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DS  header logo

Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja

For: DS

This one's redundant

Product: Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja | Developer: Ninja Studio | Publisher: Atlus | Format: DS | Genre: Action | Players: 1 | Version: US
Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja DS, thumbnail 1
If you curl up and whimper at the thought of form-filling, interviews and night classes, don't worry – Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja isn't a job-hunting simulator. Unfortunately, it's not much more enjoyable.

Izuna and her band of fellow ninjas have been sacked from the local castle. It seems the nearest recruitment centre is in a local village, but when Izuna shows up, she accidentally enrages the six resident gods and throws a curse on the entire population.

She's not your average honour-loving ninja, you see. Solemnly memorised passages from the Bushido are replaced here with sassy quips, hard-earned wisdom is traded for flirty one-liners. In fact, the feel of Izuna's world – decked out in a colourful and intricate 2D anime style – is a curious juxtaposition of modern characters in an ancient setting. So while you'll encounter plenty of old prophecies and monks-in-training, the dialogue is snappy, light and fun.

The problems begin when you descend into the game's dungeons. Izuna's quest revolves around defeating the village's six gods and receiving an orb from each that will enable her to cure the villagers of the various curses she's brought upon them. As you receive more orbs, you also open up more shops and facilities around the village, allowing you to repair weapons – they get damaged as you use them – and store items.

Getting the orbs proves an involved endeavour. You'll take your cheery ninja-ette into a variety of dungeons, forests and caves, which are themed around their controlling god and infested with monsters. Naturally, you'll then have to hack your way through them.

Battling takes an interesting approach. The game uses a sort of active turn-based system, where actions aren't broken down into specific turns, but rather after Izuna's made a move then all other monsters in the dungeon get to make their moves. It's not as complicated as it could have been, and it does allow you plenty of time to make decisions about how to progress. This is important, since the dungeons are randomly generated and initially your map is incomplete.

Still, there's a fine line between challenging and frustrating. Random generation is a brilliant thing for replay value – you'll never see the same dungeon twice. But it doesn't help keep the game well balanced.

For example, the exit to the next dungeon level (and some consist of 50 levels) can appear right next to Izuna, which means you won't earn much experience. Alternatively, it could be right across the map, with legions of monsters in the way, meaning you're unlikely to get there alive – especially thanks to the invisible monster traps, which when you step on them summon hordes of beasties to your location.

This might still have made for a good challenge if Izuna wasn't so capricious with its items. Strewn across the dungeons you'll find a variety of swords, potions and talismans. The latter are the most important, as they give you a host of one-shot magical powers, from poisons to teleportation. They can also be fused onto weapons to give improved abilities. But should Izuna be defeated and fall unconscious, she'll lose all of her money, weapons and items, and be dropped back in the village to start over again.

It is possible to leave a dungeon midway, by choosing to exit instead of descending further, but you'll have to re-enter from the top. Equally there's a storehouse in the village where you can leave items, but since weapons are only of any use when Izuna's wielding them, there's little point. The result is that once you step into a dungeon, you're either going to lose everything or leave victorious.

This becomes more of a problem the further you get into the game. Not only are the dungeons larger, but Izuna gets access to better weapons as she levels up and can use more powerful talismans. But equipment is lost so frequently, and is so expensive to buy, it actually becomes easier (emotionally and financially) to charge back into a dungeon and pick up whatever's lying around. Of course, this completely removes any sense of progression and defeats the entire point of having talismans.

Perhaps this wouldn't be such a problem if Izuna had something else to offer – there's no multiplayer modes for example – but its dungeon-crawling mechanic is so intensely annoying as to burn up most of the fun you'll experience. For all but really obsessive gamers, the risk-versus-reward ratio is much too high. After a couple of hours, you'll feel like you're being unduly punished. As Izuna herself comments, "I wanted to give up, like, 90 million times!" Quite.
Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja
Reviewer photo
Mike Cook | 2 April 2007
She's got a cute smile and there are some nice touches, but Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja doesn't help the inexperienced, and doesn't reward the skilled. Don't hire this dungeon-crawler
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