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Video Game / Mini Ninjas

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From Left To Right: Futo, Suzume, and Hiro note 

An Action Adventure-y, Platformer-y game developed by IO Interactive (yes, that IO Interactive), and published by Eidos for Steam, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo DS, and Playstation 3 on September 8th, 2009, with a macOS port developed by Feral Interactive releasing July 8th, 2010. While the cute title and ads set the game up as an Affectionate Parody of the "swords and black suits" genre, the game is actually a straightforward Japanese fantasy hack 'n slash game.... For kids.

Three hundred years ago, a dark force rose up and attempted to Take Over the World. Abusing a mystical force known as Kuji Magic, it transformed innocent forest animals into dark soldiers and ravaged the land. The abuse of this force also imbalanced the forces of nature, causing natural disasters. But he was defeated, and his dark magic sealed away forever. Peace reigned.

Or... what they thought was forever. Natural disasters of unnatural magnitudes are suddenly returning. And what are these mysterious samurai-like soldiers appearing everywhere? The wise old Ninja Master decides to send out his pupils one by one to investigate, and one by one, they vanish. Soon, he is left with only two ninja: promising but untrained Hiro, and clumsy but strong Futo. They are not truly ready for the world, but given the dire straits, they're the only hope the world has. Luckily, although their friends have been taken hostage, they're unharmed, and can be rescued. And they'll have to be if the balance of nature is to be restored!

The game combines action-adventure combat and exploration with platforming, with a large number of weapons, spells, and items to use, as well as six different ninja characters, each with different abilities. And despite what you might think, they're all normal-sized, thank you very much. Well... except for Futo.

Eidos got dissolved into Square Enix in 2009, with IOI being brought on as a developer studio, until they themselves went independent in 2017, after Square Enix cut business ties with IO Interactive. This was due to poor sales of Hitman (2016), and as part of IOI and Square Enix's agreement, the Mini Ninjas and Kane & Lynch IP's went to Square Enix, and the Freedom Fighters (2003) and Hitman IP's were given to IO Interactive. This makes IOI making any future Mini Ninja sequels highly unlikely.

Besides video games, an animated series based on the Mini Ninjas franchise, with 4Kids obtaining the rights to make the series in 2013, and it aired in 2015. Tropes for the animated series go on its own page.

This game provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: The roles of Suzume and Kunoichi.
  • And Your Reward Is Parenthood: Inverted. Every time you find a new Ninja, you unlock a new video in the "Extras" tab on the main menu, which details the Ninja Masters's adoption of all the characters. This also provides bits of character traits otherwise not alluded to in the game (see the character page for a list).
  • Animorphism:
    • Hiro can control animals by possessing them with his Spirit Form. Problem is, not all animals are that useful to take control, as very few of them can actually attack enemies (grizzly bears being one of the few that can), with the attack button on most other animals being replaced with a "animal doing an action associated with said animal", such as a fox howling, or a Rabbit stomping its foot on the ground. All animals, however, can find herbs and Jizo Statues, and can sneak around as good as the Ninja's can (even bears, amusingly). The Last Kuji Magic level lets you impersonate small samurai's!
    • The "Essence of the Fish" recipe lets the Ninja's turn into Koi Fish for a short amount of time.
  • Annoying Arrows:
    • Played with. Enemy arrows aren't very damaging to you, and are easily warded off with your hat or a Flask of Arrow-Shield. Shun's arrows are as deadly as their real-life counterparts, unless fired in melee combat.
    • These become far more annoying later on, where the red Archer Samurai launch rocket arrows at you, which do more damage and knocks you on your back.
  • Arrows on Fire: The blue Archer Samurai can do this, and an exploding arrow is Shun's special move. However, Red Archer Samurai also have explosive arrows, and they can become quite annoying, as they can effectively juggle you with hits.
  • Audible Sharpness: Hiro's sword.
  • Battle in the Rain: A fair amount of forest levels take place in the rain. On a similar note, a few levels in the mountains also take place while snow falls.
  • Badass Adorable: The Ninjas, the animals, even the Samurai are this!
  • Beneath Notice: Much like that other game series IOI makes, you are able to impersonate guards later on in the game, in this case mini samurai's. Crosses over with Going Native and Becoming the Costume as you don't just take their outfit, you take their body and their health pool too.
  • Big Eater: Futo, even as a baby, was known for his monstrous appetite. Tora is one as well.
  • Boring, but Practical: Shun. He only fires arrows, and cannot break animal cages, as he has no melee option. However, you can spam the attack button to shoot arrows with impunity, and deal a decent amount of damage to boot.
  • Body Surf: You can take control on Mini samurai's in later levels. Very useful for getting past hordes of mini samurai.
  • Bullfight Boss: The first boss, Lumbering Fool.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The spell incantations are in Japanese, and if left alone, some of the characters will babble Japanese if left idle, such as Suzume saying, "Where are they...?"
  • Caltrops: They slow enemy movement once thrown on the ground, and can be found fairly regularly within wooden barrels.
  • Character Select Forcing:
    • Given that Hiro is the only magic-user, it seems reasonable that you'd rely on him a lot. But why is he the only character who can fish?
    • The first fishing rod of the game did belonged to Hiro. However, this trope is more blatant in boss battles, where you use ONLY Hiro.
  • Collect-a-Thon Platformer: There are five things to collect in each level: Jizu statues, Plants, Kuji Magic scrolls from Kuji temples, Coins, and how many animals you have freed from cages. Collecting everything nets you a trophy.
  • Cool Boat: Your hat actually becomes one, and is easier than swimming in the water without it.
  • Domino Mask: Futo wears one as his costume throughout the entire game.
  • Doorstop Baby: Nearly all of the ninja, except for Hiro, were left by the entrance to Ninja Mountain and raised by the Ninja Master.
  • Elective Mute: The ninja's only speak to themselves (in Japanese), but this doesn't happen very often. The vast majority of the game is spent with them not uttering any words.
  • The Faceless: All of the Samurai have their faces covered in inky black, with yellow glowing dots for eyes. Played with with the Mini Ninja's, as Futo wears a Domino mask to conceal his identity, and Suzume wears...nothing on her face. Shun, Hiro and Kunoichi always keep their lower half of their face covered, however.
  • Fartillery: The second boss, Windy Pants.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The first three ninja characters are this: Futo's the Fighter, Hiro's the Mage, and Suzume is the Thief. (Although she doesn't use ranged attacks, she does rely on speed and trickery.)
  • Fishing Minigame: You can fish for fish with a fishing rod when you're in your hat boat.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: Suzume's intro movie shows that her flute is also a blowgun, one that is good enough to cut down a tree. You can indeed do this in-game, but not nearly as effectively as shown in the movie.
  • Gratuitous Japanese: Justified, given the setting is in Japan.
  • Green Hill Zone: The tutorial level, ninja village, is as green and peaceful as green and peaceful gets.
  • Heroic Mime: Played With. The Mini Ninja's do talk from time to time (e.g. Hiro casting a spell or Suzume's idle chatter), but they remain silent during cutscenes. And they certainly don't speak in English.
  • Hyperactive Metabolism: You can heal yourself by eating fruit from certain bushes or trees by shaking berries/ fruit out of them.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Shun and Suzume fire arrows/ darts in your direct field of vision, and they hit whoever is closest to the middle of the screen. Obviously required to make the two not fall under Crippling Overspecialisation.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Fear Suzume, and the beatdown she hands out with her mighty... flute? Subverted, as it's really a blowgun, and you can perform a hard-to-aim jump attack move that requires perfect button presses to pull off to take out enemies from afar.
  • Inevitable Waterfall: There are some water sections that have rapids and waterfalls you go over, with one level ending in you riding your hat-boat over one. Which would be fine (Soft Water is in full effect here), but its appearance is heralded by "Psycho" Strings. There are also waterfalls everywhere that serve as scenery backdrop.
  • Infinite Supplies: Shun and Suzume never have to reload their ammo supply with arrows and darts respectively. Averted with consumables, such as potions and the like, as you require certain floral ingredients to make healing potions and such.
  • Instrument of Murder: Suzume uses her flute as a blowgun of sorts. She can also play the flute like normal to distract enemies as her super move.
  • Item Crafting: Herbs can be combined to make potions of various sorts.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Hiro wields one.
  • Ki Manipulation: Kuji magic utilises Ki energy.
  • Kid Hero: The "Mini" part of "Mini Ninjas."
  • Kung Fu-Proof Mook: Pike-using Samurai are nearly impossible to melee attack without stunning them first, and go down better to long-range weapons, anyway. Note that they are not TOTALLY Kung fu proof, just not recommended to fight them with a ninja such as Hiro or Tora.
  • Law of Chromatic Superiority: Later on, you'll find Red Samurai, which have better health and more powerful attacks.
  • Limit Break: All of the playable ninjas have three charges of a powerful super move they can pull off, which can be regenerated by killing enemies and collecting red orbs:
    • Hiro can target one enemy and kill them with a quick strike.
    • Tora can unleash a string of attacks that deal massive damage to anyone close enough to him.
    • Suzume can play a song on her flute to paralyse enemies, leaving them open to attack.
    • Shun can fire an explosive arrow. It blows enemies up.
    • Futo charges up for a second and unleashes a powerful hammer throw on nearby enemies.
    • Kunoichi charged up a spin attack to block attacks and hit opponents.
  • Long-Range Fighter: Shun uses arrows to take out foes that can't easily be killed by melee-range weapons. He also has no melee option.
  • Magic Music: Suzume's flute can paralyze enemies with its song, leaving them open to a One-Hit Kill.
  • Meaningful Name: All their names mean something in Japanese:
    • Hiro means "prosperous".
    • Tora, which translates as "tiger", appropriate given his tiger-like behaviour in-game.
    • Shun, which is a transatlantic pun on "keeping one's distance".
    • Kunoichi, which is the term given for "female Ninja".
    • Suzume means "Sparrow" in Japanese.
    • Futo means...well...fat. Or Magnificent.
  • Mundane Utility: The Sensei in the character intro cutscenes has a habit of using his or others' magic to perform mundane tasks:
    • In Hiro's trailer, he teaches Hiro dark magic and how to create a lightening storm in order to...light a fire at camp.
    • In the Kunoichi trailer, he uses it to pour tea while it's in mid-air, but loses control once he hears a knock on the door.
  • Money Sink: Items and gold coins spawn at equal rates, so Gold only serves to buy recipes to craft potions with natural ingredients found in the level, or to restock weapons like Caltrops; both of which can be found in barrels fairly regularly. It is very possible to never use the optional weapons and the great majority of recipe's unless you're going for 100% Completion.
  • Ninja: ...We'll let you figure this one out.
  • Ninja Brat: Six of them to be exact; Hiro (the main protagonist) Futo (the large one with a hammer), Kunoichi (wields a stick), Shun (uses a bow and arrow), Suzume (acrobatic and uses a flute-gun combo), and Tora (has Wolverine Claws and better walking speed).
  • No "Arc" in "Archery": Averted with both Shun's arrows and the enemies'.
  • 100% Completion: When you finish a level, you're ranked on your completion of it, including herbs collected and money found. But while things like Jizo statues and spells stay collected, herbs and money respawn. Thank goodness, or else there'd be a lot of Inventory Management Puzzle going on.
  • One-Man Army: Suzume is the second Mini Ninja you rescue in the game, and throughout the game you can find notes pinned onto doors and trees left by her that detail her then-current situation. As soon as she gets to the snowy mountains, she backtracks back home, and gets captured, requiring you to save her.
    • You can invoke this by only playing Hiro for an entire game playthrough.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: The Tengu and the Ninja Master speak with a sort of "kung-fu movie" accent, but they occasionally lapse into a more genuine Japanese accent.
  • Optional Stealth: The way stealth works can make it difficult to do a legitimate "never spotted" playthrough. Stealth attacks are loud, enemies only travel in packs, and alerting one enemy usually means alerting them all. Worse, walking by enemies deprives you of important experience, which can make the latter half of the game much harder than it is supposed to be. Thus, stealth is less about "carefully taking out all the enemies, one by one" and more "positioning oneself into a good vantage point and then letting loose".
  • Party in My Pocket: Look! I'm a small boy with a sword! Poof! Now i'm a little girl with a wooden flute. Poof! Now I am a giant ninja with a massive hammer Poof! Now i'm another girl with a pointy stick! Poof! Now i'm a boy with Wolverine Claws Poof! Now i'm a ninja boy with a bow and arrow!
  • Press X to Not Die: Quick Time Events figure heavily in all of the boss fights except for the final one. The larger samurai tonfa Mini Bosses also have QTE's attached to them that aren't necessary to defeat them, but can be useful if you're on a time crunch.
  • Save Scumming: Averted. You cannot backtrack in this game, but you are given the opportunity to explore the level before continuing on with the story. The game uses checkpoints to enforce this, but you can freely reload to the start of the level or you can reload the last activated checkpoint.
  • Save-Game Limits: As mentioned above, you cannot freely save whenever you feel like it, with the game using a checkpoint system.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Kuji magic, which was sealed in shrines.
  • Stock Sound Effects: The same sound effect used to note you have found something shiny is here used for when you have found fruit-bearing trees or bushes.
  • Speaking Simlish: The samurai babble in unintelligible English/Japanese/Nonsensese. Everyone else speaks perfect English or Japanese.
  • Tengu: Your primary allies are these, though here, they literally look like giant anthropomorphic crows. This is actually mythologically accurate, as mythological tengu were often said to protect deep forests and mountains, and were said to have instructed ninja.
  • This Is Reality: "You think this is some kind of game?!" - the Warlord Master, when he realizes the ninjas will come to his fortress next.
  • Variable Mix: The game mostly uses ambient flute and drum/woodblock music, but certain areas (such as temples) and set pieces make the music evolve.
  • Wilhelm Scream: A mini samurai lets one out while crossing a bridge in a cutscene from the mission "The Big Jump". They fall into a massive hole in the bridge a meteorite makes.
  • With Cat Like Tread: You can sneak in tall grass and bushes and get behind enemies with anyone/ any animal you control, no matter the size. Smaller animals, such as rabbits and foxes, and most of the mini ninja's logically makes sense (they are...y' and they are indeed concealed from your view. But controlling a bear, a boar, or by playing as Futo makes the whole "stealth" mechanic be pushed to its limits, and it looks and plays as ridiculous as its described here. And yet, your enemies are none the wiser.
  • Wolverine Claws: Tora has them on his hands. He uses them to climb a tree initially, but he also uses them in combat.
  • Wutai: Pretty much the whole setting, give or take, uh... the entire game.