Mini Ninjas – first-look

Whereas in Sonic the freed animals just hop away and vanish, in Mini Ninjas they’re released into the surrounding area, and as a novice user of Kuji magic himself, Hiro can take temporary control of them, harnessing their special animal abilities to navigate the environment in different ways. For example, possessing a wily fox means you can sneak past patrols when you don’t want to fight. The larger the enemy, the larger the animal inside, and grabbing something like a bear or gorilla enables you to let loose a blood-curdling roar that will send smaller enemies running for the hills in terror.

Above screen taken from Xbox 360 version

Most of the time, though, Hiro is so powerful a character that you wouldn’t want to turn him into a frog or whatever. His diminutive stature makes him perfectly capable of sneaking in long grass without animal assistance, and once the appropriate spell scrolls have been located he has some great moves that can take down multiple enemies in one go.

One of the first ones you get your hands on allows you to leap into the air, slow the action and target several enemies by touching them with a cursor. As you level up with Hiro you’ll be able to pick out more enemies at once. Release the button and Hiro dashes between each soldier, slashing them with his sword and freeing a menagerie of cute creatures. Hiro can also use his massive ninja hat as a shield – so massive is the hat, in fact, it can even be turned upside down and used as a boat. In one particular sequence, Hiro has to outrun an avalanche on a snowy mountain by using the hat as a sled. It’s surely some of the handiest headgear in gaming.

Above screen taken from Xbox 360 version

Futo can be summoned at any time, replacing Hiro when something big and tough needs smashing. While Futo doesn’t have Hiro’s magic powers, his hammer is an essential tool for defeating some of the biggest opponents, such as the giant gorilla-based guards that patrol the first enemy fortress you encounter. It’s possible to switch to Futo, deliver some crushing blows and change back to Hiro within the span of a single combo.

As you clear out enemy camps and bases on the road to the Lost Volcano, you’ll get the chance to rescue the four unsuccessful ninjas who’ve been captured by the Warlord. They’re playable characters, selectable in the same way as Futo, each with a unique fighting style and special abilities. The only one we’ve seen in action so far is a female ninja who plays a tune on her flute to make enemies drop their weapons and start dancing.