Totally addicted to Ninjatown (DS)

March 3, 2009 Off By Tommy Gun

ninjatown-dsNinjatown is a tower defense game for the Nintendo DS, starring a whole bunch of Shawnimals characters. The whole game is absolutely adorable, with great animations, and lots of strategy. I was expecting to be able to play this while listening to music or podcasts, but it’s surprisingly involved. If even one enemy gets through, you won’t get an A. In stages where you’re protecting an object, just one strike from an enemy will take you down to a B rank. The enemies are fast, so you need to constantly be scrolling around the map watching for anyone who breaks through your defense, and be ready with your special powers (you can use wind to blow enemies back, or fry them, etc.). Here’s a quick summary of the game by the developer:

You step into the shoes of Ol’ Master Ninja, tasked with defending Ninjatown from waves of enemies trying to make their way through the town. To stop them, you construct Ninja Huts along their path, from which Ninjas will emerge to engage the enemy. Building each hut costs you Ninja Star Cookies, the currency of Ninjatown, and as you defeat enemies, you earn more cookies. You then re-invest these cookies into building and upgrading huts to deal with the ever increasing waves of enemies. You can also build something we call Modifier Buildings, that will endow any adjacent huts with a special ability. These include buildings like the Training Dojo, which can increase your attack power, or the Tea Shop, which makes your units move faster.

That’s only the basics though, among the new gameplay elements we introduce are Ol’ Master Ninja (OMN) Powers, which are unlocked throughout the game and help to supplement your defensive abilities. These give you powers like Get Off My Lawn, where the player blows into the microphone to push enemies around on the map, or Magnifryer, which lets you direct a beam of scorching hot light on your enemies.

The ninja huts you build are what you’d expect — slow powerful ninjas, fast weak ones, snipers, ice/fire ninjas, and so on. There are also building modifiers, which raise the attack power of the surrounding ninjas, increase their range, or get you more cookies (money). You can upgrade the huts, but that takes time, so you need to do it between waves, or hope you have enough ninjas out there while upgrading.

I just beat the game, getting A ranks on every stage (with the help of strategies on a couple stages). It’s an incredibly fun game, and its biggest fault is its length! It’s not that it’s so short, but it’s so much fun it leaves you wanting more, and there were so many obvious, easy ways to extend it!

Each of the ninja types, buildings, and special powers is slowly unlocked throughout the game. If they had allowed you to start the whole game over after finishing it, with all your powers unlocked, and tougher enemies, it would have doubled the play time, at least. There are also some extra modes that I would have loved to see, like a puzzle mode. They could have specific huts you’re able to build (e.g., 3 wee ninjas, 4 snipers, 1 training dojo), and that’s it. No money, upgrading, or powers, just pure strategy–which if done correctly could have helped you learn how to play effectively.

There is some uneven balancing in the game. The sniper ninjas are weak on ground enemies and strong on air, but the archers are strong on both. Once they’re unlocked, there’s no reason to use the snipers anymore. Once you get the lava ninjas (who set enemies on fire), why use archers? I never once used the mountain ninjas, and although I’m sure they’re helpful in some cases, I never needed them. Also, oddly enough the middle of the game was the toughest, since not everything was unlocked.

There are some great strategies you can try out that use a lot of the deeper options available. For instance, set up some snipers (forest/lava/etc. ninjas) at the beginning of the path, and set them to aim for “strongest.” This will take down all the enemies’ health, but shouldn’t kill any of them. Build a training dojo to increase their damage. Towards the end of the path, put more snipers set to aim for “weakest,” and build a ninja temple near them. This will cause them to kill as many enemies as they can, and gain lots of “happiness” and cookies.

By the end of some levels, I had so much money I wanted to see just how far I could take it, so it would have been great to have a “horde” mode where the enemies just keep coming, getting stronger and faster, until you’re defeated. The game pauses between waves, so you have all the time you need to sell/buy/upgrade for the next wave. But maybe a mode like this would be impossible for the DS to handle (though it was rock solid during the main game). If the enemies are simply stronger, rather than having huge numbers of them, I don’t see why this couldn’t be done.

Perhaps if the game does well they’ll make a sequel, and add some of this stuff in (level editor please!). Ninjatown doesn’t have much replay value (there’s no reason to replay a stage if you’ve already achieved an A, since it doesn’t save your time!), but it’s absolutely worth playing through once!