DS

North America

Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja

by Aaron Kaluszka - April 4, 2007, 5:52 pm PDT
Total comments: 2

6.5

Don’t let this cute kunoichi’s looks seduce you.

Unlike more modern hack-and-slash style games, Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja is an old-school dungeon crawler with a thinly-veiled attempt at a more modern story. A true Rogue derivative, Izuna’s difficulty and depth will likely only be appreciated by fans of the genre.

Though Izuna is primarily focused on combat, there is some semblance of story in the game. Izuna and her associates have recently come to a remote town in search of work. However, Izuna has an obstinate personality, and this soon gets her into trouble. Immediately upon arrival, she angers the gods of the village, led by Takushiki, who put various curses on its inhabitants as well as Izuna’s friends. Izuna must enter the dungeon lairs of each god and defeat them in order to obtain orbs, which will cure the village.

When I say “old-school," take this into consideration: despite battles taking place directly on the underworld floor, combat is essentially turn based. Izuna moves a single space or performs an attack and then all of the enemies do the same. Even when in town, Izuna takes a step and all the villagers take a step. This can be particularly maddening when trying to catch up to somebody who’s running in circles. Izuna’s life is slowly replenished every time she takes a step.

Nearly everything about the dungeons is randomly generated. The floor layouts change every time you visit a dungeon. Enemies, traps, and items are also randomly placed. Even item stats are random. Dungeons are full of items, which are picked up automatically by walking over them. That is, until your inventory is full. In what is often a chore, players wanting the new item will have to move off of the space, open their inventory, drop an item, and go back and pick up the new item. By the way, inventory changes also count as a turn.

Items and money collected in the dungeons can be stored in the overworld, however, this option isn’t particularly useful. If you don’t lose your items from a string of bad luck in a dungeon, your favorite weapon may just snap in the heat of battle.

Battle with regular enemies is mostly a back-and-forth hit fest, though some monsters are weaker to certain weapons and many have special attacks. There are plenty of status effects such as darkness and float, which are gained from enemy attacks, item use, or dungeon traps. Bosses have much more complex behavior than the regular enemies and are much more interesting in combat, able to perform a wide variety of magical attacks. They are gods, after all.

The gameplay can get surprisingly deep if players take the time to consider their options and actions. Weapons and other items can be equipped, dropped, or thrown. Izuna can equip either a sword and arm guard or a pair of claws. Talismans and magic spells can be cast immediately, or they can be stuck onto weapons. Once stuck, the weapons will gain a special status effect. However, some spells are too powerful for a particular weapon, and will cause it to weaken and break. Weakened weapons can be repaired if they haven’t shattered completely.

The primary problem with Izuna is that despite a well thought out strategy, the randomness of the game will often result in the players’ defeat - over and over again. Once defeated, Izuna is returned to the town with experience intact, but without any items. No matter the level of weaponry collected, everything is gone. Reached the boss after a couple dozen floors and an hour of gameplay? It doesn’t matter, Izuna must go through it all over again. Maybe the next time Izuna’s stats will be high enough, the right recovery items appear, and a surprise enemy ambush won’t happen. Maybe.

Of course, all of that level grinding is by design. The game features eight dungeons, each with increasing numbers of floors, but offers little gameplay variety and nothing much to do in the overworld. The game is all about battles, and after defeating Takushiki, he and the other gods can be fought over and over again, increasing in strength and defense each time.

Keeping in the Atlus tradition, the English translation is well-done technically, and certainly there is plenty of humorous dialogue. However, most of the text feels sorely out of place in a medieval Japanese setting. Obviously, ancient Japan didn’t have red-clad, pink-haired female ninjas running around, but the belligerent personality of Izuna clashes with the overall tone of the game. Gamers will cringe at Izuna’s defiant and headstrong attitude, as well as the methods she employs in trying to get her way, such as seduction and suicidal threats. As a result, Izuna’s character isn’t particularly pleasant, and while the dialogue attempts to make light of the situation, it often ends up as tired banter. And in case you were wondering about the suggestive art used to promote the game, nothing approaching that level of sexuality is actually found within.

Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja is fun for a while, but the brutal consequences of the game design are not for everyone. With little story development or cinematics, it is likely that only fans of traditional dungeon crawlers will find much to appreciate.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6.5 7.5 7.5 5 5 6.5
Graphics
6.5

The presentation is mixed and does not do the game’s concept art justice. While the character art features a static, but well-drawn manga style, the remainder of the graphics make the game feel like a quick port from the GBA. On the other hand, Izuna’s sprite is certainly better than an @ symbol running around.

Sound
7.5

Fusing traditional Japanese instruments with a more modern beat, Izuna’s soundtrack provides a pleasant atmosphere. The dungeon music tracks are particularly catchy. Characters also speak phrases in Japanese, which enhances the feel of the setting.

Control
7.5

The game contains a lot of menu traversing and a touch control scheme might have been a good idea, but is completely absent. Control is performed entirely with the buttons and directional pad, but this standard scheme is pretty solid and includes a few well thought-out features. For example, diagonal attacks are possible, and it may be more difficult to press diagonally, but pressing R makes it so only diagonal presses are registered, eliminating possible error.

Gameplay
5

The game is perhaps based a little too much on chance for its own good, and its unforgiving nature is likely to turn off many players. If you manage to stick with it, Izuna’s gameplay does manage to offer a depth not evident at first.

Lastability
5

While, in theory, randomly-generated dungeons should give the game more replay value, the gameplay doesn’t warrant a significant time investment. However, if players take some time to experiment with weapons and magic, the game becomes more interesting. Masochists will appreciate the inclusion of a bonus dungeon.

Final
6.5

Clearly targeted at a niche audience, Izuna isn’t a game suited for all gamers, but fans of the roguelikes will appreciate a slightly different face to an old genre.

Summary

Pros
  • Solid roguelike gameplay
  • Sound adds a lot to the atmosphere
Cons
  • No mercy defeats may be a turn off
  • Random elements need more balancing
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

planetidiotApril 05, 2007

A Rogue-like game on the DS? I may have to check this out face-icon-small-smile.gif

planetidiotMay 31, 2007

I bought it, and it's everything I wanted it to be. If you know what "Rogue-like" means, and have hopes for this game, you won't be disappointed. If you don't know what that means, stay away (or find out).

As difficult as the reviewer makes it out to be, it's much easier than any Rogue game I've played. Usually when you die (and you will die in a Rogue-like game many times) it's game over. No saves, no continues, bye, sorry, better luck next time. Not to mention this game actually tells you what the items do before you unknowingly poison yourself. The combat is better than Rogue too. You can change directions without moving and there's a lot of powerful items and weapons. The game isn't that hard as long as you remember that the enemies in the next dungeon are more dangerous than you think they will be. Always go in with a Kikan scroll to warp back to town when things look rough. And you can return to earlier dungeons to find them if the next dungeon is too hard.

I like the game a lot if you can't tell. I have an hour train ride to the city every day and this kills a lot of time.

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Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja Box Art

Genre RPG
Developer Ninja Studio
Players1
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja
Release Feb 20, 2007
PublisherAtlus
RatingEveryone 10+
jpn: Gouma Reifu Den Izuna
Release Jun 08, 2006
PublisherSuccess
RatingAll Ages
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