There are plenty of platform titles on the 3DS of varying quality, and with a name like Ninja Battle Heroes it at least sounds like this side scrolling beat ‘em up would fall in the lower end of the quality spectrum, but with light RPG elements and a decent bunch of challenges to complete this title at least gives itself a chance of standing out.
Taking control of a shuriken throwing tiger, it’s your task to regroup members of the lost Beast Brigade, a group of equally powerful warriors who have begun to disappear under the guise of a mystical enemy force. You’re taken on an adventure through several stages where you’re pitted against swarms of enemy soldiers to ultimately find and release your friends. It’s all very serious but the anime inspired art style is cute and takes away the sinister edge as all your friends and enemies are tiny animals sporting a variety of weapons; there’s something strangely adorable about a mouse challenging you with his tiny pike in tow, and you’ll have loads of fun meeting the ensemble cast as the game goes on.
Heroes is easy enough to play and the game makes the most of the majority of the 3DS’ buttons. Attacks are simply executed with the A button, while the rest allow you to slide, jump and block enemy strikes. You can also make the most of your ninja powers by disappearing into a puff of smoke and reappearing behind enemies to unleash a surprise attack to give you an advantage.
Skills are gained through finding members of the Beast Squad and also through completing challenges such as completing a level without taking a hit or within a certain amount of time. Using the touch screen you can activate any of your skills you’ve chosen to take with you on a mission once you’ve garnered enough spirit which is collected once you’ve defeated an enemy. Skills vary from useful healing powers to devastating attacks that can turn the tide of a battle, especially during tricky boss fights.
There are quite a few skills to choose from, and any spirit you gain during a level can be spent upgrading whichever ones you value over the rest. Spirit can also be used during levels to revive you instantly rather than starting from the beginning which is useful if you don’t fancy backtracking, although most of the levels are relatively short and can be ran through without getting into too much trouble.
Heroes throws enemies at you from all directions; while you’re dicing and slicing in the foreground enemies bombard you with projectiles from the back. Most of these enemies can’t be killed but only serve to make your job more difficult, although sometimes you’ll watch groups of bad guys scurry forward to join their comrades in taking you down. It requires a fair bit of skill to navigate, especially during the latter part of the game where you simply cannot stop for a second due to enemies coming from every direction.
While you see the same old faces during the entirety of the game enemy variation is ample and there’s plenty of baddies to deal with. Unfortunately though most of the bad guys can be dealt with in the same way and you never have to divulge in new tactics to take them down. A few smacks of your sword and they drop giving host to plenty of meaty spirit for you to spend on customising your goods. On the other hand boss battles are a far more exciting affair and the quality ramps up for these, especially later in the game where you duck and dive to avoid incoming gunshots and swooping ninja birds.
Quality is an issue and while sometimes Heroes performs excellently it’s ultimately an uneven affair. The main characters and bosses all look great, but a few of the enemy character sprites are lacklustre and the level designs don’t vary too much throughout the stages. It’s nice to see that the game isn’t just about getting from A to B though and there are three challenges per level which all boast rewards for completion. You can also see your quickest time for each stage so it’s perfect for those looking for a speed run challenge.
While Ninja Battle Heroes plays better than it sounds, it’s still not as well rounded as other titles of this genre. It’s cheap, deeper than you’d expect and offers lots of replay value if you want to accomplish all the challenges, but generic level design and repetitive gameplay can’t save it from getting lost in the ever increasing bargain bin of the eShop.
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