[E3 2009] Preview: Mini Ninjas – Possessing the Power of Mini


Besides being one of the most adorable games seen at E3, Mini Ninjas is also the game brought to you by IO Interactive, the developers behind Hitman, Kane & Lynch, and Freedom Fighters. Though it might seem like a stretch because of the polar genre and content, it really isn’t that odd when you take into account the existing and successful game development model that IO has to build upon.

IO has injected their development theory into a bunch of little ninjas which has resulted in an array of delectable little bites that everyone will love, even the hardest of core — that being: rich and fully developed gameplay mechanics and content, a deep, epic storyline with intriguing, well-rounded characters, and a sprinkle of lovingly crafted details and items to discover. This is the start of another awesome IO Interactive IP, which we wouldn’t be surprised to see appear down the line in an assortment of entertainment media including TV, comics, toys, etc.

Mini Ninjas is about an evil samurai warlord out to take over the world by capturing all the animals and using an ancient power to turn them into samurai soldiers to fight in his army. There’s a ninja master who sends out ninjas to fight him one by one, but they don’t return. In the end, there are only some young untrained ninjas remaining, including Hiro, who is sent on an epic journey to fight the evil warlord and defeat his army.

Hiro has an advantage, in that he can use magic, and can take on a spirit form allowing him to possess any animal he encounters. All the animals have a unique ability or purpose during the game. For example, a rabbit is able to get through small holes in walls, a fox is stealthy and can sneak around a camp, or a chicken can lay eggs that you can collect as ingredients to create magical potions. Larger animals such as boars or bears are very effective in combat for their size and strength. You can even turn into a fish and swim around.


There’s a tremendous amount of detail and attention put forth in the game that pushes the characters’ and environment’s potential, too.

In addition to playing as Hiro, you can also at any point switch to playing his buddies Futo or Suzumi, who like Hiro, are the last remaining young ninjas. Each of the ninjas has super powers, special abilities that are not only great during combat, but also help you get through parts of the game.

Futo is very strong and carries around a giant wooden sledgehammer. He’s a robust little ninja, who moves a bit slower, but deals higher damage. His super move allows him to become somewhat like a boulder and bulldoze his enemies. Suzumi has ranged attacks, and her super power is she plays a flute that mesmerizes nearby enemies and causes them to dance around confused. The abilities of the ninjas offer different strategies when playing through the game, and switching different characters is critical in completing certain paths.

Hiro, on the other hand, carries a rice-paddy hat, which can be pulled out at any moment to use as a boat when needed to cross a river go rafting down rapids. The hat can also be used as shield to block enemy arrows in combat.


There are numerous potions that can be created on your journey and you’ll be picking up these ingredients (apples, eggs, flowers, etc,) along the way to save in your inventory to combine and create new potions. Additionally, rather than just picking up health on the side of the road, the game has you climbing fruit trees to shake peaches or apples down for eating and replenishing health.

There’s a kuji shrine where players can go to find and acquire new magic spells. Before acquiring the power, you have to find a white flower that is generally nearby, and bring it to the shrine to sacrifice. And once you get the new power, it immediately goes into your inventory and becomes active.

We’re very excited about Mini Ninjas and have high expectations for this not-so-little action adventure game bursting with stealth and light RPG elements. For more insight on the game, check out my accompanying interview with Ulrik Hauen-Limkilde, IO Interactive level designer.

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