Nintendo Gamecube / GC GCN NGC ISOsGenre: ActionPlatformer
Rating: ESRB: T, PEGI: 7+
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Game Description & Reviews:
One of Argonaut Software's final titles was also one of its finest. A delightful and memorable action-platformer, I-Ninja ranks among the very best multi-platform games of its generation, thanks to its exceptional gameplay, excellent music and extraordinary protagonists. Indeed, it is no less than a pure embodiment of the essence of videogaming.
I-Ninja's riveting gameplay is its central feature. The ninja not only runs, jumps and deals death with his sword, but also employs a number of special moves that befit an aspiring assassin. These include using a chain to swing from metal rings over chasms, sprinting at an angle of ninety degrees from the ground, spinning his blade like a helicopter's to glide downwards, wall jumping, etc... He also acquires and employs darts and shuriken to great effect, and, in some levels, can take control of rocket launchers and guide missiles around obstacles to destroy barriers, items or foes - a most gratifying experience.
The player's primary task in the game is to collect grades by completing various missions, which will lead him to ultimately defeat the nefarious O-dor (an alien villain who has invaded the world of I-Ninja with his army of sinister, robotic Ranx units), and more importantly, become a true ninja master. Accummulating grades also enables the Ninja to earn belts, which are essential for unlocking later missions. In addition, there are sword upgrades that are obtained by slaying sufficient enemies; these blades not only look distinct, but also handle a little differently in combat. Last, but not least, there are also coins to gather in the various levels, which can be used to purchase bonus missions from the friendly, minor characters one meets in the game: some of these are highly challenging, all are highly enjoyable.
One of the other objectives of the Ninja is to collect 'rage stones' - special items that grant him new abilities. As he deals or receives damage, he charges up his rage meter and, depending upon the level of charge, he can unleash these abilities, (which range from a simple attack boost, to an ultimate power that deals lethal damage to everything and everyone around him) using the D-pad. This adds a major tactical element to the game, as timely utilization of these abilities can make all the difference in some of the more difficult missions.
A noteworthy feature of I-Ninja is the sheer variety of its gameplay. Ordinary missions may entail collecting red coins (reminiscent of Super Mario 64), slaying a certain number of foes or finishing the level within a given time. Beyond these, there are missions that involve sinking approaching ships, riding a barrel or chasing a fuse, in addition to boss battles that require mastering specialized vehicles and weapons. Most impressive of all, in my view, are the duels with powerful foes that take place in a shimmering void - which are all the more satisfying when our hero lands on terra firma, defiant and triumphant, as his vanquished foe explodes behind him.
The game's visuals are more than adequate, with different realms, items and units all appearing suitably distinct, though the need to maintain a constant framerate may have been a constraint in this area. No such limitation applies to its audio, which is well-done in all respects. I-Ninja's soundtrack is admirable and apt, with a recurring riff serving as the game's leitmotif. The sound effects are not lacking either, with the sword's slices, the rocket's engines and the shuriken's collisions all easily recognizable. Finally, the voice acting is practically perfect, with the main characters and enemies all sounding exactly as they should.
I-Ninja's story is a simple one that serves to provide the title with a suitable setting, and nothing more. What makes the game really sparkle are its two main characters - the Ninja and the Sensei. The contrast and banter between the two - the brash, young, hyperactive hero and the elderly, bumbling, spectral teacher, makes for one of the most charming duos in the world of video games. The former's battle cries ('You want some more, here have some more!', 'Eat Steel!', 'The Blade is Cold!... yesss.') and unforgettable cackle, along with the latter's hilarious mixing and mangling of well-known proverbs - further amplifies the experience.
With 64 grades to attain, I-Ninja is not lacking in content, but its length owes more to the challenge it provides, with numerous levels likely to require multiple attempts to secure the grade. (Of course, the great sense of achievement one feels upon completing the toughest missions makes it all very worthwhile). The game supports widescreen, has three save slots (which I found to be sufficient) but unfortunately, lacks an option for replaying its cutscenes.
To sum up, if you like videogames at all, you owe it to yourself to play I-Ninja.
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