|System: Wii, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Sanzaru||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: EA / Nunchuck Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 4, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
Ninja Reflex aims to improve your reaction time to ninja-like levels. It sounds simple enough, right? Well, it is a simple premise, but there's some pretty smart gameplay behind this simplistic idea. And if you think this game is only going to test your ability to hit buttons quickly, then you are quite mistaken. The game uses party-style mini-games to test and strengthen your reflexes in several ways. And the good news is that these mini-games are actually quite fun, and don't suffer from the repetitiousness that many other games in the emergent "self-improvement" genre suffer from.
Ninja Reflex starts off by having you select a ninja-style name, which essentially consists of an adjective and a noun. You have a whole bunch to choose from, and some of the combinations end up being pretty funny. I ended up choosing Lucky Wind at the beginning and then changing my name to Giggling Bamboo and Orange Apple as the game progressed. And if you've got a real flair for ninja names, the good news is that you can unlock more ninja names as you progress in the game, and the final result is over 25,000 possible ninja names!
After you have picked your super-cool ninja name, you begin the game as a white belt ninja. The goal of the game is to progress all the way to a third degree black belt. You do this by completing a certain number of mini-games at your current belt level and then taking a belt test to unlock the next belt difficulty level. As you get higher belt levels, the mini-games you have already played become harder, and you also unlock new minigames.
The way that the mini-games are structured, however, is very cohesive. There are six different categories that all of the mini-games fall into: Hotaru (firefly), Koi, Nunchaku, Katana, Shuriken, and Hashi (flies). Each of these different categories has a variety of different mini-games that follow a certain theme that has its own unique reflex-inspired control scheme. All of these modes also have separate multiplayer functions that support up to four players!
The Hotaru mode is the most basic of the six, and has you focusing on the screen and pressing the A button as soon as you see fireflies. However, as you unlock more difficult mini-games, the Hotaru level becomes unexpectedly challenging. One of the most memorably frustrating mini-games involved pressing the button exactly one second ( +/- 0.01) after the firefly appears. And trust me, saying "Mississippi" is not as effective as you may have been led to believe!
The Koi set of mini-games has you tracking and catching Koi out of a stream. You have to carefully put your hand on top of a fish and follow it until part of its body comes out of the water. When that happens, you have to press the A and B buttons quickly without hitting to water to catch the fish. Different mini-games will have you tracking different kinds of koi or chasing down one specific koi. This mini-game category is probably the simplest and easiest throughout the game, but it is extremely fun, and is great if you are frustrated with one of the other minigame categories.
Nunchaku has you wielding a pair of Nunchucks and breaking objects that are hurled at you at an infrequent pace. You are able to control the nunchuck by initially waving your Wii-mote around in a figure-eight motion to get your momentum going and then swinging in the direction of the object to break it. Different games in this category include survival challenges and a baseball-inspired challenge that penalizes you for taking unnecessary swings and "striking out." This mini-game is quite challenging, especially with those who (like myself) struggle with depth perception on-screen.