Ninja Senki DX Review - Screenshot 1 of 3

Tribute Games has been churning out unremarkable indie games for quite a while now. Each illuminates a finer aspect from all of those 8 and 16-bit titles we grew to know and love but always does so in a negative way. Wizorb is unique but trite in its presentation. Mercenary Kings is what Metal Slug would've looked like after a bout with a Stairmaster. Curses 'N Chaos is a dumbed down Time Splitters. And Ninja Senki DX appears to have taken tips from Ben Stein's voice coach.

The game is the console debut of Tribute's freeware title Ninja Senki and, needless to say, it borrows a lot from that formula – a little too much in some regards. For instance, a handful of the bugs which plagued the original have made it into this one. We're talking about momentary lapses in controller input, screen-tearing, and a number of moments when it seemed like our Vita was going to crash.

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Ninja Senki tells the tale of Hayate, an angry ninja – go figure – with an interest in anything that gets on his bad side. The demon that killed the love of his life, Princess Kinuhime, fits the bill. In other words, it's clear right from the jump that you're not here for story. The Mega Man-style platforming action is the title's only saving grace, and it only does this satisfactorily. However, it seems like Tribute took a gander at a Flash game and decided that its success would warrant a console release – there's a problem, though, in that the title feels like a Flash game. The simplistic mechanics appear to be better suited to the corner of your workplace monitor and not a full-fledged console like the Vita.

The game's most noticeable difficulty spike involves traversing a body of water by skipping – it's a harrowing scenario as the developer has made little to no effort to teach the subtle mechanics necessary to pull it off. Suffice to say, poorly taught mechanics make for poorly executed mechanics, which, ultimately, leads to a sub-par experience.

Furthermore, the reward systems native to the title involves little trinkets at the end of each level, similar to the ones that you'd find at the end of Green Hill Zone in Sonic 3. Other than pacifying a personal barometer for success, they do nothing to supplement the gameplay in any way. There's no need to care about how many enemies you've killed at the end of a level because points seem to serve no purpose outside the realm of personal achievement; they're like a pat on the back, and it seems difficult to care about something so trite without the presence of engaging leaderboards.

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The level design suffers, too. There are no real surprises other than a bevy of secret areas – too obviously inspired by contemporary classics like Super Mario – and enemy types are so cut-and-paste that they'll make your skin boil from occlusion. That's right, the only real surprise here is how little heterogeneity there actually is on display. That being said, the "obstacles" amount to iterative overuse of previously encountered roadblocks, each contributing to added difficulty in progression, yes – but also paying dividends towards the ultimate degradation of your sanity.

Speaking of sanity, the bosses hardly resemble the bombastic monoliths that many of us grew up with. There are no Robotniks or Cut Men here, only a handful of goons which contribute poorly to the narrative in their own insignificant ways. Even worse, each bears attack algorithms that would make Robotnik's Hydrocity outing look like a coup de grâce. Let's not forget the one boss that appears four times – half of the game's total boss battles – with no slight or nod at a change in tactics, its only ability involving the release of a projectile while standing in place.


Ninja Senki DX reads like an old codger's take on modern literature and walks like a decrepit schoolgirl gallivanting her way to her first tax return and, fittingly so, her first heart attack. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Tribute Games made garbage.