Mini Ninjas

Content review for this game:
Pertaining to the ESRB rating and My age rating.

Gameplay sum up: After finishing your training and fetching your burly friend Futo, you'll begin your mission to fight the Evil Samurai Warlord's vast army of Samurai. And the base gameplay consists of traversing the huge levels, as you pluck ingredient plants scattered about to make your own potions; smash open pots and barrels to collect items and coins to buy potion recipes from merchant Tengu; and trace Kuji Shrines to offer rare flowers and recieve new Kuju Magic Scrolls (from Fireball to Slow Time; 12 in all). Playable character Hiro will use his sneaking (through tall grass and shrubbery), Kuju and sword skills (like his Power Attacks to take out multiple enemies at once) to combat enemy Samurai (who drop red [restore Power Attack meter], blue [replenish Ki] and gold orbs [experience points] when downed) free caged animals (also rewarding you with gold orbs) and, once in a while, his captured ninja allies, who will then join him on his quest—allowing you to switch between them on the fly...

These new fighters—six in all—will lend their own unique skills to Hiro's efforts, from the hypnotizing, flute-wielding Suzume, to bow and arrow armed Shun, in addition to Hiro's ability to possess animals (from frogs to bears), helping him sneak, sniff out ingredients, or with some, combat Samurai. As he progresses, Hiro will automatically level up—netting him upgrades in health and Ki, among others—and he will also have to navigate plaforming portions by jumping gaps, hopping and running from wall to wall, shimmying on ledges, and balancing on tightropes or narrow posts. Hiro's hat does a good job of acting as a boat, snow sled and arrow shield, but when low on health, you'll have to use potions, catch fish or shake fruit off trees and shrubs to restore it. After a few levels, Hiro will reach a Samurai castle, which you will then fight through, defeat the boss at its end and move onto the next area—each level also has a set amount of optional collectables, like hidden Jizo statues, and the Wandering Tengu will reward you with items if you fetch them requested ingredients.

Cartoon violence: After being banished from the empire for three-hundred years—in which there was a time of great peace—the Evil Samurai Warlord reappears, bringing his Dark Kuju magic (both light and Dark Kuju were unpracticed and forgotten by the ninja since), and uses it to turn harmless forest animals into a vast army of Samurai warriors—in using Kuju magic for his own evil means, he has disrupted the balance of nature, bringing floods, earthquakes and violent storms. Observing the signs from his outlook on Ninja Mountain, the righteous Ninja Master sends his best ninja to uncover their meaning, but none return. In final acceptance of this, he dispatches his youngest and most inexperienced ninja, the rare Kuju user, Hiro, and his burly friend Futo; they are the empire's only hope, but are they up to the challenge...?

Your sole enemies are forest animals turned into faceless (devoid little glowing-eyes) Samurai, and their many types (blue armor=weak, elite red armor=stronger); small, sword-armed grunt Samurai, their larger captains, archers (that shoot wood, fire and rocket arrows), spearmen, and big Samurai (armed with oversized maces); umbrella hat Samurai armed with dual short-swords; Dark Monks (that use their flutes to stun you and turn nearby animals into grunt Samurai); and—skeleton—Ghosts. You will be fighting these Samurai with Hiro's sword, Futo's hammer, Suzume's flute, Shun's bow and arrows, Tora's claws, and Kunoichi's spear, along with Hiro's Kuju Magic (Meteor Storm, Tornado, Ice Storm, etc.), his stealth attacks, Cherry Bombs, sneeze-inducing Pepper Bombs, Time Bombs and stunning Shurikens—each character also has a Power Attack; Tora will unleash a flurry of spinning claw attacks; Futo will roll himself into a ball and ram them, Shun fires rocket arrows, etc. As you fight, the Samurai will flash red on contact, then, with a *pop,* vanish in a puff of black smoke, revert to animals and run off unharmed—all combat is entirely non-lethal.

When you're spotted, Samurai will dash toward you in groups squealing, "Ninini-ninja, Ninja!" in joyous, high-pitched tones, as the larger, in appearance only, Captains send them out and then run in the opposite direction—arms flailing above their heads—and archers hang back, firing from the ground, walled barricades or their rickety wooden watchtowers (which you can collapse in a few quick strikes). Later combat portions do step up, as Elite Samurai, Dark Monks and portals that spawn enemies become more common, along with the fact that archers are armed with rocket and fire arrows, and Samurai often ambush you later in. One level is set in a misty, skull-filled graveyard, where veiled skeletal ghosts hover over to drain your Ki and health. And in cutscenes, Samurai are seen setting a village aflame; and as they report their failures, the Evil, glowing-eyed Warlord calls his lackeys idiots and imbeciles in a deep, ominous voice, angrily turning them back into animals. Age-wise, bosses can be large and menacing, and later gameplay can get tense, but there's no killing, and with its cute visuals and light-hearted approach to every situation, it's 100% kid-friendly.

Crude humor: After Hiro defeats the first boss, the Evil Samurai Warlord exclaims to his subordinates that "with a blow of wind, his (Hiro's) journey will come to a smelly end," in reference to the second boss, Windy Pants. As you traverse the level leading up to your encounter with Windy Pants, you can hear far off echoes of his gas-passing the closer you get. When the rotund boss is reached, he passes gas (abundant noises associated with this act included) as Hiro enters; one hand held to his nose, the other waving in disgust—Windy Pants then bends his bottom at Hiro and lets out a big one, which proceeds to follow Hiro. He continues this through the battle, forcing you to roll under his legs and redirect the green gas clouds toward him...

Windy Pants will also "shoot" small gas clouds your way in a semi-circle pattern (with rapid flatulent sounds); when closer to defeat, he'll squat down, grunt and repeatedly launch himself into the air with giant gas clouds, sending shock waves of gas towards you; and after defeat, he grunts, then explodes into a giant cloud of gas—the 360/PS3 Achievement/Trophy for beating Windy Pants is titled "Smell You Later." After hearing of his defeat, the Evil Samurai Warlord tells his subordinates that, in reference to the third boss, "we will get him (Hiro) into deep water this time...and he will flush away," and you can later create a "Burping Potion"—if consumed, it will make your character belch out a large cloud of gas, stunning all enemies enveloped.

Content review posted: 09/26/09

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