Ninja’s tend to struggle for work. They are not called upon as often as you’d think for their particular set of skills, though every now and then that classic video game scenario of a princess being kidnapped surfaces. When there’s no plumber in sight, your left with one fierce yet inexperienced Ninja entrusted with taking on a monster army. With the initiative to shake up the Ninja genre, developers PUMO have a cumbersome job on their hands. Will this be the 2D stealth orientated, bad-ass adventure we all want? Or is it back to the dojo?
With cemented mobile roots, one common flaw for titles transitioning across to the consoles realm are the touch mechanics. Commonly not holding up as well, Ninja smasher feels great and certainly feels more at home on a handheld. More reminiscent of the 8 bit era Ninja Smashers colourful designs would be perfectly suited on a NES.
The controls work sublimely well with the expected jump and slash buttons being the norm. It’s only when you obtain more weapons this becomes more tedious…or so you would think. Though it may look like a game made in 90’s I can assure you the control layout doesn’t reflect this. Taking full advantage of the 3DS all buttons have a useful component. X brings up your menu while Y is used for your secondary weapon. Then when you have many you can rotate through them all with the L and R triggers therefore always ready to take on whatever ravenous monster appears.
A couple of the environments you have to play through is a gloomy graveyard and a steep mountain ready to be explored. Even though you are given a map it is sometimes not the most helpful as the challenge is finding out where you need to go next. With this you will end up knowing each zone like the back of your hand due to the amount of times you traverse through. This can become slightly irritating at times yet I applaud it for returning to the roots of 2D adventures. Very Zelda-esque there are dungeons to be visited and items to be gained to help progression. If you’ve ever played the original Legend of Zelda you will notice a lot of similarities which isn’t a bad thing.
At the end of these dungeons, not surprisingly a boss battle awaits. There is some joy here, constantly dodging projectiles as you slash at your foe. Regrettably there is no puzzle aspect to these encounters so every time you come upon one it is simply slash dodge slash dodge repeat until defeated. This most disappointed me as I thought there was some great chances for some special moments here. Inject a bit of originality and you could be onto a winner. I’m not expecting Shovel Knight standard for the price but something to keep me awake.
Absent from the boss battles but apparent in the world the odd clever puzzle can be found. My particular favourites are the ones involving bumper arrows that catapult the protagonist around the stage. It’s reasonably straightforward identifying which bumper arrow is correct however they are enjoyable to stumble upon. Completing these will also lead to secret upgrades i.e. more health or stronger attacks.
Staying within the retro era the music is fittingly arcade like in the style of Genesis or Mega Drive. The quirky, quick polyphonic tones are nostalgic and fulfilling throughout adding to adventure making sure I always had the volume on full.
Mobile roots are normally a negative when transitioning to actual gaming devices, still Ninja Smasher not only manages to convince you that it was born on a handheld, but it was actually part of that legacy of games forged in 90’s. Though boss battles may be unoriginal, the nostalgic music, gameplay and overall tone make Ninja Smasher a smash hit.
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