Ninjas are now on Facebook. As part of my ongoing analysis of Japanese social games making the jump to North American shores, I thought it’d be prudent to look at one of the largest anime-based games on Facebook: Ninja Saga. By strongly borrowing from the Naruto universe, the game is able to recreate the feeling of one of the most popular anime franchises on the world and bring it to people’s social networks. I take a look at the game below.
Title: Ninja Saga
Game Developer: NinjaSaga.com
Game Publisher: NinjaSaga.com
Monthly Active Users: 4,828,073
Ninja Saga is a rewarding, high production RPG that leverages fast gameplay, a wide assortment of customization and shopping options and an authentic ‘anime’ theme. Despite some presentatoin flaws, Ninja Saga establishes itself as one of the premiere RPGs on Facebook.
Characters have pleasant visual style. Fights have great graphics. Gameplay has above-average complexity. Battling against other players is fun. Quests and enemy combatants are diverse.
Japanese-style user interface may be difficult for Western users. Inconsistencies like using gold to purchase skills. Music and sound are fuzzy. Game completely plagiarizes Naruto.
The goal of Ninja Saga is for the user to create a ninja and build his/her strength until the ninja is the strongest ninja in the Ninja Saga world. The user is able to choose a variety of skills for their ninja, including whether they use taijutsu (physical combat), ninjutsu (magical combat) or genjutsu (illusionary combat). The other dimension is their natural affinity, and characters can have either wind, water, fire, earth or lightning. Once you’ve set your character up, you’re thrown into the Ninja Village, where you are presented with a pretty overwhelming choice of places to go.
One of the main areas a player will visit is the Kage Room (where you are presented with quests to gain levels and ranks). This is how you progress through the first bit of the game (I have yet to pass all the ranks and level up, but the game seems to be hinting that you leave the village once you’re a fully ranked ninja). The quests are interesting and all involve a story. For instance, a former ninja started a business, but one of her former enemies still wants to settle the score and invades the city. You accept the quest and are presented with a large, well drawn image of the woman telling you her story, and are then dropped into the battle itself.
What’s really impressive is that for this particular mission, I had to fight three ninjas, and the graphics and gameplay ensure that you actually feel like you’re fighting three separate battles in a village environment. This is because in Ninja Saga, when you start a battle quest, you’re dropped onto a map where your enemies are visible, but you’re able to walk over to them to actually engage the fight. It’s a small touch, and still early, but I can see this progressing to modes where you can evade smaller enemies before fighting a boss, similar to games like Final Fantasy.
After performing quest after quest, you gain experience and skill points and level up your character. You also gain gold which is used to purchase new techniques. It’s a bit jarring inside the ninja world to use gold to buy skills but whatever. The skills all look fantastic and power up at a progressive rate, keeping you really interested in getting the next one. Overall, the level system works great and is the crux of the game.
The presentation in Ninja Saga is excellent. You’ll likely be surprised at seeing the character you created race across the screen during battle mode, or be surprised at the flips and stabs that your opponents will make. The overall map screen is a bit confusing and not exactly great, and the music could still use some work. Each weapon you choose actually shows up on your character, and there is a wide variety of weapons, each with different kinds of buffs. You really feel your character grow in this game and it makes it a very rewarding game. The pets are adorable and fierce as well, and again add to the overall solid presentation of the game.
The game seems to really have a great variety of ways to upgrade. You upgrade points in each of your nature skills, you earn new weapons, you gain ‘chakra’ points that allow you to complete more moves per battle and you achieve new pets. It’s not the most revolutionary concept, but Ninja Saga is an RPG done right and it taps into that desire to want to be the strongest. The fact that the “Arena” allows live PVP play against other players makes it such that you know there are a ton of players to battle against at any time, and that keeps you fighting, gaining levels and growing.
The live PVP mode means you can battle other players at any time. The game includes a leaderboard at the bottom of the game which keeps you reminded about the progress of your friends. There is a clan mode where you can join with your friends, and it even keeps track of your cumulative score and ranks your clans against others. The game has social built in and will keep you playing with friends for a while.