You’d be forgiven for thinking that Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja was based on some obscure anime property. Hell, it looks it, from its pink-haired heroine with eyes the size of baseballs to its light-hearted sense of humor - and you can bet the publishers are betting on that assumption to sell the game. But, to its credit, it’s an original property chock full of quirky characters, ridiculous situations, and a pretty solid combat system.
While traveling with her posse, presumably looking for a little freelance ninja work, Izuna’s zest for life accidentally earns her a curse from some irritable deities. Hey - could happen to anyone. But goodness, things go topsy-turvy for her ilk and the other villagers. Feelings are hurt, neuroses develop, cats and dogs move in together - mass hysteria.
You’ll have to weave your way through some meandering conversion within the small village of Kamiari. They're oftentimes very amusing, with characters exclaiming things like "I suck, I suck, I suck!" - well, we find it funny, at least. But it sucks that you can only unlock the dungeons by sitting through the dialogue. Luckily, our mischievous heroine’s tale unfolds fairly quickly, with character development taking a backseat to the on-foot action. And the B button functions as a "dash" to speed up most of the tedious legwork.
Primary gameplay is derived from battling bubbly miscreants through a handful of randomly generated dungeons. A largely competent battle system is in place here; based around an extremely dynamic turn-based procedure peppered with L button shortcuts (for Bombs, Caltrops, Shurikens, etc.) You’ll want to take the time to implement your collected Talismans into the weapons found scattered along the dungeon floors, but don’t get to attached to them - 'cause they break. Often. Not that it matters much, because given the frequency with which you’ll undoubtedly die, you lose all of your items and weapons unless you can get them to the storeroom. Turning the DS off while in a dungeon has the same bankrupting effect... so don’t do that.
As you descend further into the dungeons you’ll encounter still more enemies, or rather, colored variants of those once thought vanquished. Subterranean sure, but hardly groundbreaking. The only real strategy to speak of is whether you’ll want to take the time to fight baddies and level up, or hurriedly make your way downstairs (no keys needed) to meet the boss and claim your prize.
It’s not that Izuna plays all that badly by any means. It’s an unabashed dungeon crawler, and you’ll scrape your knees bloody dragging yourself across the dank and craggy floor in this absurd quest of gods and orbs. As long as you’re comfortable with a great degree of difficulty (and a bit of monotony), and provided you’re comfortable with your own mortality, Izuna offers a reasonable distraction.