My take on Izuna; I'm trying to use my own stuff instead of official art from games in an attempt to make me less lazy and draw more.
Izuna: Unemployed Ninja is by no means a bad game; in fact, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
It does suffer, however, from the inherent burden of trying to live up to it's title, which
isn't possible. "Unemployed Ninja" brings to mind a GTA-style game where instead of playing
as some two-bit thug doing odd jobs for people, you're a trained ninja who skulks around
some sprawling metropolis, sticking to the shadows and tossing smoke bombs and generally
being an unmitigated badass, while the helpless populous utter a communal "WTF?" when
death-by-shuriken suddenly overtakes coronary arrest as the leading cause of death
in the city. Unfortunately, Izuna is not that game: instead, it's a fairly bread-and-butter
Mysterious Dungeon game, albeit a solid and somewhat charming one.
Oh, and I know full well that Izuna 2 came out recently; I haven't gotten to play it yet.
Sorry if you were expecting an Izuna 2-review, but considering the fact that most of my
blog entries thus far have been about ten-year-old games, I think it should be pretty
obvious by now that this blog is not exactly chock-full of up-to-the-minute news and
reviews. Hell, I'm happy that I'm writing about about a game released within this millennium. Story
This is a difficult category for this type of game; you almost don't want a good
story, because you fully expect to spend 99% of your time dungeon crawling, where the only
narrative you ever need is the story of you beating the shit out of everything. Then again, no
story whatsoever makes it hard to endow the game with any kind of character, no pun
intended. Izuna strikes the right balance by using the story to introduce the distinguishing
feature of the game, a ditzy, comical ninja, and then keeps the actual plot to a minimum. The
story is very basic, and (except for perhaps the first fifteen minutes of the game) it's
completely sidelined in a nice, "Just in case you care, this is why you're going to the
dungeon" sort of way. Occasionally you have to talk to an NPC to open up a new service in
town, and that's about as involved as it gets.
The only quirk about the writing that I can think of right now is the ongoing gag about
Izuna being busty, which is weird because neither her portrait art nor her pixelated
little character model look all that well-endowed. Nevertheless, I'm sure that somewhere,
someone is offended by this. There's always one.
Great, not because they're great in and of themselves, but because they're
perfectly adequate for this type of game. If I force myself to be critical though, there
could be a wider variety of character portrait art--most NPCs only get one portrait, and
Izuna herself only has a few. Me likey drawings!
I'm biased in favor of Japanese dialogue in games like this, because every
little bit of review helps me keep the Japanese I learned in college from fading away. I
could see being a bit confused if you don't know or care about the Japanese language
though; the NPC dialogue is all translated, but some of Izuna's exclamations in the dungeon
are not. Izuna is presented very much like a stereotypical anime character, for better or
Some of the dungeon themes are very catchy; there's nothing there that makes me want
to run out and buy a CD, but the music is good enough that I noticed it, which is
The easy summary is to say that Izuna is a classic roguelike, but that's not
quite true; it's a roguelike-lite. By the standards of other games in the genre, it's
really not that hard, however it's probably more than a little bit too hard for the average
gamer. It's perfect for people like me who love the genre but can't justify spending
dozens of hours on a game and having nothing to show for it because it's just so
damned hard not to die, but I'm not sure how many gamers are in that category.
At heart, roguelike's are inventory management games: the combat itself is simple, it's
knowing how to allocate the resources the dungeon provides you that requires strategy.
You will probably spend a lot of time in Izuna's inventory trying to decide if you're carrying
too many extra weapons when you could be using that space for HP-recovery items,
SP-recovery items, direct attack items, or magic scrolls. If you're the patient sort who
finds that sort of gameplay rewarding, then this game is a gem; if that kind of thing bores
the hell out of you, then you probably already know that.
I'm a sucker for deep weapon-customization systems, and this game has a doozy. There are
a lot of options in terms of what weapons to use and what you can do with them-- in fact,
this is one of my favorite weapon customization systems since Vagrant Story on the PS1.
It's also somewhat reminiscent of FF7's materia system, because you can stick a given
number of talismans onto your weapon and then gain the effects of those talismans. I think
everything should be more like the materia system, including professional football and indoor
plumbing, so this is a big plus for me; your mileage may vary.
I have two complaints with this game: One: There are no closing credits. After beating
the last dungeon and wandering around town for a while while the NPCs said vaguely
encouraging things, I began to seriously wonder what I had to do to complete the game
and get the ending credits to roll. Was there a character I needed to talk to? One last
cutscene? One last random, mystifying boob joke? I looked it up, and no-- I had, in fact,
beaten the game. There was just no indication of this whatsoever. You don't realize
the satisfaction you get from seeing the damned credits until suddenly, there aren't any,
and the whole world has gone topsy-turvy. I don't feel like the game is finished until I
see "Director: Japanese Man
My other complaint is with the postgame, and thus should be taken with a grain of salt; by
definition, the postgame is extra. The developers are pretty much entitled to do whatever
they want. Still, in this sort of game the expected thing is for there to be a bonus
dungeon, so you can get really into building strong weapons so you have a hope of meeting
this greater challenge. The Path of Trials however is one of those dungeons where you go
in with no items and you always start at level 1, making post-game weapon-crafting and
item farming useless. I suppose it's nice that this bonus dungeon offers a more old-
school, hardcore roguelike experience, but I would have preferred my standard post-game
power-up orgy. Granted, I can still power-up my weapons just for the hell of it (and beat
the bosses over and over, for which you get nothing), but that's not nearly as cool as
actually having a special area to use them in.
It's possible that you get to see the MIA ending credits only if you beat The Path of Trials,
but I hope not, because that's insanely fucked up. That's like getting to see the credits in
FF7 only after you've beaten Emerald Weapon. With initial equipment. And no materia,
except the useless ones like "Lucky Plus" and "Exit/Remove". I'm just full of FF7 love today.
All of this complaining aside, I have about a dozen DS games that I want to play, five or six of
which have already been purchased and are sitting patiently in a drawer, and I'm tempted to
say the hell with them all and run out and get Izuna 2. There may be higher compliments you
can give to a game than that, but there aren't many.
At the end of the day, Izuna has not replaced the well-employed Ayame from the Tenchu
series as my favorite video-game-ninja, but we'll have to see if Izuna 2 changes that for me.
She has replaced Sakura from Naruto as my favorite pink-haired
ninja, but that's only
because Sakura is a whiney bitch.