a NINPRO Game Review

—-OVERVIEW—-

The Cool, Civilian to Combat, Character Select

A must play videogame for its great sense of speed, aesthetic mayhem in the chaining system, and to discuss realistically-assembled spaces versus abstract levels in action games. While I have no doubts that people who enjoy Nintendo games will appreciate this title, I don’t think writing that is enough: this is the most compelling 3D superhero action game on the market. Everything else looks generic compared to when you see the results of pulling off a 50 chain combo or the triumph of getting to the vaunted 100 chain (a level 10). Can you keep up with the aesthetic bombardment? While in Ninja Gaiden 2 [360], Ryu practically bathed in explosions, here the big hits by your character explode out a giant colored word of “SMASH!!” (and the color changes based on your chain number count) and hitting multiple foes in a juicily-landed hit saturates the screen with numerous of the aforementioned visual effect.

The fast-moving, amusing presentation lets the player advance the plot with little down-time in reaching action scenarios and also allows breathing room to explore the world.A quick summary on the story or the story mechanics of this game: Nintendo story-lite*. Blow through text if you’re not interested in the character dialogue cutting people off mid-word. Down-time is better thought of as “what’s around the corner?” when it comes to getting to point B. Personally, I enjoyed everything so I wasn’t tapping my foot wishing for non-stop fighting, although deciding things by combat is the norm in this game. There’s an upbeat sense of relief interspersing the crisis points in the game that sets itself apart from other action titles.

—-ACTION—-

Complexity vs Speed, Scoring System, Aesthetic, Pacing, Frame of Mind

Action in the game is speed-oriented, smash-powered, and score multiplier-incentivized (i.e. chain number). Speed-oriented means that there is no block button, drastic changes can be made to player’s position from a standstill, and finding items ala Golden Hamsters are cleverly hidden but within close grasp (i.e. Shinobi on PS2).

 The animations (or mannerisms) really sell the personalities well and these subtle traits also do impact character handling, albeit subtly. Each character here controls in a favorable manner having fast, responsive attacks and maneuvering capabilities. A very surprising feat, in my opinion, because usually someone in a cast of videogame characters sucks to play as. In terms of combat moves available, everything is unlockable for a character near immediately (or more descriptively, after 1 battle). There are a small variety of moves that remind me of something akin to a 2D beat-em-up game. You have your standard melee combo, a burst attack, a character-specific unique action, and a super special move. There is a flight state enterable with Supergirl / Star Sapphire that has its own moveset, which gives those two characters more complexity. Another character has the only double jump in the game. Stuff like that.

Only at one point did I feel a lull, and that was my fault for just mashing the Y-button to do one type of attack. It was effective and unchallenged. However, I quickly learned how to bait attacks to refresh your burst attack, pop enemies up into the air for juggles or to bounce them off a wall, zip across the stage to quickly grab powerUP drops to refill the burst gauge or charge the super special attack gauge faster. Additionally, not getting hit gives you a satisfaction like collecting Sonic rings because the game’s visual effects explode out around you as you essentially ‘charge’ your state of play into an untouchable death run like a STG. As such there is a hyper awareness of tuning into the different timing mixed crowds of enemies will employ against you.

Several types of combat scenarios play out keeping things fresh since being a hero is more than pulverizing bad guys mano-a-mano. Typically you have a defeat em all, then there are clear outs (cars, bombs, etc.), defend (building, citizen), and quick collection (balloons, jewels). The defend missions stand out the most to me in how they required different tactics to pass. This was a shock to my nearing-complacency in fighting; a false sense of security in an E10+ game does lead to getting hit with rather abrupt Game Overs. The use of weight plays a minor role adding a little seen innovation to the action genre. Robots or man-sized teddy bears, while not heavy-looking, you find out when doing defense missions that they are atypically heavy for a regular enemy, which means they are a problem to displace from a non-moving important target (i.e. the building, not your highly-mobile character).

Stages are beatable within a short time like an arcade game level short time. And this might be for good reason as getting too good or ensured success or prolonged battle is aesthetically chaotic. Sensory overload. No checkpoints. Quick restarts. One point of interest is how screwed up you can get when switching a scenario or award requirement. There are also real devious punishments that go into play like getting hit by a move with a status effect, normally a minor irritation, that will cause you to fail a mission.

IMO, the combat system works best for group encounters. So boss fights with minions are better than solo boss fights. Bosses are hit-or-miss: Giganta, one of the supervillains you face, is your typical large enemy with slow attacks that is hardly phased by your own attacks forcing you to whittle them down her health while respecting her attack range and power. Typical stuff. 1 surprise boss fight was an expressible disappointment to me given their known power level. When you think of boss fights you might immediately think of a large, heavy-weight creature — well, I won’t spoil it but it is clever how the enemy weight attributes are used in this game, although not for the boss fights oddly.

This game has been compared — only in the most superficial way possible of a one-off sentence that I interpret as a name drop than knowledgeable opinion — by game reviewers to Bayonetta and Devil May Cry. Both those games are crammed full of mixing attack inputs and directional inputs where this game is not. An apt comparison would be to Shinobi because both combat systems work on having no interruption, but here you get goodies to absorb rather than souls. Getting a chain to 50 is a challenge, 100 a triumph. So bop /= bludgeon. Bop /= cut. This game’s combat is of its own unique system.

—-RESULTS—-

Reason, Replay Value, Building / Decor

Your mission success is treated with a Sonic Adventure-styled results screen accompanied by a catchy electronic victory music track whereas other action games I’d expect somber music scores to conclude combat. And you can not only see the results but your score will be put to good use dumping money and points into buying new decors for a dilapidated city and also for outfits. I think the city building is neat, but I am wondering how much more venturable through it should be for a battle ground ala Devil’s Third multiplayer.

Frustration of saving the best for last. Of the Action treats. There is this 1 insane Test of Valor-esque mission where 99 enemies must be defeated while you dodge lasers from floating laser beam-firing pods that fully surround the area. Got a chain of 350 on this mission! ‘Go, Wonder Woman, Go!’ is crowd-control 5-out-of-5 stars game design other companies wish they could incorporate with a level design so seemingly simple it almost boggles the mind how the greatest superhero event lies herein. What’s great here is how even with minor moments and disappointing moments and “this is why I play videogames” moments, all that stuff, every highlight in the game is easily accessible in a mission select to play at a moment’s notice.


NEW STANDARDS

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—-Super Heroes—-

#1: Supergirl

Power Lift – Supergirl’s super-strength in action! Test it out on enemies or other objects during battle!
Super-Breath – Spin around and breathe out an icy blast with Super-Breath! You can freeze your enemies in place!
Heat Vision – Supergirl’s burning gaze can melt away crime, even from a distance!

Flying controls have a nice application of acceleration to them allowing you to hold down the air boost ramming junk out of your way. Again, the ‘feel’, the heft, the elasticity of character control is dead-on here. When you enter flight-state either through jumping OR a throw (automatically puts you into a flight state) because of this regrounding quirk, you are encouraged to air-boost in place of taking that slight delay and mini ‘cloudpoof’ landing lag. If you attack when falling, you don’t keep dropping: Supergirl levels out in the air and proceeds to air combo, which is something to note so that a player has to give a melee button a reprieve to land. To further explain: that slight delay provides a necessary clear visual/animation/indication that the player is entering or about to enter another avatar-state and allows far more comfortable mistake-correcting. I personally think this is quite noticeable at high speeds (or more accurately, maintaining a high speed) where character control gets more volatile and these small/minute changes are stronger felt than at a normal speed.

Flying is normally started by pressing and holding the jump button while in the air from a jump. But you can also activate it by grabbing an enemy, which immediately raises your character off the ground. You can also activate it from falling off a building. You can immediately reground if you flight-steer into the ground (or skim across its surface) and release the jump button. The low flying jump state is possible from a grabbed and released enemy. Otherwise, you are stuck in a hovering item-carrying avatar-state. The low flying edit comment means that it is faster to reground by diving at the ground while airborne than doing a free fall drop, although past a certain height it is far faster to free fall (it does sacrifice the player’s forward momentum).

The purpose of freezing objects is for 1) a damaging 360-degree spin attack; 2) stop enemy advancement; 3) gives your teammates easy to hit enemies. 4) hit a particular enemy that would hurt you if meleed; 5) drop airborne enemies. It’s a very effective move and makes you question whether to ever drop Supergirl from your team as a playable character or backup.

#2: Batgirl

Batarang – An iconic gadget that’s a must-have for any crime-fighting adventures!
Bat-Hook – Press the X Button to send the Bat-Hook flying to the tops of buildings in front of you. From there, you can bound all the way up to them in one quick shot!
Bat-Rocket – Launch a volley of handmade rockets toward the enemy!

Batgirl’s grapple hook, which you get to figure out on your own, lets you zip forward by shooting at pavement (requires you to do a jump beforehand and be of a certain angle) or grab a distant enemy to pull the player towards (in the game it just informs you about rooftop hooking) to bop them disrupting a heavier, less staggerable enemy.

#3: Wonder Woman

Flying Shield – Throw your shield at enemies, or create a platform to jump onto by aiming at a wall!
Lasso of Truth – Wield the iconic Lasso of Truth like a champion! Throw it at nearby enemies to round them up and draw them in.
Bracelet Blast – Use the Bracelet Blast to channel energy that blows away nearby foes!

Has the best rebounding (or redirection) ability out of all the characters. Is able to cancel her spring momentum with an aerial attack, which allows her to spam her aerial for higher than normal damage output near walls. Her lasso attack is lethal on the specific stages. Bracelet Blast complements her lasso attack very well.

—-Super Villains—-

#4: Harley Quinn

Spree Spring – Use this mega jump to spread some mayhem wherever you go—look out, Metropolis!
Pop Roulette – A weapon as mischievous as Harley Quinn! It could release a firecracker to stun, fire to burn, or even hearts to heal—but you’ll never know for sure until you try it out!
No Time Bomb – Use your mallet to make this bomb go BOOM! Even though there’s no time to spare, Harley Quinn always avoids what comes next.

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Harley Quinn can launch herself an enormous distance to reach enemies on the opposite side of a large stage. Not only is the spring fully aimable (also cancellable) in any direction (minus downwards, of course) but it also, as you can see, moves the player at a thrillingly fast speed. It’s quite a challenge to time this as a long-range option to aerial spin-slash through people, but that just makes it all-the-more satisfying when it connects. If you or anyone else can name other action games that let you close such a massive distance in such a small time from a standstill position please share. Being able to do that spring maneuver makes a big difference for time attacks.

Due to the rapidity of strikes from her aerial spin-slash, Harley is the ideal character for combo meter-building. Her super move is great for its high damage output, but is awful for hitting enemies that are moving away.

#5: Catwoman

Merry Tail – Crack the whip with Merry Tail! Strike down nearby enemies with an attack as valuable as Catwoman’s stash of jewels.
Cat Pounce – Press the X Button to hook Catwoman’s whip onto the tops of buildings with feline ferocity.
Cat Dance – Run super fast and scratch away enemies with Cat Dance! It’s easy to use no matter how many opponents you’re facing.

Catwoman is the the most agile character able to repeatedly jump cancel her rolling dodge allowing her to sharply accelerate at a low latitude at a rapid speed. Technically, she is slightly slower than Supergirl’s flight speed. Her whip is less versatile than Batgirl’s grappling hook. Cat Dance is an excellent super for crowd control and maneuverability.

#6: Star Sapphire

Cage of Love – Cage of Love is a construct of Star Sapphire’s power ring that stuns and traps its enemies inside!
Ring Lift – Lift enemies and objects with Ring Lift! What happens when you throw is different from Supergirl’s Power Lift.
Flail of Ambivalence – Use Star Sapphire’s power ring to construct a huge hammer and pound away at your opponents!

Star Sapphire’s jab attack shoots heart energy (a beam shot for her Smash) that makes her a little OP since enemies have a tough time retaliating from a distance. Her other moves do require you to close in distance, with Flail of Ambivalence being a slow one-directional, and thus the most unwieldy, special attack in the game.

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—-Combat Full Breakdown—-

Offense-wise, the base mechanics that apply to all characters:

Melee Attack – you hit up to 4-5 times (character dependent), with the last hit being a ‘power strike’ that grants you i. frames. The same applies in the air with two exceptions.

Skill Attack – a burst move with a period of recovery afterwards before reusable. Is able to be used as a ‘power strike’. A powerful attack that grants you super armor. Each character’s skill attack greatly differs from the other.

Unique Action – usually a huge mobility-oriented move.

Special Move – your big powerful super move that deals lots of damage and grants invulnerability. Fills automatically when receiving damage.

[Note: Supergirl / Star Sapphire have access to an additional move via a flight-state, which has its own special controls and physics engine, that allows them to boost-ram enemies as a tech chase move.]

Defense-wise, the base mechanics that apply to all characters:

Dodge – 1) can be used as a dodge offset to move within range of an otherwise unreachable enemy to continue your combo; 2) can be used to dodge normally; 3) can be used to ‘just dodge’, which acts as a slowmo-inducing move that lets you follow up with a ‘powerstrike’ or jump-cancel; 4) can be used to cancel a skill attack.

Jump – 1) can be used as a means of jumping over an attack; 2) can be used from a ‘just dodge’ in order to not expose the player to an anticipated attack; 3) can be used after a regular dodge to eliminate recovery lag

Stage Utility-wise, the base mechanics differ depending on character but generally are of a similar effect:

Prior offensive and defensive moves were just describing what happens in a regular interaction space. Stage hazards and stage elements also are able to be used to up the amount of interactions possible. (i.e. you can hide behind a crate, wall, column, etc. to escape laser-detection shots). This is game demonstrably reminded me how important compelling stage design is for 3D action games. [Note: I forgot to talk about Lock-On but I don’t use it anyway] Because of said items there is a well-varied interactable hit difference of things – pass through, bounce off of, collision, hard collision, bop, blow on, blow through.

—-VS other vieogame Superheroes—-

Other super hero games can’t keep up with the uniqueness seen here — there are games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003) where hit feedback pops out ‘action words’, however those visual effects are much less impactful since they are weakly blinkered — from the comic book-styled nature of both its physics engine, particularly the mobility but also the ‘POW!! enemy goes flying’ knockback, and color use whereas the other ‘high-def’ super hero games to me feel and look rather drab like playing a Mortal Kombat game that removes the red blood for the censored grey ‘sweat’ dulled color, almost to the point of no hit impact visual effect at all.


THE HEIGHT OF ABILITIES AND DYNAMIC INTERACTIONS

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