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I-Ninja Package Art


I-Ninja is one of those games that you didn’t hear a lot about before its release. First shown at E3 2003, this Namco platformer offers absolutely nothing new that hasn’t been done in a game before. There are coins to collect, levels to conquer, bosses to beat, and new abilities to be acquired as you progress through the game. The main character is simply named, Ninja. These are all very standard, even clichéd elements that are found in most games of the platform genre. But I-Ninja performs all these so well that it does not necessarily have to offer anything new in order to be one of the best platformers of the year.


I-Ninja's graphics are straightforward yet extremely well done. The five different “hub-worlds” offer five distinct locals where the player can choose what level he wants to play. The worlds are themed appropriately, ranging from dangerous jungles full of foliage and waterfalls, to a sea-side port that has seagulls gracefully floating above.

The games textures are fairly simple but get the job done. I-Ninja offers appealing bright colors and plenty of 'em, and shines particularly well in character designs. I-Ninja features cute little deformed characters which are adorable and will make you smile. It is quite funny when you see a short little ninja with an oversized head running on-screen screaming in a ninja rage with his katana fully drawn. The enemies and especially the bosses will equally catch your eye. Bosses include a giant robotic fish named Ventis and scarecrow wizard who attacks with elemental magic that makes the screen glow oh-so bright.

On the technical side of things, the GameCube version of I-Ninja does support widescreen TV’s.


Namco decided to go with cheesy 80’s dance club tunes for the audio. I-Ninja’s music is generic and features unending beeps and bonks that are surprisingly listenable. Even though they are run-of-the-mill and uninspiring, they never got on my nerves and they suit the game well. If you want a ninja game that features an orchestrated score this is not it, but the music fits the game and that’s what matters.

The voice acting of the characters in I-Ninja is really wonderful and hilarious. Silly ninja-screams spew forth from your character as you decimate your foes with your mad ninja skills. The conversations between Ninja and his master, Sensei, are very funny and had me laughing in no time. Sensei tries to offer wise advice to Ninja while Ninja throws sarcastic insults Sensei’s way. Sensei even offers little Ninja some Confucius style quotes that will make you chuckle. All this adds to the overall charm of the game. The game even offers Dolby Digital Pro Logic II support which is always a plus.


The gameplay of I-Ninja is the crown jewel of the package. You play as “Ninja”, a short little guy that packs a punch. He wears traditional ninja robes and sports a shiny katana but underneath this façade is one crazy, hyperactive ninja. He prefers the “slice first, ask questions never” approach to things and is a wise-guy, always smarting off to his master. But underneath this character lies a true warrior with a solid set of moves. He can throw shurikens and shoot high-explosive darts at his enemies. Ninja can double jump, swing on his “ninja chain” and the little guy even features hovering action when he swings his blade over his head like a helicopter. Add all this to a set of super powerful special moves that you acquire later in the game and you have one mighty-fine ninja.

The story is silly and comical. The evil emperor O-Dor is trying to take over the world using his Ranx army (haha…O-Dor….Ranx…) and you have been charged with saving it. The story begins with Ninja sneaking into a secret mountain hideout where he “rescues” his captive master, Sensei, and slays a dragon only to accidentally cut his masters head off. Even though the story is silly it’s funny enough to make you want to advance through the game so you can see more of the hilarious conversations between Ninja and Sensei.

As you progress through the levels you collect grades (similar to the Stars/Shines in the recent Mario games). These grades allow you to access new levels and eventually upgrade your katana. The levels offer a wide selection of areas for you to conquer with your ninja skills. There is a surprising amount of variety hidden within I-Ninja. For example, one level’s goal is to roll a giant robot eyeball back to a beach. Another’s is to kill as many Ranx troopers as you can within the time limit. Yet another has you boxing it out with a giant robot on the beach. There are even several levels that feature Super Monkey Ball type challenges. It’s the variety within this game that makes up for the standard gameplay clichés. As soon as you tire of doing one thing the game throws an entirely different gameplay element at you.

The level select system is very similar to the one found in Super Mario 64 where the player has a variety of options as to which area he wishes to play. Of course there are certain areas not accessible until you meet certain requirements, but the options are there.




I-Ninja is a pleasent surprise amidst the barrage of games that have been released lately. It’s cute and funny and at the same time it takes the gameplay seriously. The subtle touches that are found throughout the game are what make it such a joy to play. Even though it offers nothing new to the platform genre it takes existing bits from Mario, Sonic, Klonoa and many other platformers and adds attitude with a sense of humor to create a style all its own. And there are plenty of mini-games to occupy you after you complete the main game (which takes around 10-12 hours). My only real gripe is the camera, which sometimes doesn’t respond well to the action. Still, if you haven’t played a solid platformer in a while, or if you just want to be entertained by a short, smart-talking ninja, give I-Ninja a try. You just might be as pleasantly surprised as I was. Also, if you purchase the game at select retailers you also receive Pac-Man vs. free, and that makes a sweet purchase even sweeter.

final score 8.4/10

Staff Avatar Zach Pharr
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"I love lamp."

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