A lot of games have come out for consoles over the years – some universally praised and well known such as Breath of the Wild, while some go under the radar and are more underground favourites, so to speak, such as Jet Set Radio. Mini Ninjas is one of those under-the-radar games that deserves a spotlight among the more well-known and popular games.
The game’s unique and vibrant artstyle is one of the most attractive things about it. Although it was released in 2009, it still looks as good as it was when I played it as a child on the Wii as it does when I play it on PC now. The graphics hold up and haven’t been significantly downsized by the fact that the game was made almost 12 years ago, it still feels like it came out recently when it’s high quality models, texturing and lighting all have been ported incredibly well to Steam. Every level, while changing the setting ever so slightly, from a vibrant forest to a haunted graveyard to a morning dawn as you progress through the game, has its own unique charm to it – the glistening waterfalls; the calming riverside, the very-evil-looking fortresses you infiltrate, it just shows how much time and effort was made to make the world design itself compliment the artstyle and it is a sight to behold. Even the animations have this same charm that the artsyle has – the way that all the enemies and characters (even playable) move around and interact with different aspects of the game are cute, fun and entertaining.
There’s also three or four unique boss fights that are centered around different mechanics, or their fortress is fortified in a unique way that hints at what the upcoming boss will be – all who must be defeated in clever ways. The bosses themselves are full of personality and a lot of fun and fit the idea that despite being strong, they’re not very smart and are susceptible to vulnerabilities. The fights aren’t hard and aren’t too easy and sometimes require a bit of thought to understand how to beat them, but they’re easy enough to not be too easy or not too hard to be stressful, a perfect balance when it comes to boss fights.
Gameplay wise, Mini Ninjas delivers on making a short but fun game that makes the best of it’s scenario and setting, offering enough variety to switch-up how the player approaches combat, whether that be sneaking around and stealthily sniping people with a bow, crowd controlling with a naginata spear or just using time manipulation to kill all the lesser enemies in one quick sweep before they can react. It’s so fluid, so fun and so rewarding.
Even when not in combat, you have the option to hunt around the levels to look for collectible statues as well as caged animals to set free – setting the trapped animals free are crucial if you want to level up in the game. Despite there only being around 5-10 levels to progress, each one benefits the player in one way or another, whether it’s giving them another heart or adding one extra enemy scope in their power move.
Although it is quite short, taking around 10 hours to complete (15 if you’re going for 100%), Mini Ninjas is a lovely little game made that greatly appeals to a family friendly audience and does the absolute best it can with its setting and limitations, with some semi-hard platforming and sometimes challenging enemies, there’s at least one thing you can enjoy and appreciate about Mini Ninjas.