Released on: June 24, 2020
Available Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Price: Free (Has microtransactions)
A while back, I reviewed the Ninjala Exclusive Ninja Club Open Beta (called that despite it not being exclusive.) I thought the gameplay was fascinating but that some significant issues needed ironing out before launch. With Ninjala officially being out, I think it’s time to sneak back into Ninjala. Is Ninjala the free-to-play multiplayer game worth sticking around for?
In this segment, I would usually describe the story of the game. The information didn’t change from the Open Beta; thus, I won’t delve too deep into it. Aa a quick recap: to keep the thinning ninja bloodline alive, the World Ninja Association (WNA), during their research, accidentally stumbles upon a formula that creates gum that gives the person chewing it ninja powers. The side-effect of this gum is that it turns whoever chews it into kids. There is a neat video on Youtube that describes the backstory to Ninjala. As for my feelings on it, I like it. It gives the world a lot more flavor and depth.
While the visuals haven’t improved much (or at all from what I can tell) from the Open Beta, they are still charming and high-quality, especially for a free-to-play game on Switch. I also saw little to no performance drops while playing the game, which is incredible, since there is a lot that goes on during a match that could easily tank the performance.
One noteworthy improvement I noticed from the Open Beta was the inclusion of multiple new maps. One map that stands out to me is the city one, where power-ups and other players can hide on top of buildings of various sizes. The city map is the one that makes me feel the most like a ninja. One second, the player is facing off against an opponent in a heated battle, the next, someone sneaks up on them and blindsides them. The player needs to make a quick but urgent decision: challenge the interloper, or flee to higher ground to scope out a more vulnerable target. Meanwhile, the sneaky ninja from before might be stalking the player or went off in search of power-ups that count towards their final score. I feel like this was the kind of gameplay the developers of Ninjala were going for.
Speaking of gameplay, the core gameplay has been refined from the Open Beta and feels smoother. It might be because I finally understand how the game works, but I think Ninjala’s gameplay flow is a lot easier to understand and feels less chaotic as a result. The player’s goal is to be the one to have the most points by the end of the game. The player earns points by eliminating other players (known as Ippon) or by destroying droids. If the player gets attacked, they can block the oncoming assault. Blocking will result in both players participating in a rock-paper-scissors like game, where each player picks a direction to determine who gains the advantage, up beats down, down beats side, and side beats up. Once I understood this, everything became much clearer, and the game suddenly made sense. Ever since I’ve gotten this moment of clarity, my in-game performance has improved drastically, and the game itself became a lot more enjoyable as a result.
The biggest issue I had with the Open Beta no longer exists in the full release of Ninjala. Online connections are now a lot more stable, and quite honestly, much better than some of the other games on Switch. Rarely have I had issues where I disconnected. Heck, I don’t even remember when was the last time I experienced significant lag when playing Ninjala. I’m starting to wonder how Ninjala, a third-party game, has a better online connection than Super Smash Bros Ultimate, or even Clubhouse Games, both of which are made by Nintendo.
Despite the numerous improvements Ninjala received compared to its Open Beta, there are still some glaring faults with the game.
Oh gee, it looks like it’s time for Sergie to talk about microtransactions again! Ninjala allows the players to customize their avatar with clothes, emotes, and gum color. Of course, since Ninjala is a free-to-play multiplayer game, it comes as no surprise to see the game having microtransactions. What I did find surprising, though, is with how expensive some of these items are. I want to customize my avatar since that is an integral part of the game, but many of these outfits are not worth their asking price.
Speaking of additional content, Ninjala does have a story mode, but it’s sold separately. I’ll be honest; I didn’t look too deep into getting the story mode despite me liking the lore. The price does seem fair for the story mode, and it does seem like the player is getting a full campaign with it, but it is worth noting that the story mode costs extra.
Lately, I’ve noticed I don’t have the same drive to play multiplayer games as I used to. It might be my lack of time needed to invest in the game to get decent at it, or it might be that most of them are shallow experiences as a whole. Never-the-less, I find myself wanting to play multiplayer games less these days. Ninjala, despite not having any significant issues, does fail to keep me hooked. It is enjoyable and does enough to distinguish itself from the competition, but I felt like I saw everything I wanted to see with Ninjala after playing a few matches. I realize that this is not an issue with Ninjala specifically, but rather, for online multiplayer-focused games in general.
Being free-to-play, Ninjala is worth checking out. It has charming visuals, exciting combat mechanics, and lots of options for avatar customization. Those that end up enjoying the multiplayer aspect might even get a kick out of the optional (not free) story mode if they so choose. Despite the microtransactions being steep, one could do far worse for free-to-play multiplayer games than Ninjala.