get some good random as hell humor. Your master (the ghost) likes to use a lot of clichés and proverbs, but often times blending two of them, "a stitch in time is worth two in the bush" (not that quote exactly, but these are only said once each and you cannot get them repeated without restarting the game from the beginning...and I didn't think of bringing a pad of paper while I played...). While this seems random (and it is), it can make one laugh a few times. Far better than Mario ever could do for me...didn't I mention...expect a lot of Mario Sunshine comparisons since I-Ninja was rated so lowly and Mario Sunshine was rated so highly...I'm just like that. 

Game Play 

Well, unlike Mario, with it's large number of variation in game play (in Mario you can walk, and swim, water to hover...and...ummm...that's all I guess...oh can ride Yoshi...who can walk...and jump...I've got nothing here...and neither did Mario), I-Ninja only has all of that (minus the water pack), plus sniping with explosive darts and shrunkens, riding giant balls ala Monkeyball (or Marble Madness) to run down enemies, high speed tracks with hairpin turns (like Sonic's speed with the grappling hook of Bionic Commando), first person boxing matches with a boss (like Punch Out!), shooting galleries (like sitting in a turret in Halo...just sillier), wall running (like Price of Persia or Shinobi), and beat the clock/races (like in Mario Sunshine vs. the paintbrush kid). This is more repetitive than Mario!?!? 

Also, there are a few more stages than you'd find in Mario Sunshine with a larger degree of possible settings (not just tropical beaches). Unfortunately, like in MS, you have to repeat some stages to get more belt rankings (as your belt color belt being the can access more areas of the game) with new twists. The most Mario like twist is having to collect 10 red coins in a level. Also, you might have to beat a certain time, kill a certain number of enemies, outrun a bomb fuse (more original than a standard race against a person), or just find the ending while combining a vast number of play mechanics. In the end, with the game play styles available, I must say; Mario doesn't have shit on I-Ninja! 

Other than the game play mechanics, I-Ninja is another cookie-cutter platformer. The controls are the standard issue controls. That's not a bad thing by any means. In fact, I'd say the tried and true method easily out performs some innovative twist that would leave the played throwing a control in anger. 

Another cookie-cutter part of I-Ninja is the camera. It is the exact same as the good old Mario camera...did I say good? I meant crappy, but could be far worse. With 3D games, I've learned that cameras fall into two categories; as good as Mario, and horrible. So, if it's a choice of the two, Marioesque camera is best. Unfortunately the camera on a 3D game can never be as good as a simple 2D viewpoint...but we have to take what we're given. 


Well, not much to really say. The graphics are on par (not better or worse) than anything you'd expect from Mario Sunshine. That's not really a bad thing, since the graphics are detailed enough to make this cartoony game seem fun and silly, but not so over congested with visuals to cause any issues with the player. 

The most important note of the graphics is how they are quite cartoon like. More so than Mario, in my opinion, at least. This, to me, makes the game a little more enjoyable on the eyes since cartoon style images are smoother on the eyes and cause fewer issues while playing. I mean, if the playing area was so overfilled like a lot of eye-candy games like to do, it just makes me quite pissed off when I miss a jump or get hit by an enemy while trying to figure out what's real and what's not interactive within the environment. 

Needless to say, the visuals of I-Ninja are a great balance between "enough" and "not enough". They fulfill the role of the game and let the player have a nice emersive setting to play around in. 

For those who want more of a run-down; the characters have big heads, ala anime, with big overly obvious expressions. The stages have a good blending of realistic, but cell shaded-ish rustic Japanese towns, beaches, factories, and open fields. Most of all, everything is slightly exaggerated a little more to inspire a good sense of how silly this game is. 


Well, I can't honestly say much here. The music is pretty much background...I know...of course it's in the background, but I mean it's not all that noticeable. Thinking back on the game just a few minutes after playing, I cannot recall much of the audio. I don't think this is a great sign for the audio side of things, but at the same time, it's better than having an annoyingly awful song stuck in your head after playing. 

The voice acting is rather limited. However, I personally like the voice acting in the game (which is rare for me to say). The voices are more along the lines of cartoon than anime (that is, more like an original American animated show's voice acting as opposed to the poor dubbed voice actors you'd hear in a dubbed anime from Japan). If that makes sense, then you'd see that I'm saying the voices are pretty neutral. Not horribly acted, but definitely not award winning. 

The sound effects are the only really outstanding audio component of I-Ninja. The sounds are not overly well done (but not bad by any means), but the choices of effects are brilliant. Like when you're rolling on a giant metal ball and you run down a cluster of enemy ninjas you are treated to the sound of a bowling ball striking some pins instead of the typical squishing or exploding sound you'd find normally for running a bunch of ninjas over with a giant metal globe. 

To sum it up; the sounds are not bad...they're not great...they don't really stand out...but the voice acting definitely could've been worse and the sound effect choices are great. 


For a game that was dissed by so many professionals, and for being so "repetitive" (unlike Mario, how?...whatever...), and for being a game that I didn't intend to be playing all that much, I am definitely impressed. Some games are more of sleeper hits, some are are underground hits, so are mainstream hits...but this game is merely a scapegoat for the industry to pass the blame to for the lack of originality in platformers. So, taking all of it's merits (which are often overlooked...way too often...) into account, and how I actually felt playing this game (rather than just how it can be repetitive...Mario Sunshine was and I liked that game, so why can't I feel the same about I-Ninja? Why can't anyone besides me feel that way?), I must give I-Ninja a 7.5/10. Why not higher? I doubt I'd play through it more than once, and as a platformer, that means it's not all that economical (time played vs. money spent). It would have been lower (around the 6.5/10 I'd give Mario Sunshine), but the game does have some originality in an overly stale genre. Bottom line: Assuming you like Mario Sunshine/64, this is a fun game; at least worth a good weekend long rental.