Ninja Battle Heroes Platform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop) Developer/Publisher: Tom Create Price: $2.99 Tom Create has become a company that’s earned a nice little reputation of putting out reliable, quirky eShop titles, designing enjoyable games on an indie budget. And while Tom Create has serviced up many different genres so far, Ninja Battle Heroes is an absolute delight when it comes to beat ‘em up action fare. There’s nothing too original or groundbreaking when it comes to Ninja Battle Heroes’ concept. It’s your basic defeat all the enemies as you’re on the pursuit to stop the bad guy and rescue the missing innocent one. This is something that has been done countless times before, with the filter that’s put over it this time being that you operate a squad of adorable critters. Here your journey puts you through well-designed, barely repetitive levels as means to find the missing Yukimura and his intrepid Beast Brigade. There’s not much to it, and if you enjoyed Muramasa or Ninja Gaiden, you’ll no doubt like this, as these more serious properties get cute-ified and crittered up accordingly. Ninja Battle Heroes was previously released in Japan at the end of 2012, under the title Shinobi Spirits: Sanada Juuyuushiden, and after all of this time, it didn’t even seem like this game would see a Western release at all. That being said, this game just comes as a big, enjoyable surprise that “shouldn’t” have even happened. There are tons of games like this through the eShop, most of them with hefty price tags and non-revolutionary gameplay (Shantae, I’m looking at you). This game really streamlines everything into a compact experience, and for $2.99, you can’t really ignore it or be too critical of it at all. Never before have flying blades been so cute! In a title like this, controls are king, and fortunately Ninja Battle Heroes has extremely fluid gameplay. The controls are incredibly responsive, easy, and most importantly, enjoyable, which is crucial with a beat ‘em up title like this. There are plenty of good short hand weapons and attacks, as well as worthwhile projectiles, as you whirl weapons like katanas and throwing stars at your enemies while leveling up along the way. The boss battles are similarly well designed and they’re something you’ll look forward to. They actually compliment the gameplay as oppose to being frustration fests. In addition to the simpler mechanics, there are also easy to build combos to master that will make you smile more than they’ll frustrate you. There’s no slow-down occurring either as the hordes of enemies pile up or you go crazy with your touch-screen activated special moves. These special moves are a lot of fun and a nice visual flare for the game. You summon legendary heroes to help you execute these feats, which see things like the screen filling with ice or fire to annihilate your enemies. Have no fear, Kamanosuke Yuri is here to help! There’s also a robust enough customization feature where you can collect, build, and decide which ninja skills you want in your arsenal. This isn’t a comprehensive as it is in some games obviously, but it’s a nice inclusion all the same that adds some more depth to the gameplay. When it comes to the aesthetics here, the graphics in general are surprisingly refined, and better than you’d expect in a title like this. There’s smart use of 3D too, especially for a eShop title, with great work being done with the foreground and background perspective, as foes bombard you from both (as well as you being able to attack both planes simultaneously), but never to a detrimental degree. There is not amazing audio going on here by any means, but there are fun quirky tunes that feel appropriate to the tone of the game, but they won’t drive you crazy either. So while you may not be seeking out the soundtrack to Ninja Battle Heroes , you won’t be turning the volume down on your 3DS either. All of this helps sell the experience, and the noises made out of your team of creatures as you make your way through the game help push all of this further. Sure, there’s not full-out audio for the dialogue, but it’s also not necessary to the experience. It’s ICE to use this special attack against the enemy forces! The biggest downfall here is the game’s difficulty, with the title being a pretty big breeze to get through, especially for veterans of the genre. This makes sense to a degree, just with the cutesy atmosphere that is omnipresent here, but that still doesn’t mean it couldn’t be more challenging in places. For example, the bosses, some sort of collectable or extras to gain through all of this to add more to it for intrepid gamers, or even a difficulty option that could be toggled after finishing the game. All of these would help add some replayability to the title, which, truth be told, you might not find yourself going through again once you’ve completed it. That’s okay though, there’s countless games like this, and sometimes it’s nice to just be able to move on and not get caught wading through the minutiae. You’ll still find yourself hankering for this game again down the road, when you’re eager for combining cute characters with manic, precise gameplay, and when you are Ninja Battle Heroes will be waiting for you. Pros: +Precise, enjoyable controls and gameplay +Smart, impressive use of 3D capabilities +Refined special attacks and boss battles +Price tag Cons: -Very easy difficulty that won’t pose a challenge -Unmemorable music and audio -Cute art design may not be for everyone Ninja Battle Heroes warrants a purchase recommendation of "BUY IT" due to its addictive, simplistic gameplay, smooth controls, and impressive graphics and use of 3D through engaging levels. You’re offered a varied weapon and ninja skill arsenal, and fun special moves to fight enjoyable boss fights through the game. At the same time it’s worth noting that the simple concept, breezy difficulty, and quirky art design might dissuade certain gamers who are turned off by such things. Disclosure: A review copy was used to evaluate this game.