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Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun Review

Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun Review

What would you say if I told you that you could play a ninja game full of exploration and combat that only requires you to use one button along with a thumbstick, and that doesn’t control your character walking around? Somehow the developer Nao Games along with publisher Marvellous Europe LTD have done just that with Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun. This game has you jumping and bouncing off of walls to defeat all the enemy ninja demons on the stage to find the door to progress. To jump, you will use the A button and the left thumbstick is used to determine where you will land. Ideally, you will bounce up the walls to find foes to smash into, treasures like food to replenish health, scrolls to make your character stronger and weapons that you can throw at the enemy. The main goal is to find the door so that you can move to the next area.

NinjaorDie tutorial

When I first started playing, I was concerned that I would get frustrated not being able to make my character walk around exactly where I wanted. It felt like the jumping could become imprecise and annoying to use. Fortunately, after playing for hours, I discovered that I was wrong. Zig-zagging and jumping wall to wall, avoiding incoming shots from the enemy, and purposely crashing into them was actually a lot of fun. It was nice not having to plan out every hit I made or being concerned about running out of ammunition. Sure, you can throw items like rocks or kunai at the demons, which require you to use the right thumbstick to aim, but it is not required to defeat the enemy. The game is forgiving and makes it so that you can’t take damage immediately after your jump. You can use this to your advantage, and if you successfully avoid taking damage, your immunity time will be increased. 

NinjaorDie chargejump

Each mission has its own requirements to successfully complete it; some are as simple as getting to the exit door, while other times you will have to defeat all the demon ninjas in the level. Ninja or Die makes it very easy to know what is required to make it through your mission as your task is displayed at the top right area of the screen. There is also a level map that shows you where the enemy is located (blue squares) and where you will find the exit (green square). Some of the levels have locked chests or doors that require you to explore the level to find the key to open them. These aren’t too hard to find, so just look at your map to see if there are any hidden paths that you didn’t see at first. The chests give you items to replenish your health, weapons to improve the amount of damage you deal, or scrolls that can grant special abilities like creating clones of yourself to confuse the enemy or fire attacks to take down the demon ninja faster.

NinjaorDie clearconditions

The controls in Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun work very well. It was easy to select the spot where you would be jumping with the left thumbstick, and the regular jump was powerful enough to jump side to side. Our ninja — Kaigen — also has the ability to charge up his jump; hold down the A button, and when you see the flash, you know that it is ready to use to give you the additional vertical height you need. Fighting off the demons is simple, all you need to do is jump into them repeatedly until all their health is gone. If your health is depleted, use food items like rice balls to recover, or if you are poisoned, ginseng will cure you. Poisoning will go away on its own after some time, but it will continue to damage you, so make sure you have the hit points required to survive it. Your bag can hold only a small amount of items before you can’t pick up anything else, so be sure to use the items that you need or toss the ones that you don’t because it sucks when you want to pick up a good weapon, but you have no room to carry it.

NinjaorDie itembag

Each level has villagers that you come across that you can choose to save. If you do decide to help them out, they will go back to Starting Village — that’s actually what it’s called — and offer you services like a bank to deposit and withdraw your money so you won’t lose it all when you die, a doctor who will offer you upgrades to make you stronger and improve your stats, and even other characters that you can play as. These people are worth saving during your missions as they add so much more to the game. Who hasn’t wanted to play as a geisha to take down the enemy? Each of the playable “agents” has their own stats and strength so it definitely adds variety and replayability to the game. The village also has a bulletin board called the Combat Log that shows you how many missions you have completed, how many jumps you have made, distance travelled, and total kills, along with some other fun stats, so I recommend checking this out when you visit.

NinjaorDie backalleydoctor

There are a variety of beautiful 2D pixel art areas that you will visit while completing missions. Some have you exploring a forest-like environment full of trees and moss, while another one has you in a snowy, cold landscape. One thing is consistent, though, and that is the demon who is constantly berating you, calling you a ground dweller, and trying to convince you to give up and let the demons consume you as you will die anyways. As you are introduced to each of these new areas, you will see a short cutscene that tells us more about our hero Kaigen and how he got to this place. Once you defeat the boss in each of these sections, you will see how much time it took you to complete, and you can see your time ranked on a leaderboard compared to other players, both locally and worldwide. If you have friends who are also playing the game, you can see how your time compares to theirs, especially if you are battling over bragging rights. 

NinjaorDie leaderboards

The music in the game feels like it’s straight out of a retro kung-fu-like movie and is incredibly catchy, fitting the non-stop action of the game. Classic music, along with a colourful pixel look, made Ninja or Die feel like titles I played as a kid, which is something I love. Everything works together so well and makes this experience feel nostalgic yet unique in the way you control the main character. This is a side-scrolling game that anyone who loves action games, or ninjas in general, should try out. The control scheme may seem odd at first — only jumping? — but creates a new mechanic that I don’t ever remember experiencing in an action platformer like this. Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun is worth the time to check out.

NinjaorDie kiteenemy

8.00/10 8

Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

Ninja or Die: Shadow of the Sun is a game full of action using minimal controls; it may seem weird to only jump wherever you want to go but ends up working quite well adding a unique twist to games in the genre.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Alana Dunitz

Alana Dunitz

Staff Writer

I'm too stubborn to quit! I run on caffeine and kitty snuggles <3

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