PAX 08: Ninja Town
Day two of PAX was a great day for my eyeballs! After being thoroughly impressed by Sega’s Valkyria Chronicles and its unique watercolor-sketch graphics, we headed over to Southpeak’s booth to check out what they had on offer. One of the games, Ninja Town for the DS, was so pretty I was tempted to break the “One Pin Only!” rule posted on a sign above a pile of swag. But I only took one; I wouldn’t want to anger Old Master Ninja.
Ninja Town is a simple tower-defense RTS for the Nintendo DS. The build I was shown was a pre-release copy that was complete – which is perfectly fine, as it seems to be plenty polished now. After receiving a brief tutorial from Old Master Ninja, a cute ninja with a beard, I was put to work building houses full of other ninjas to held defend the town from red devils. These devils follow a set path from one side of the map to the other, and pass through your ninja town where your units can dispatch them. Only two units were being shown off – the Wee Ninja, a sort of basic infantry unit, and the Anti Ninja, an orange-clad ninja who moved slowly but dealt far more damage. Their houses could be “upgraded”, meaning their attack radii increased and the units inside became stronger. It’s simple, and controlled almost entirely with the stylus (the d-pad is used to scroll the map.) I was told that later levels would feature multiple paths and entryways for the red devils to use.
Ninja Town is focused on singleplayer storytelling. The universe and characters were designed by Shawn, the man behind Shawnimals, and I got a chance to speak with him about the design process. The Wee Ninja and Red Devil characters were actually designed way back in 2003; by 2005, the decision to put them into a game was being finalized. Of course, the actual Ninja Town universe and story hadn’t been created yet. Shawn informed me that the game’s story was engineered to be cute, funny, and engaging, and from what I saw, that design came through. Still, with that focus, a competetive multiplayer mode is also available. Two players can play a level simultaneously and compare scores at the end, and powerups in one game can be used to disrupt the other player to gain an advantage. Ninja Town is being released for Nintendo DS this October – so if Halloween is too scary for you, it’s going to be the perfect cuddly companion.