"Tower defense." I can't think of a genre name that sounds more boring, frankly. I somewhat shamefully must confess that's part of why I've avoided the genre until now. But then, a little game called Ninjatown
popped up on my radar. Populated by cute and humorous little ninjas and assorted et ceteras from the Shawnimals
universe, it immediately clicked with the part of my brain that can't resist that sort of thing. I had to find out more, even if it meant defending towers.
Let's get the burning question out of your minds first: is this a kiddie game? You may have been conditioned by years of IGN to think so based on the bright colors, but let me assure you that Ninjatown
is firmly in post-kiddie territory. The Shawnimals ninjas may indeed be cute and cuddly, but the forms they take—such as the Anti-Ninja who is slow, hulking and day-glo orange rather than fast, precise and adept at blending in... and the Business Ninja whose caffeine addiction gives him powers of crazy speed—are pretty clearly set up to make the, uh, "mature" types laugh. The script and light story are pretty good, too; the characters steal the show.
's many denizens, both friend and foe alike, are a rarity in character-based games; their designs are a tremendously good fit for their in-game abilities. There are no tacked-on abilities created specifically for the game. It lends a sense of believability that if you were to assemble for yourself a ninja army in the Ninjatown universe, you'd expect their behavior and capabilities to be exactly as they are in the game.
So what about the game itself? Well, again, as a dude who never got into the tower defense genre, not having a slate of games to compare it to—I really enjoy it. The oncoming waves of enemies follow the streets through town (which, in later levels, branch off in unpredictable ways—in other words, don't worry that this makes things too easy.) You must build Ninja Huts along those paths, holding various kinds of ninjas that will attack when they have the enemy in their sights. There's plenty of strategy to be had once you get further in as certain units won't work as well (or, even, not at all) against certain classes of enemies.
Should you find your ground troops aren't doing as well as they could, you've got access to special powers that let you—as Ol' Master Ninja, floating high above the fray in his balloon—lend support. Some are based on mic blowing, which I have to mutter under my breath
(get it?) about, but given that you're not using them terribly often, it's largely forgivable. The concept is a neat touch that makes you feel more into the battle than simply as a general leading his troops.
I noted earlier that the Nintendo Channel demo was pretty easy
, but true to the answers in our interview
, the difficulty does ramp up pleasingly. As I write this, several battles which I barely squeaked by on are bearing large C and D ranks on the map select screens, taunting me to come back and try to to better. It's a very satisfying level of challenge.
is a solid game, and I'm happy that it opened my eyes to the joys of a genre I'd really not touched before. It's yet another addition to the long list of DS titles I'm pleased to have played over the system's lifetime.