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Review: Ninja Senki DX

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Katakiuchi begins again!

Sometimes it's nice to go back to one of your earliest creations and give it a bit of polish, which is exactly what Tribute Games has done with Ninja Senki. Jonathan Lavigne, co-founder of Tribute, first released the ninja platformer as a freeware title a year before forming the studio that went on to create such games as Wizorb, Mercenary Kings, and Curses 'n Chaos.

Five years later, Tribute Games has decided to return to the little purple ninja who started it all, and spruce him up for a fifth anniversary commercial release on Steam and consoles. While it's still basically the same game, Ninja Senki DX offers several new features and improvements to make it worth the price tag. After all, the freeware version was already too good to be free in the first place.

Ninja Senki DX (PS4, Vita, PC [reviewed])
Developer: Tribute Games
Publisher: Tribute Games
Released: February 23, 2016
MSRP: $4.99 (Cross-Buy for PS4/Vita)

Ninja Senki is a simple tale of revenge. After witnessing Princess Kinuhime's demise at the hands of a demon, Hayate vows to get revenge for her death and sets out on a quest to defeat it (who curiously looks just like him). That's about it for the game's exposition, but much like many of the NES titles from which it takes inspiration, it's just enough of a premise to get the action rolling. Of course, similarities to the NES era doesn't stop there. Ninja Senki plays very much like a Mega Man title, minus the boss selection screen. It's your basic jump 'n shoot formula. Just swap out shooting a buster gun with chucking an endless supply of giant shurikens. So, jump 'n chuck.

Levels are laid out to utilize Hayate's ability to double jump, with enemies inspired by Japanese folklore scattered throughout to impede progress. The kicker is that there's a nice balance between platforming and action. It never throws too much at the player at once, but still remains quite challenging due to enemy placement and sections of platforming that require precision jumping skills.

To make it through his journey, Hayate is simply given two lives and no upgrades to speak of. Extra lives are awarded after a certain number of points, earned by killing enemies and collecting coins (called koban), assuming Hayate is at full health; otherwise, the points will refill his health meter instead. Luckily, players can continue from the beginning of each level with a fresh two lives upon death.

Ninja Senki DX features several changes and improvements to differentiate it from the original version. Most notably, there are now three new gameplay modes, including Hardcore Mode (no saving, and penalties for continuing), Boss Rush Mode, and Challenge Mode. The challenges involve completing each of the 16 levels under certain conditions, such as killing every enemy, collecting every koban, and finishing the level under a target time limit.

The deluxe version also features some new enemy designs. Basically, any foe that used to use similar sprites with palette swaps have been completely redesigned as new enemies, like the sumo wrestlers and the giant umbrella beasts in the final area. Furthermore, there is no longer an exaggerated blood splatter effect upon killing enemies, which is honestly a bummer. Now they just sort of disappear in a burst of light, rather than exploding in a shower of bloody spheres. For such a cute-looking game, the original effect was somehow both shocking and humorous, and I kind of miss seeing it every time I slice up a baddie.

Lastly, the UI has been updated to display not only health, lives, time, and score, but also the number of koban collected, enemies killed, and target time, which is very handy for players interested in completing the challenges.

It's a relatively short game which can be completed in a couple of hours, but requires practice and a mastery of the mechanics in order to obtain the best ending. The ending is determined by the number of points acquired by the time the final boss is defeated, so the player will be rewarded with one of three possible outcomes based on how well they perform.

One problem I had with the PC version of Ninja Senki DX was the controls. Keyboard bindings are kind of strange; you use WASD or arrow keys to move, of course, but then J to throw shurikens and K to jump. The positioning is comfortable, but it's hard to figure out without pressing every key first to see what does what. And there doesn't seem to be an option to remap keys. Luckily, there is gamepad support as well, but it would still be nice to have a screen showing keyboard controls with the option to remap if needed.

Returning to this indie classic after several years was a joy (not to mention I was finally able to beat it this time!). The controls are tight, the visuals and audio are simple and charming, enemy types are varied and interesting, and you get to shower opponents with an endless barrage of giant shurikens, which never gets old.

Anyone who has a fondness for old-school platformers or action games from the NES era should get plenty of enjoyment out of Ninja Senki DX

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Ninja Senki DX reviewed by Ben Davis

8

GREAT

Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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Ben Davis
Ben DavisFormer Contributor   gamer profile

bbain, has been a member of the Dtoid community since He enjoys the happier things in life, like whales, Katamari Damacy, yams, and The more + disclosures


 




 


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