Ninja Reflex Wii Review - 02/04/2008

The Wii's highest seller, Wii Play, is a mini-game compilation, and even some of the higher rated titles such as Rayman Raving Rabbids are just a bunch of mini-games glued together and sold for full price. Six mini-games, no matter how good they may be, cannot justify a 40 price tag. Ninja Reflex, unfortunately, falls into this category.

Ninja Reflex boasts that by playing the game you will learn to move like the tiger and strike like the dragon – none of which are true. When somebody releases a game with a concept this farfetched you know that it is just a money spinner. Who in the right mind would buy a video game, something that you have fun with, to improve their reaction time, or learn the way of the ninja? This is a question neither the game, nor your Sensei can answer.

When you boot up the title you are told to choose your ninja name, so not like Terry Governor, and you have hundreds of different combinations to choose from. There are two rows, the top layer being an adjective describing yourself and the second being your actual name. I opted for ‘Prickly Leaf’ because I thought it sounded funny. The plus side to choosing your name, and this is the only good thing, is that your teacher will actually say your name when confronting you. This gets boring quickly, and you get tired of hearing, “Leaf San’ (or whatever name you chose) to the point where you skip the Sensei’s lectures.

It's like Brain Training, but to become a Ninja...

The above was only the start of the boredom. There are 6 mini-games to choose from: Koi, Hashi, Shuriken, Hotaru, Nunchaku and Katana. While Nunchaku, Katana and Shuriken are all what you would expect to find in a game with ‘Ninja’ in the title the others are just plain weird. In Nunchaku you are told to wave your Wiimote in a figure of eight motion while nothing is happening and then whip it to smash any incoming objects. Nunchaku isn’t really one of the most fun to be honest, because all you’re doing is standing in a basement waiting for some old guy to lob fruits at you. The harder levels can be annoying too, as when you swing to hit something it often swings twice – giving you a ‘strike’ a la baseball.

Koi on the other hand works perfectly with the Wiimote, and it’s strange how this mini-game is one of the best. In Koi you are told to hover over the fish you want to catch until it pops out of the water, and then grab it by pressing A and B. If this is the way ninjas train, then it must be an easy ride to black belt!

Then there’s Katana, the only one where you actually get to kill anything. The aim of the game is to block every attack that the ‘Oni’ attempt and then slash them. This should have been the best one, but, yet again, it can get frustrating when you get to the harder levels. When the Oni come at you, you have to wait until they swing their sword (left, right or upwards) and then block accordingly. So, if they swing left, you have to keep your Wiimote vertically in your hands and thrust it over to your left hand side before they can hit you. And the same can be said about blocking on the right, but blocking upwards is the bad one. Your Sensei says that all you need to do is change your sword into a horizontal position and then put it above your head, but about 50% of the time (on about the 4th belt, I’ll come to that later) the game just didn’t acknowledge that I’d done the gesture.

Most of the mini-games are pretty dull.

Next I came across another strange one, one that made sense, but is strange nonetheless. In Hotaru all you have to do is press the A button whenever you see a firefly appear. It’s that simple. No Wiimote gestures are needed and no skill is needed either really. When you press A it comes up with your reaction time and the firefly disappears. That’s all there is to it, see if you can beat my best at 40ms.

Shuriken was the one where it actually felt like you were wielding the shuriken stars. In this you find yourself in a Chinese town where red and black ninjas run riot in a city full of Geishas. It is your job to defeat them all. The only problem was: you only get to throw at cardboard pictures of ninjas. Where’s the satisfaction in hitting a cardboard ninja with a shuriken star? To hit the ninjas you have to hover over them with your cursor, and press B – which locks on – and then flick the Wiimote to throw. While Shuriken certainly wasn’t the most fun, it certainly wasn’t frustrating.

You'd think all the game would be like this, but apparently, Ninjas don't actually fight people very often.

Finally, what came to be my favourite game, Hashi. This time you get to wield the greatest weapon of all time: The chopsticks! You watch as flies buzz across your screen, and all over Sensei’s food, all you have to do is catch the flies only using the chopsticks. To do this you hold A and B together to simulate snapping the two chopsticks together, and let go to drop a fly into a spinning bowl. It was probably my favourite because I never lost when we played as a family, but you weren’t supposed to know that.

The multiplayer isn’t the highlight of the game. You would think that a mini-game compilation would take pride in its family play opportunities, but it doesn’t. Playing with friends is no better than playing without, especially when the actual games aren’t that fun to start with!

Fishing is a favourite pastime of many Ninjas.

By the time you have read to here if you haven’t been put off yet, then the following paragraph isn’t going to give you any more hope. The game is set out into 10 sections – each having a belt test at the end. To get to each belt test you have to earn 5 jewels. To get a jewel you have to complete every challenge within a certain mini-game, which is as boring as it sounds. The actual belt tests are just 3 of the mini-games randomly chosen to test your skill. At then end of the test you are given a grade, A-C is a pass, and anything below and you fail. There really isn’t anything encouraging you to carry on going either, because all you unlock for completing a belt test is a couple of new names for your ninja.

Unless you’re looking to speed up your reflexes, or you’re just some drugged up wino who is obsessed with Ninjas, then this game isn’t for you. Don’t buy it.

- Tyler Roberts



Sanzaru Games
Wii - DS