Ninjin: Clash of Carrots Review: Fast & Furryious
Kalvin Martinez / Oct 17th, 2018 No Comments
The beat ‘em up genre is hard genre to reinvent. At its core, the gameplay focuses on the visceral joy of wrecking some goons in a video game. Where does innovation come into play within the genre? How can you improve on something that, by its nature, doesn’t need it?
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is a cool game that delivers some innovation to the genre. It uses a side-scrolling presentation to create a unique, high-speed beat ‘em up. What helps elevate the game’s arcade-y combat is a story grounded by over-the-top villains.
It is hard to tell what you’ll do when faced with an unwinnable situation. Will you stand up against the impossibility or will you bow before a superior force? For the rabbit village, there is no bowing. When the evil empire and its greedy, self-absorbed emperor and his malicious soldiers take all the carrots from the rabbit village, two of its fiercest warriors decide they will not stand for the aggression. They embark on a journey of righteousness to recover what is rightfully theirs.
Ninjin’s story is one right out of a fable. The industrious and clever animals make sure to have plenty of food for the harsh winter, while the lazy animals use force to take what they lack. Hell, its a story right out of the headlines, where a government with a superior military uses its dominance to take resources from a powerless populace. In many ways, it is modern tale told in a fanciful take of feudal Japan where rabbits and pigs fight over carrots.
While the premise gives you motivation for fighting, what makes Ninjin’s narrative worthwhile is how silly the empire and its emperor are. There is a good sense of humor to Ninjin. Whether it is the emperor’s petulant son whining about being defeated or the emperor’s own arrogance and cockiness at not believing the rabbits could possibly pose a threat, there is a great satisfaction to proving them wrong. The juxtaposition of the inept empire and its bumbling generals with its terrifying firepower experience agonizing defeat after agonizing defeat is wonderful schadenfreude.
Feel the Steel
In Ninjin: Clash of Carrots, you can choose from one of two characters: a ninja rabbit or a shinobi fox. The difference between them is cosmetic as they both have access to the same weapons. Two characters exist largely for the co-op portion of the game, where you can have fox and rabbit dispatching enemies together.
Regardless of what ninja you choose, you will be able to utilize a melee weapon, a ranged weapon and a special talisman. Both ninjas have their pick of range weapons, including a shuriken, kunai, boomerang or trap-based weapons like spiked barbs or an exploding doll of yourself (these help you deal with enemies you’d much rather not get near).
The melee weapons you can choose from are varied between swords, axes, spears and basically any other crazy thing you could hit someone with, such as a tongue and an umbrella. It is the colorful range of melee weapons that makes the game so fun. Figuring out what best works for any given situation or just seeing what some of the wilder weapons does is a blast.
Special talismans are unlocked later in the game. They unlock powerful moves that can be activated based on different elements upon achieving a high level of combos. It benefits you greatly to form large combo chains to fill up that special meter. This can be the difference between completing a level or not, so talismans are game changers.
To regain the carrots maliciously stolen from your village, you’re going to have to take out a lot of imperial soldiers. Some are easy to dispatch, such as the common foot soldiers who only swing a sword in one direction. Others are much more tricky. As a matter of fact, the majority of enemies you’ll encounter in any given level will be much tougher and more deadly than the scrub foot soldiers.
Every level in Ninjin is broken up into multiple sections. In each section, you’ll face a specific type of enemy (as is the case early on) or multiple types of enemies in many different configurations (as is the case later in the game). By defeating enemies in each section, you’ll advance and end up facing off against a boss who will test your strength and your evasion, but more importantly, your conviction. Some bosses are brand new enemy types that have multipart forms to deal with, while some are just really difficult enemy configurations.
The coolest thing about Ninjin’s combat is the great sting each new enemy gets when they’re introduced in between sections. Everything slows down, then a fantastic, stylish graphic pops on screen introducing the new enemy like it’s a grindhouse movie or an anime. There is a huge variety to the enemies you’ll face, so there are plenty of opportunities for these fun stings. The game’s humor also is on display when late in the game a new cameleon enemy shows up during an introduction for a common foot soldier.
Combat itself utilizes a parallax side-scroll where you’re constantly moving forward. Unlike a runner, you have a full range of motion within the screen, allowing you plenty of opportunities for evasion. Truthfully, if you’re not evading smartly then you’re going to die quickly. Even lowly foot soldiers hit for a lot of damage, so if you’re not being quick with evasion, you’ll die quickly. Every level is a test of stamina because each section is tough.
The combat is fast, but victory can’t be won on brute force alone. Enemies overwhelm with number alone, but many have tactics and superior might. You aren’t going to get by simply mashing your melee button or by throwing projectiles. Switching up your tactics is important. However, what will save you and rack up those combos is utilizing your dash attacks. These dash attacks are incredibly strong and will damage multiple enemies as you move forward or backward. Like projectiles, they cost precious stamina, so there is a risk and reward.
What combat truly boils down to is smart stamina use. All stamina-fueled attacks — like projectiles, dash attacks and elemental melee strikes — make it easier to dispatch your enemies. However, depleting your stamina for higher power attacks comes at a price. Evasion also uses stamina, which means if you aren’t careful, you can be vulnerable to attack without a way to dodge after a several attacks. Stamina refills after use, but you need to be still for it to fill up, leaving you open to attacks. The key to surviving is managing your stamina use effectively so you can deliver devastating attacks while not leaving yourself vulnerable to enemies.
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots is an interesting beat ‘em up. It can be deceptively simple at first, but the way it builds on its simplicity through clever level design, enemy configurations and intriguing loadout combinations results in a rather complex series of mechanics. The game’s breezy tone and fun story make for a lighthearted experience that lets its gameplay shine.
Ninjin: Clash of Carrots was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the developer.
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