Ninja Smasher

words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by Q-Cumber Factory for 3DS, PC, and iOS, originally released for mobile in 2014, with an updated version released in 2016.
Ninja Smasher is an open world ninja action game with a simple premise: a bad guy has kidnapped the princess, and you must fight to rescue her. The kidnapping takes place during a playable introduction, which also acts as a tutorial, explaining the basic controls and movement abilities. The ninja fights his way toward the princess and eventually comes face-to-face with the red mustachioed goon who has taken her prisoner… but unfortunately, the baddie’s magic is too much for the squat martial artist, who is literally blown out of the castle gates.


With the gates locked and no way to open them, the ninja sets off on an adventure to grow his strength and learn new abilities to help him take the princess back. At the outset, the player is free to move to the left or the right, although the path to the left dead-ends at a cave that appears to require additional abilities to navigate. Moving to the right, the player eventually encounters a cave that leads to a standalone dungeon area, and completing this earns him the ability to double jump, opening up much of the world for exploration.


At no point is the player offered express direction as to where his objectives lie; instead he is free to explore the world as he likes, referring to his metroidvania map for highlighted areas that warrant additional investigation. As the player earns new abilities, new areas become accessible, allowing him to return to previously-visited areas and open new paths. As he moves out of the opening areas, enemies change from forest creatures like bats, snakes, and frogs, and into color-coded ninjas with various abilities and some odd foes like an acorn that rides on top of a cloud that shoots lightning.


At the start of the game, the player can simply run and perform a 3x variable jump. The ninja can swing his sword in a wide swipe, hitting nearby enemies with ease, with most early foes being killed in one or two hits. The ninja also has a downward strike, although this technique is not required in combat (though it can be used to press buttons), as the ninja’s wide swipe is sufficient to hit enemies below him. The ninja bounces upward a bit with each successful strike, allowing him to repeatedly bounce off enemies’ heads to deliver multiple slashes in succession.


The ninja's starting secondary ability allows him to dash in a straight line in eight directions. This maneuver can be used to advance on enemies quickly and smash them with a sword strike, and it can also be used to cancel out of a spinning dash which is activated automatically when the player touches directional arrows.


Directional arrows appear throughout the adventure. In their simplest form, they allow one-way travel in a given direction, and enemies struck along the way are automatically killed as the ninja spins wildly with his sword extended. More complex configurations allow the ninja to be knocked around like a pinball, as he bounces between a dozen or more arrows in succession. In some cases, these are played as hands-off speed segments where the player simply watches the action unfold on the screen, Sonic the Hedgehog-style, but in other cases, the player is required to cancel out of a dash in order to avoid being caught in a loop.


Early on, the player begins to encounter shops where he can purchase items from a furry forest creature with a tendency to end his sentences with “ponpon!” Here, the player may purchase health and magic potions that may be stored and stockpiled, as well as consumable throwing weapons like shuriken and bombs (bombs are unlocked later in the game), and expensive permanent health and magic extensions.


The player begins the game with only three hearts in his health meter, and these may be lost in half-heart increments. By purchasing health extensions in the shop and by thoroughly exploring the world around him, this can be extended to a whopping 16 hearts. Similarly, magic can be upgraded as well, allowing players to unleash a flurry of magic-based attacks, taking out enemies and wearing down boss’ life bars quickly. Magic refills slowly over time, making magic-refilling potions a waste outside of boss encounters.


Throughout his adventure, the ninja unlocks several secondary abilities, many of which draw from this magic meter, and most offer combat and environmental navigation enhancements. Fireballs allow the ninja to strike enemies from a distance as well as light candles that open certain gates. Similarly, wind can be used to hit distant foes as well as slice through ropes, and water can be used to extinguish candles, which also opens gates.


Among these secondary abilities are bombs, which must be purchased from a shop, and only 30 may be carried at a time (players may carry many more shuriken, but these are less powerful). However, bombs are extremely powerful, taking out foes in a single hit and breaking through large stone blocks. In addition, going into a boss battle with a full compliment of bombs essentially ensures victory, as boss’ health meters are worn down quickly by their explosive power.


In general, the game is quite easy, even before the player uncovers life and magic extensions. Checkpoints are fairly frequent and restore all of the player’s health and magic, and there are only a few areas that offer insta-death traps. The fact that players can stock up on health-restoring potions means that even the toughest boss encounter can be won through brute force. That said, bosses don’t offer much complexity in the first place, so the only thing standing in the way of victory against any boss is its overlong health bar.


Much of the game’s challenge comes from getting through dungeons and reaching the boss to begin with, and the difficulty and complexity of these dungeons escalates slowly throughout the experience. Later dungeons require players to navigate a gauntlet of challenges to reach keys and move forward, making use of all of their abilities along the way.


The most useful of the player’s advanced techniques is the ability to perform a jump after striking an enemy, allowing the ninja to hop from enemy to enemy, slashing them into oblivion without ever touching the ground. In fact, there are several challenges where the player is required to string together a series of midair attacks while suspended over pits of lava or bamboo spikes. Killed enemies drop coins and/or health-restoring hearts, and these are drawn toward the ninja at a short range, allowing players to quickly move from one enemy to the next while filling their pockets with coins and getting back a bit of health to make up for any timing mistakes along the way.


The open world is fairly large, with loads of branching paths, many of which can only be overcome with abilities learned later in the game, and there are some shortcuts and rewards in place for players who take full advantage of their movesets. To assist with navigation, there are several doorways that lead back to the cave near the player’s starting position, allowing the player to warp around to previously-visited sections of the map.


Dungeon areas are marked on the overworld map as they are discovered, and these offer self-contained areas with their own maps. Dungeons often have branching paths as well, including some areas that are inaccessible with the player’s given abilities - even abilities earned within the dungeons - requiring a repeat visit in order to fully explore them. Dungeons are inaccessible until certain abilities are acquired, resulting in a linear progression from one dungeon to the next.


Once you complete the game, “touch mode” is unlocked, allowing the game to be played with the touch pad. More interestingly, three new playable characters are unlocked, each with their own distinct movement abilities. Chain Ninja has a long grapple chain that lets you pull yourself in any direction and pull yourself toward enemies for quick kills. Kuniochi has an infinite supply of knives that can hit enemies at a distance, and Robot Ninja has a machine gun and a drill for a head.



2D CRED
Ninja Smasher was originally developed by Rogue Ninja and Q-Cumber Factory for iOS and released in 2014 as a follow-up to Rogue Factory’s previous ninja title, Ninja Striker, released in 2013.


An updated version of the game was released in 2016 by Q-Cumber Factory and PUMO. PUMO’s previous credits include Kingdom's Item Shop and Shinjuku Dungeon.

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