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NinjaTown was release in October 2008 exclusively for the DS. Based on the Wee Ninja from the Shawnimals line of characters and toys, it is a basic strategy game with an adorable concept. Sure, I felt a little silly playing it, but it was fun and you gotta love the ninja!
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The story is straight out of an NES game from Japan. Ninja Town, populated solely by, you guessed it, Wee Ninja has been peaceful for a long time. Then one day a volcano erupts by some unnatural means and Mr. Demon (from the Dark Woods) sends little devils to attack Ninja Town. It is your duty to protect Ninja Town from the demon marauders.
This has got to be one of the most awesome premises for a game I've heard of in ages. Not only is it a decent story-line, but it also doesn't take itself too seriously. Sure it is simple, but so are some of the best games of all time (BurgerTime, anyone?).
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NinjaTown is a simple strategy game in which you must build up ninja town in order to populate it with many different kinds of ninja so the ninja can protect the town from the attacking demons. You don't actually fight anyone. You just build and upgrade ninja houses and other buildings around the town. Oh, but you need cookies (delicious cookies!) in order to build, and in order to get the cookies your ninja army must defeat the demons (who, apparently carry a lot of cookies on them for some reason). Once you have enough cookies you can build more houses and defeat more demons.
Each part of the game is separated into sections of building and attacking (similar to Lock's Quest) only the periods of time are much shorter. Plus, since you aren't actually fighting, you can build while the ninja are busy with the devils. Also, you can heal ninja by sending them home if their life bars (which show up above their heads) get too low.
The only way you can actually participate in the combat is by the special Ol' Ninja attacks you learn as the game goes on. You can implement them by pressing on the Old Hickory Stick in the corner of the screen and doing what the screen prompts (as in blowing into the mic to blow away enemies). However, each attack takes up happiness (which is displayed on the Old Hickory Stick). You build up happiness by defeating more devils.
At the end of each level you are given a grade (yes, just like in school). If you are having a hard time passing a level you can re-play it on easy and pass with an E. However, I passed all the levels with A's, so I can't say its a very hard game. Or maybe I'm just a strategic genius... Okay, it's not a hard game.
All in all, the game play is fast paced and fun. All of the control is done primarily with the touch screen (tap on a vacant lot to build, tap on an existing house to upgrade it and so on) and the control pad (to scroll around the town). There is always a lull between each wave of demons which gives you a moment to heal or get your bearings (but even this can be sped up if you feel you don't need it).
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Graphics and Sound
The graphics of NinjaTown are how DS games are supposed to look. While it is by no means stretching the DS's capabilities (they are just very simple cell shaded cartoons) all the colors are crisp and the lines are clean. Everything is clear and in focus at all times. Oh, and best of all it is cute. Almost sickeningly cute, but in a really good way. I just want to pick up and hug the Wee Ninja!
The music is also very fitting. It is a number of upbeat Asian inspired tunes that fit the pace of the action well. It blends in nicely with the different levels, although I can't say I noticed it changing very often. However, I never felt the need to lower the volume on my DS. In fact, the music had me tapping my feet at some points!
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As silly as the whole premise might sound, NinjaTown is a whole bunch of addictive fun. I didn't want to stop playing after each level (some of which can take 10 plus minutes). The little cut scenes before each level are even fun to watch. The game play is so easy and relaxing there is really no sense of dread or fear of losing. Its a really great game to play to unwind, let loose and have a good laugh.
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I can see why NinjaTown won so many awards. Although it may look and sound like a really simple strategy game (and maybe it just is) it is so much fun to play that that no longer matters. It is perfect on the DS because you can play a level on the go or settle in for a long session. Either way I doubt you'll want to put it down once you pick it up. Go ahead. I dare you. I ninja dare you!