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Prepare to unleash you inner Naruto…sorta!
Ninja Village is a new game from Kairosoft, maker of other adorable games such as Game Dev Story, Pocket Academy and Sushi Spinnery, all of which have a place of honor on my iPhone. How will Ninja Village stack up?
Well, pretty damn well!
You start off with a field, a house and a citizen that needs a house. You launch right into a tutorial that, within five minutes, has you knowing the basics of building, combat, selling supplies and buying equipment in your small ninja village. After conquering your surrounding overly-eager-join-your-village-after-you-kill-their-dudes villages, the real premise arises: join the deposed Shogun in uniting the land!
Fight feudal Japanese clans for fun and profit!
This is where the game becomes interesting. You need money to raise troops for the Shogun (apparently you’re the only one in the kingdom that can produce money) so developing your village is essential. Your villagers can only raise in level by Training, which costs you an increasing amount of cash with each level. Also, your villagers need equipment, which can raise their Work ability, their combat stats (useful for smaller battles the army can’t engage in) so there’s another tug on your wallet. Finally, you need to research a variety of techs, from new weapons and armor to new items to sell, which again empties your pocket. But the balancing act can be rewarding as you start to take ownership of the countryside and is surprising in depth for a mobile strategy.
The battle system is also pretty fun, involving a bit of strategy itself. Battle lines are arranged with melee Infantry in the front, followed by Gunners, then Archers and finally Cavalry in the back. Combat begins with Gunners taking a shot at the front lines. Then Archers launch a rain of death on any targeted group of warriors on the field. Infantry then make a run towards the opposing side’s front line. Finally the Cavalry charges into the opposing side. Once one side’s infantry is gone, Gunners, Infantry and Cavalry have a clear line the the next type of fighters. After three combat rounds, if no victor is decided, the fight ends in a draw. If you succeed, you gain money, new tech to research and maybe even a new villager dedicating his undying love to his or her conquerors!
The addiction level is pretty high, as you can use small amounts of time to launch a single battle or set up a new piece of acquired land. Of course with random uprisings, animal attacks (they join you also, apparently oaths of loyalty only matter if your win the most battles) and a finite time limit of sixteen years means you will be seeking perfection in time management and equipping the best on your troops.
On the downside, replay value isn’t as good as it should be. After the game ends, you can continue on with your village, contributing nothing to your high score. When you start a new game, you get to use one of your last game’s villagers as a template for a nameable free villager, but the second playthrough is very similar to the last one. In fact, almost identical. Replay is more about perfecting your approach as opposed to new elements, though the order you conquer villages changes the available tech and upgrades, and your army can be formed in new ways, so there is definitely an advantage to trying again.
Also, no fireballs. How do you do a ninja game without magical fireballs?
All in all, though, this game is a load of fun. Kairosoft’s city-building, combined with a separate combat element, has reached its greatest point with this entry. Combat is always fun to watch, the concept is solid, the graphics are as adorable as ever, and the replay of these games is becoming a lot better. If you’re looking for a little strategy in your mobile gaming, this may be the ninja dog you’re looking for.
Ninja Village is currently available on Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices. It is rated 4+ on the App Store, probably for non-bloody weapon violence and excessive cuteness.