Happy Ninja Day: Hands-on with Ninja Reflex for the Wii

As if there isn’t already enough Ninja related material on deck today, I’ve got more folks!

The fellows over at Electronic Arts decided that Ninja Day wasn’t soon enough. So in the spirit of impatient celebration, they debuted their new game, Ninja Reflex for the Wii and DS, last night at the swanky oh-so-Japanese Kabuki Hotel in Japan Town, San Francisco. While the only Ninjas attending were the conveniently costumed h’orderve waiters, CTZ and myself did our best to sharpen our Ninja wits with a hands-on opportunity.

Hit the jump to see what all this Ninja ruckus is all about!

The premise of Ninja Reflex, developed by Sanzuru Games and co-published by EA Partners and Nunchuck Games, is relatively self explanatory. To become a Ninja of the highest order, you must successfully train your reflexes to be swift, accurate, and undeniably Asian. While I’m pretty sure I learned in my undergrad Asian Roots seminar that Ninjas fight or something, Ninja Reflex leaves these violent tendencies at the door in pursuit of refining the core techniques.

Sensei, your stereotypical wise-looking Pan-Asian mentor, remains at your side to guide you along by dishing out properly prescribed fortune cookie advice through your training. By completing each of the six exercises (each with three levels of difficulty and six gameplay variations) you manage to upgrade your white belt to the illustrious black belt. This is a mandatory achievement of utmost importance, as we all know that Ninjas always look better in black, and should never ever wear a white belt after labor day. Ninjas, please.

Three of the six total training exercises (aka mini-games) were available for play last night, including the “Hotaru” (firefly), “Shuriken” (Ninja star), and “Hashi” (chopstick) challenges. With hopes of taking home a bona-fide Samurai sword by way of winning the in-event tournament, I eagerly took a Wii remote in hand. I practiced by defeating Michael Donahue (from EGM), so he could inform his comrades of their terrifyingly good (looking) competitor. Each of the challenges are as follows:

“Hashi” (chopstick)

Sensei has loaded your plate with an abundance of sushi but the scene of raw fish has encouraged a mass conglomerate of pesky flies. Chopsticks in hand, players aim the Wii remote and press A and B simultaneously to snatch flies from the air and destroy them in the handy ninja-engineered table-top fly incinerating bowl of wonder. Flies will either pass rapidly across the screen or scatter around furiously in swarms, and in the case of multiple players some of them are color tagged for specific players to catch. I considered this to be the most difficult task of the three, losing my winning title to CTZ, who apparently has a little more Ninja in him than I do.

“Hotaru” (firefly)

While Sensei contemplatively balances atop a single toe in the garden, your task in this challenge is to press A at any single flickering firefly that comes into your vision. While simple in concept, this game tests your reaction reflexes and marks the fireflies with the exact amount of time it took you to click in milliseconds. When competing with other ninjas in multi-player mode, this particular challenge seemed to encourage the highest total of expletive outbursts. To one degree or another, this could be considered a measurement of fun.

“Shuriken” (ninja star)

Centered in the middle of a four-sided, two-tier Japanese shack, you are attacked by Ninjas and you must crush them! Well, sort of. To the background sound of cricketing gears and rubber pulleys you are faced with an assortment of mobile Ninja targets painted on wooden boards. While they may startle and intimidate upon their initial appearance, you will eventaully come to understand that they are in fact two dimensional and rather conveniently loaded with surface-area perfect for ninja-starring. Aim and press B to lock on to a target, and you can flick the Wii remote to automatically throw your star.  

Now wait wait wait, Mistah Boba Harris, it doesn’t stop there. Our fellow wooden Ninjas brought their delicate wooden geisha girlfriends along for the ride, and naturally it is disrespectful to splinter a wooden geisha, so you’ll have to avoid those so as to not lose points.

All in all, each of the challenges were fun in the way mini-games tend to be — relatively entertaining for a few minutes, a bit more fun with competition, but overall aimed towards engaging the casual gamer. While it’s clear that a large majority of Wii games are specifically oriented towards continuously reeling in the casual demographic, I was surprised to see yet another game doing this exclusively a good year after the Wii was released. While the game has a few enjoyable distincitive qualities such as the Ninja name generator (similar to the WuTang Clan name generator) and an aesthetically pleasing yet generic overall design, so far it looks to contribute little to the mass conglomerate of mini-games.

About The Author
More Stories by Tiff