Otaku USA Magazine
Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns

tn_565_2-ssThe re-explosion of interest in the roguelike genre as of late, particularly in the West, is quite puzzling to many. In a day and age when even the hardest-edge action games have to hold your hand with tutorials to make sure you know how to use a controller, roguelikes are happy to punish you (in varying degrees of severity, depending on the game) for even the most minute lapse of judgement – not exactly a formula for mass popularity.

Perhaps the Izuna duology owes its popularity to something else, though. After all, much of the PR and promotional material leading up to the game’s release was keen to stress the lead character’s perceived “hawt”ness, and an edition of the game available from Amazon.com comes with a mini-poster featuring Izuna chillaxing with her gracious assets partially exposed. (It seems a bit strange to play up the sex appeal of a 20-pixel SD sprite, but hey, certain people have been lusting after Princess Peach for decades.)

Fortunately, beneath all the characterization cliches and (admittedly funny) boob joke-laden dialogue, there’s a very solid dungeon romp to be had in Izuna 2. The core gameplay is in the same vein as most others in the genre – you go through randomly generated dungeons, collect items you find there, take on enemies (and the occasional boss), and cross your fingers that you don’t step on any particularly nasty hidden traps along the way. If you get killed, you lose all items you didn’t find some way to protect – but unlike other roguelikes, you still retain your level, making it easier to re-challenge the dungeon that bested you.

There are also some significant new additions that make the game a noteworthy improvement upon its predecessor. Many of the character sprites from the original Izuna have been completely re-drawn, resulting in a much better-looking game and setting. Izuna 2 features a world map with several different 865-sstowns, dungeons, and assorted locales to visit at your leisure, rather than the singular “hub” village of the original. But perhaps the biggest addition is the tag-team system, which allows you to take two characters of your choice, each with distinct strengths and weaknesses, into the dungeon together. While you only control a single character, you can swap between your chosen pair a limited number of times, helping you out of sticky situations as need arises. You can also perform an ultra-damaging tag-team rush attack after you fill a special attack gauge, which makes for a great “desperation” type maneuver.

Hardcore genre fans may lament the fact that Izuna 2 is made considerably easier due to the tag-team system, but casual players – and really, it’s clear this is more aimed towards the Naruto than the Nethack crowd -will find a fun, lighthearted romp that lacks the “throw your DS at the wall” moments the genre seems to be known for. It’s a fine introduction to the roguelike for newbies and an enjoyable adventure for more experienced players. And the fanservice doesn’t hurt, either.

Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Ninja Studio
System: Nintendo DS
Available: Now
Rating: T