Platform: Nintendo DS , DSI
Category: Real Time Strategy
Developer: Venan Entertainment / Cashmere Productions
Publisher: SouthPeak Games
Wireless single-card play
Wireless multi-card play
Sunny skies, lush forests and rolling hills combine to form the land known as Ninjatown, where adorable and honorable ninjas populate this vibrant yet peaceful town. However, after the mysterious eruption of a nearby volcano, Ninjatown is attacked by hoards of sinister enemies led by Mr. Demon, who for reasons unknown, is bent on destruction. It is now time to use each of the ninjas unique skills and powers, and even the Ol’ Master Ninja comes out of retirement, to fight off the evil and secure Ninjatown one district at a time. Sounds interesting enough, but how does this South Park looking game for the Nintendo DS actually play?
The graphics in Ninjatown aren't the greatest you will find on the DS, but they have a very distinct look and feel to them. What I did note about them is that they seemed to lack a bit of polish as the animations can be pretty basic and repetitive. Granted they do match the gameplay somewhat but the cutesy style may not please those of you that are used to something more mature. The game is fairly colorful and vibrant, something that I have come to expect with many DS games. There are no full motion cut-scenes and in a game like this I was a bit disappointed as it could have complimented the whole visual package. Ninjatown looks like an anaemic cartoon that the DS hardware processes with ease. In the end there is not really much here to look at here but what is available on screen is pretty solid nonetheless.
The game’s sounds and music are catchy but are pretty basic with a 16-bit Japanese orientated feel. The same reoccurring tune plays throughout during gameplay which can be a bit aggravating, but it can always be turned down. I found that the stylus button usually sounded like a laser gun as you scrolled though your options and such, and it was somewhat cool to listen to. The rest of the game has its various beeps, boops, and pops as you progress, although nothing to exciting. As with most DS games listening through a set of headphones is always better than the DS’s tiny external speakers.
Ninjatown is a tower defence-style game. It is played from a top down position, using the stylus to direct the action around the screen. This action includes such things as building ninja huts and issuing commands to the ninjas in the field. Your ultimate enemy, Mr. Demon, has been sending wave after wave of devils to take down Ninjatown’s peaceful society of ninjas. Thankfully, Ol' Master Ninja is around to manage the town's defence and take on those hoards of devils. Gameplay is simple enough.
You strategically place your ninja-spawning ninja huts on the map in order to defeat the waves of enemies you face. However, ninjas are not created equally as there are quite a few different ones, each having specific powers and weapons that make them well suited to fight off specific enemies. For example, speedy enemies are too fast for anti-ninjas to attack, so if a wave of these enemies attack then you will have to send in a few hyperactive ninjas to take them down. Other ninja types include sniper ninjas, forest ninjas, mountain ninjas, and lava ninjas among others. Every now and then you'll have to use an Ol' Master Ninja attack or a special one-use token to defeat your foes, but Ninjatown is mostly about placing your ninja huts in the right place at the right time.
Speaking of Ol’ Master Ninja attacks, these attacks will ultimately cause you to laugh out loud at some of the names associated with them. One of my favourites is the “Get off My Lawn” spell, which requires the use of the DS microphone to literally blow enemies away from unwanted areas. Using these varied attacks (or ninjas) costs money. In Ninjatown the monetary currency of choice is cookies. Only a few cookies are offered at the beginning of each mission, and you don’t earn much for destroying enemies. This currency also dictates how all ninja buildings can be upgraded to increase the power of its ninjas. You can purchase special buildings that increase your ninja’s strength, attack range, cookie awards for defeating enemies, or one that even provides some other bonus. However, spending your hard earned cookies at the wrong time may prevent you from purchasing ninja structures that are vital to the final outcome of the game. You will have to work hard to balance each aspect of Ninjatown and the decisions you make. Without being able to direct your ninjas manually, and without being able to move ninjas outside of their structure’s range, Ninjatown can be a very frantic experience.
The games control scheme is really very easy to learn and master. The stylus works very well, your options are well highlighted, and everything is easy to navigate. It can be a bit tough to see some things on screen at times since the DS’s bottom screen is pretty tiny, but it is manageable. It takes but a few taps to build your ninja huts, and upgrading them is just as easy. Tap the hut, tap the upgrade button, select yes and there you go. There is a fair bit of meat on the bones of Ninjatown as the game spans over 35 maps across nine districts.
A multiplayer mode is available for Ninjatown too. Here you basically race to finish off the main enemy before your opponent, with the loser getting knocked down a health point. It’s a neat feature, especially since you can play it with only one cartridge. Sadly the game has no WiFi support or any online features. This is somewhat disappointing as I think this area could have benefited from some online play.
Although Ninjatown’s gameplay is not necessarily my style, it is at its heart a worthy and very sound tower defence game. It has some very good RTS elements that should draw fans from several genres even despite its cutesy and simplistic look. The game reminded me of the humorous South Park series as it has a solid sense of humor. I had a few gripes with the game such as the lack of a suspend option, and its very cut and paste graphical pallet. Regardless of its deficiencies, Ninjatown is a surprisingly solid title.