Mini Ninjas First Look

Ninjas don't always want to kill. Sometimes, they want to save the world.

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If you're the type of person who has an overwhelmingly deep-seated fear of ninjas that prevents you from being able to leave the house at night, you may want to take a moment to look into Eidos and Io Interactive's upcoming Mini Ninjas. Rather than portraying ninjas as the bloodthirsty killing machines so often seen in games, this kid-friendly action adventure game uses a bright and charming visual aesthetic to present ninjas as cute, dare we say lovable little scamps who simply want to save the world from the forces of evil magic--all while using nonlethal means. In fact, after recently having our first look at Mini Ninjas, you'd be hard-pressed to tell that the game is being developed by the same folks behind the Hitman series.

In this world, ninjas are cute little fellas.
In this world, ninjas are cute little fellas.

In Mini Ninjas, you'll be playing as a young, inexperienced ninja by the name of Hiro. He's sent on a journey to seek out and take on the Evil Samurai Warlord, a nasty villain who is using kuji magic to turn cute animals into evil samurai. The narrative is described by the member of Io Interactive we spoke with as a Lord of the Rings-style quest that takes Hiro and his friends through various woods and villages on a quest to the Lost Volcano, where their enemy resides. It's there where they need to put an end to his evil, transforming ways, but not until they've used combat, magic, and old-fashioned adventuring skills to get them there.

The basics of combat will vary depending on which character you choose to play. The default character, Hiro, is quick and agile, and can use his ninja staff to attack enemies in a flurry of moves and quick dashes. Playing as the giant, lumbering Futo, you move more slowly but can attack with much more thundering force. You'll have a few basic moves when taking on the groups of enemies that make up the villages in the bulk of the locales, but boss battles involve more puzzle-solving than mindless smashing. In one example, Hiro had to lure a gigantic boss close to a wooden pillar so the boss would swing and get his massive sword stuck in the wood. Then Hiro dashed up the sword and arm like a bridge so he could attack the boss right in the face.

Not as cute: bosses. Those guys are ugly.
Not as cute: bosses. Those guys are ugly.

Magic will also play a role in traversing the game's dangerous outdoor trails and pathways. If you want to take on enemies directly, you can use kuji magic to unleash attack spells on them, but you can also use magic to assume the spirit form of nearby animals. In one example, we saw Hiro take on the form of a wild boar and charge tusk-first into an unsuspecting group of evil samurai, and other options include assuming the form of a powerful bear or a quick fox. But no matter how you take on these bad guys, the results are always the same; instead of dying, they revert to their original animal form that existed before the Evil Samurai Warlord turned them into his minions.

Adding some variety to the combat are quests that require you to go out and search the forests for specific kinds of flowers to unlock new magical abilities, experience orbs spread around the world that let you level up your character's various traits, and sequences that let you ride a ninja hat like a sled down snowy mountain slopes and river rapids. We'll have the chance to see how all of these different elements come together as we get closer to Mini Ninjas' fall 2009 release date. It's currently in development for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii, and DS.

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