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Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja Package Art
Success, Ninja Studios

Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja

She's hot, tough, silly and sarcastic. Izuna is a little bit of everything. She's also unemployed. So she created a little mess of her own, placed a town under the spells of the angry gods, and now must save her friends. She does all this in a dungeon crawler that takes patience and commitment to have a little bit of fun.


Izuna and her friends are well drawn on the top screen, but it is standard anime artwork. On the bottom screen, where the action takes place, is your everyday sprites. Izuna'a best quality is clarity in enemies and items, but it does little more than a top flight Game Boy Advance title.


It has been quite some time since a handheld game has used those little speakers for a purpose above what's just required. Izuna does not break the trend. The music and sound effects are passable but forgettable and do not vary much from item to item and level to level.


Izuna is split between a classic RPG overworld with six main game dungeons and two lengthy bonus dungeons. Dungeon is used in the strictest sense of the word. Izuna does not feature Zelda-like caverns full of puzzles, but randomly generated caves full of enemies. They amount to underground mazes, the goal of each to find a stairwell that takes Izuna to a lower floor of the dungeon that looks and plays much like the one above. It is repetitive, as each floor in each dungeon is practically identical in substance if not in structure. The randomly generated maps gives some added interest when a level must be repeated, but it does little to enhance the originality.

The random dungeons are what Atlus will advertise, but Izuna is more about defeating enemies that become progressively more difficult. In the early levels, Izuna can tear through the standard monsters with little more than her shuriken and an easy-to-find claw. Four or five levels in, and players will need to start making good use of the talismans or suffer the consequences. Talismans are basically spells that Izuna can use to either improve her weapons or attack enemies. When Izuna falls in battle, she loses all her collected money and items, meaning she will go back into the dungeon with nothing and fall again. If unprepared with the appropriate weapons, talismans and a decent plan of attack, it can be a long and frustrating experience.

The talisman system can be quite deep if players are willing to invest time in its possibilities. Along with regular usage, the spells can be pasted on weapons or thrown at enemies for different effects. Some push enemies away, or transport Izuna to a random location. Some have potentially negative effects like doubling an enemy. Each costs a different amount of limited SP points, which can only be replenished through other items. Izuna also moves on a grid in a semi-turn-based system. It allows players to use positioning as a battle strategy. When it is all managed properly, Izuna's arsenal against enemies can become quite impressive. Unfortunately, level bosses are best defeated by the same process in every dungeon, making these battles with the gods less thrilling than the journey to get to them.

One of Izuna's greatest strengths is its unashamed comedy. Little needs to be accomplished in the overworld between dungeons, but the conversations are genuinely funny. It feels like a funny foreign film dub. Nothing in the game is outwardly funny except the conversations. It's as if Atlus removed serious lines and replaced them with nonsense; but however they approached the dialogue, it's outstanding.




Comedy aside, Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja is a love it or hate it title. Without learning how to best use the items and talismans available to Izuna, this is a frustrating trip. But for those who enjoy the way Izuna forces players to use more than just a handful of attacks, the strategy of battle and the joy of victory can be quite fulfilling. Still, it is more repetitive than necessary and a bit too much on the shallow side.

final score 6.5/10

Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
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"Tiger uppercut!!"

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