STEVE MILES·SUNDAY, AUGUST 4, 2019
Shinobi Spirits S comes to Switch, fresh from the company Tomcreate, and comes packed full of pleasant surprises and content.
You play as resistance fighter Saizo Kirigakure, a member of the Beast Brigade assigned to combat General Tokugawa and his army of ninjas, and end the ongoing war and perhaps bring peace to the country. After returning from a mission, Saizo is met with a very big problem.. All the Resistance Brigade are missing, including your General and so what begins here,is the quest to find your missing comrades and leader, and at least restore a resistance army capable of.. Well resisting!
As a side scrolling ninja action game, Saizo starts with limited moves and abilities and must progress through a campaign comprising of 4 stages in each area. Saizo can be confronted by various enemy types along the way from Tokugawas forces. Dog Ninjas, Ninja Cats, Archer Crows, Pike Rats and the vicious Dagger Bunny, to name but a few. For each enemy faced and killed, Saizo can pick up shards left by the bodies. Red shards that are known as “summon” shards, and white shards that are collected and act as the games currency , should you finish the stage. Between stages, you can use white shards collected to upgrade current abilities and unlock new moves in a “Skills Tree” screen. This “Tree” is quite large and will take a lot of shards and time and effort to “max out” each ability/move set.
Luckily, there are also bonus shards to be earned by completing” stage objectives”. Each stage has 3 levels of difficulty(easy, normal, hard) that carry different objectives. These objectives can be, finishing a stage under a certain time, taking no damage or achieving a specific number of hits combo,to name but a few. I find it pleasing to see that all the difficulty levels come “unlocked” to begin with, thus allowing freedom of choice and plenty of replay value from the off.
Graphics are colourful and sharp, and the movement and attacks are all smooth and fluid with no slowdown. You will need to attack waves of enemies with your sword and build up the combo meter, whilst also avoiding projectiles from ranged enemies. These projectiles can land from every direction,consisting of shurikens and carrot daggers (Yes, carrot daggers! ) that cause damage and also mini whirlwinds in later stages,that can blow you away in any direction, thus throwing you off course or into enemy attacks.
After so many stages you will find a comrade tied up and approaching them will release and unlock that comrade for future help in the next stage. Remember I mentioned those “Red summon shards” you collect as you kill enemies? By pressing A, a comrade will join the battle and aid and help you. Each comrade has their own ability, such as Anayama the Medic, who will open a first aid box and throw bandages and plasters at you, filling up some of your health bar in the process,and Mochizuki the explosive expert, who will attack enemies around you with sticks of dynamite! These comrades can also be levelled up in the “skills tree” also, and a word of caution that for each stage, there’s a certain limit to the amount of times you can summon a comrade, meaning strategic planning is in order to get maximum assistance and finish the stage.
Sound is a mental Japanese electronic tune with banging drum and high pitched vocal throughout.. Irritable perhaps but I LOVE It!
Like I stated earlier, there is a fair amount of content here, with each stage containing and requiring fast combat and fast movement to get a quick stage time. There are also hidden Scrolls in each stage, that will reveal new abilities and also 72 pieces of 2 letters that needs to be pieced together to reveal handwritten messages.. Every 4th stage of an area will contain a Boss fight, before unlocking the next area of stages in the campaign.These Bosses are not too big and not too difficult on easier difficulty levels, with some revealing a few surprises on the way.
Overall, this is a very good game with plenty to do and plenty to replay with thousands of shards to earn, and scrolls to find. Each cutesy character is instantly likeable, with every member certainly more crouching tiger than cuddly tiger!
Of course, nothing is entirely perfect and there are a few small niggles I encountered in my adventure here. Firstly, the controls are fine with left stick to move and right hand on buttons to jump and attack, but in order to take out ranged enemies with shurikens, you need to use the right stick and also position it in the direction you want to throw them. This is all well and good, but with one hand on the left stick and buttons to jump and slash, I needed to stop attacking just to throw shurikens, leaving me stationary and prone to taking damage! It felt cumbersome and a little awkward if I’m honest.
Secondly,there is quite a difficulty curve from Area 1 to Area 2. First area and the enemies are minimal and slow to attack with a relatively short distance from start to finish, yet get in the second area, and enemies are frequent, maps are bigger, and projectiles are coming from all directions, and with the bigger map and no pointers to show you where to go, it’s easy to be knocked off a ledge and fall several levels back down to where you started! So from a 5 minute stage in Area 1,you get a 15 minute stage in Area 2 because you are frequently lost where to go and what to do.This will definitely lead to boredom and frustration to some players, or a welcome addition to the more hardcore gamer out there.
Shinobi Spirit S has a lot going for it, if you can see past the small niggles and the limited animations in the basic enemy attacks. It possesses a lot of replayability and could be summed up as a Muramasa meets Animal Crossing type of game in terms of the gameplay and characters. Value wise, you get a game with this amount of content, at full price for just under $9!
That’s a lot of Bang (or should it be Yin/Yang) for your Buck!
Thanks to TOMCREATE for the game and code.