Review: Ninjamurai

Following up right off the heels of our last review, Open Emotion Studios’ next PSP Mini landed at SitSam for review.  Ninjamurai is a fast paced action game that has a style similar to Ninja Gaiden or Shinobi where you require quick thinking to slash your enemy to pieces or sneak past him to grab the next checkpoint.  As the name implies, Ninjamurai is a mix of samurai sword play and stealthy ninja skills.  Open Emotion has combined these things with their unique art style seen in Mad Blocker Alpha to create something that is more than a side-scrolling ripoff.

The story starts you off in the shoes of Takezou Nishimura (aka Ninjamurai) as he is set off to investigate the “Black Armour” militia.  You are directed through your quest over a radio by a girl named Yukiko who attempts to warn you of dangers up ahead.  These story elements unfold in single frame cutscenes  where you can fully enjoy the artwork and its brush like paintings.  The story’s characters feel dry and do not create a point for attachment for the player.  Fortunately this does not pull away from the gameplay and gives enough momentum to keep each level moving.

The gameplay is more complex than I had expected first jumping in.  Your move set is divided into two modes, Stealth and Attack.  By pressing triangle you can switch between the modes.  In Stealth mode you can use jutsu power (a meter located beneath your health bar) to become invisible to your enemies, enabling you to walk right through them without taking damage.  But attacking in this mode will quickly use up your jutsu power meter as well.  Switching to attack mode gives you a more powerful attack that can take down heavily armored foes, but this also will drain your jutsu so you have to plan carefully.  This constant switching of stances becomes critical in later stages and during boss battles where you must utilizes both their strengths.  So the best advice is to take the time practicing in the earlier levels where enemies are spaced farther apart.

The levels are all designed heavily around platforming and I found that landing was sometimes difficult with the fast pace of the game.  This reminded me of the games I grew up with where the difficulty of a game was not judged by the enemy AI but on how well you timed your jumps or attacks.  While the levels have a checkpoint system to help you recover and not have to repeat an entire level after dying, I would sometimes fall to my doom more times then i can remember before I could reach the next checkpoint.  Luckily Ninjamurai is also equipped to wall grab. Even if you find yourself falling down a bottomless pit there’s always the saving chance you can wall jump your way back to safety.  But falling and jumping up walls can also lead you to hidden items.

Throughout each stage you can pickup health recovery, jutsu recovery, and throwing knives to aid you on your quest.  This is why exploration is essential to the game, because sometimes an item is just off screen enough that it can be missed if you don’t jump or slide down a wall.  There are also hidden items in the game that are in the shape of blocks from Open Emotion’s other game Mad Blocker Alpha.  These hidden blocks are only for score and achievement purposes but give you something extra to look for in each level.

Music has a techno upbeat rhythm, but falls pray to the same problem I had in Mad Blocker Alpha.  The tunes loop too quickly and become repetitive after only a few minutes.  Luckily each level has a unique track so once you complete a stage your ears are treated to a refreshing new sound.

Overall Open Emotion Studios has shown that they know how to make enjoyable bite sized games on the PSP Mini platform.  With Ninjamurai they have brought back the sweaty palmed excitement that nostalgic gamers long for.  The game may be compared to old classics like Strider or Shinobi, but it has enough unique elements of its own to make this a steal at the $1.99 price it’s listed at on PSN.

I give Ninjamurai a 4/5

This game was provided to SitSam for review.

Written by Bryan

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  1. […] “Overall Open Emotion Studios has shown that they know how to make enjoyable bite sized games on the PSP Mini platform.  With Ninjamurai they have brought back the sweaty palmed excitement that nostalgic gamers long for.  The game may be compared to old classics like Strider or Shinobi, but it has enough unique elements of its own to make this a steal at the $1.99 price it’s listed at on PSN.” Read Full Review […]

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