I wish I could sum up what Ninja Striker! actually is. I could say it’s a platformer, because it shares a lot with the genre. There is a lot of jumping, plenty of attacking, and the tropes of the genre are present in spike traps and bottomless pits. The boss fights that bookend the worlds are reminiscent of Mega Man in their style and difficulty. Depending on which ninja you choose to play with, they each have an ability that can hinder or help in a certain boss fight, much like the various power-ups in the Capcom series alter the fights at the level end.
It’s the meat of the game that is hard to pin down. Enemies are placed in certain spots throughout the small levels and must be attacked in a chain of hits. At times, Ninja Striker! feels like a rhythm game as you press the attack button to home in on the enemy ahead of you, killing them and then moving on to the next. Most can be reached by pressing the attack button at a certain time however, if the gap is too large between foes, you can burst jump in the air to reach the next bad guy.
Doing this right builds a multiplier chain, which reflects in your final score. The idea being that you must reach the end in an outlandish way using style and precision in movement which grants a star rating out of three. Nothing more is unlocked by doing well and the coins throughout the levels don’t enable buying abilities or equipment in a shop. Everything is about points. Which is not a bad thing, the basis of the game is to feel flashy and fluid in completing each stage.
The bosses vary wildly, much like each different ninja. Some throw out small tornadoes which must be dodged before homing in on them for the attack. One scatters knives through the air which must either be dodged or deflected using the special ability. For the standard ninja, his ability is akin to a cannonball spin through the air, with his blade outstretched. This passes through some attacks, but not all. And here is the biggest issue with the game; the hitboxes of enemies and attacks are so incredibly different that you often find yourself not knowing if you’ll get struck by a projectile or not.
The other Ninja Striker! characters use different abilities and come with either more or less health. The female ninja, Kunoichi, fires Kunai blades which propel her in the direction she faces. Helpful for movement, but can kill the enemy in front which results in dropping the combo. Chain Sickle uses a grapple attack to move around the screen and Robot Ninja has a jetpack enabling a hover mechanic and a dashing spiral. Some of these characters make the concept of the game a lot harder, because linking attacks is more awkward and if you don’t gel with one of the cast, you’re effectively losing a quarter of the game.
With such a game, I’d be looking for the amount of fun I’m having. The levels are enjoyable, but repetitive, which is a failure of the concept. It feels great to reach the end of a level without dropping an attack, but the lack of a reward beyond a score makes everything seem a little pointless. The bosses are perhaps the best bit of the game and there are only a handful of them to experience. They take real skill but the difficulty is fair, you’re always learning how to move with more precision and attack at the right moments.
I guess Ninja Striker! is a platform game, with rhythm mechanics. It could also be a title that just requires you hit the attack button at certain points to breeze through levels before reaching the real fun in the boss fight. If you don’t care about scores or stars, the game loses so much appeal, because the ‘story’ is non-existent. This will appeal to perfectionists and maybe speedrunners who want to showcase skills, but it left me wanting so much more.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Flyhigh Works