Inindo: Way of the Ninja
Ninjas are people, too. Just check out Inindo, a top-notch RPG by Koei that's loosely based on the exploits of a famous, real-life ninja clan, the Iga warriors. In fact, "Inindo" translates directly from Japanese as "The Way of the Iga Clan Ninja".
As with most Koei games, historical accuracy is one of the game's star features. However, unlike the well-done but visually static reality-based RPGs, such as Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Uncharted Waters, Inindo is charged with RPG-style action. It's an impressive mix of adventure, fantasy, and epic military strategy.
Vengeance Is Yours
You play a novice Iga ninja, whose clan has been wiped out by the forces of the brutal Lord Oda Nobunaga. The story line is a classic Japanese-style tale of defeat, perseverance, and revenge, and the game stars real Japanese historical locales and personalities (good and bad) with mythical beasts. American gamers with a historical bent will find it extremely intriguing.
Have Sword, Will Travel
Basically, you have to build up your ninja skill levels, acquire gold, recruit a strong party of followers, and fight your way to Nobunaga's Castle. In between, you battle bandits and rogue samurai, fight 15 types of monsters, find Magic Gems, look for treasure, and win the trust of the Daimyo (other Lords).
ProTip: Watch out for the pink Motokage Dragons. They summon friends for help.
Enlisting the Daimyos' aid is essential to reaching the evil Nobunaga. To earn their support, you must carry out spy and sabotage missions for them and lead their armies into battles against Nobunaga's allies.
Warning: Don't take on Inindo's ninja training unless you're prepared to do the time! You might play this long, long adventure for days before you even build up enough experience points to get the other characters to even talk to you.
Building Your Personality
In traditional RPG fashion, you develop each person in your party. You build up Experience Points to raise character skill levels and acquire Gold, which you use to purchase weapons, magic, and other important items. You must develop nine character stats: Health, Magic energy, Intelligence, Power, Speed, Attack strength, Defense skills, Resistance to evil magic, and (most important of all) Luck. There are also 41 magic spells and 19 weapons you can master.
A return expedition to a Ninja Training Dungeon is a good and relatively safe way to build up Experience Points and Gold. Before you reenter a dungeon, be sure to deliver the Gem to the Master and to save your game.
Your skills as an RPG conversationalist are paramount. You must speak with other characters to uncover vital info, and you must convince up to six other people (Warriors, Sages, and other Ninjas) to join your party.
The flawless game controls and the easy-to-use game interface make these activities button-press intensive, but relatively painless. The interface is based on a familiar multi-window menu system that enables you to manage a mess of gear, organize your party, and interact with other characters.
In Your Interface
When it's time for fighting, Inindo attacks you with a vengeance. The RPG combat in this game is intense, and the game's overrun with Iga adversaries, both human and nonhuman.
- He who fights and runs away will live to fight another day.
- If one member of your party flees a fight, you all flee.
The combat interface is smooth and easy to master. The CPU orchestrates all the fighting. Because the CPU is very fast, you have ample opportunity to step in with strategy and tactics during a fight. You must master two kinds of battles, one-on-one and army-versus-army.
- If you anticipate a major test of your ninja skills, stock up on Medicine.
- Your sword is much more effective and energy-efficient than the three-pointed Throwing Star.
The close quarters party combat is done in solid, standard, side-view RPG style, where all combatants take turns hacking and being hacked. You can choose weapons and magic, and position your party members in fighting for mation. Some great battle options are your abilities to protect weakened friends, put up a hit-point saving defense, and use life-restoring Medicine and magic in the middle of a fight.
It's important to look up unfamiliar items, weapons, or magic in the manual, so you don't waste them.
When you lead a Daimyo's army into battle, the view switches to a battlefield. Here you position individual fighting units, command them to attack specific enemy units, cast magic, and unleash monsters.
Inindo does a great job of constructing a story line on the fly. As you play, the CPU continually calculates battles and stratagems happening throughout Japan. These distant maneuvers affect your tasks during the game.
Dents in the Armor
For all its sharp RPG maneuvering, Inindo has a few nicks in its blade. As usual, Koei's use of historically accurate names will cause some gamers to collide with the Japanese language barrier. This can make it maddening to follow the CPU's periodic machinations and plot twists as they quickly flash across the screen. If you think "Iga" rhymes with "pig-ga," you're already in big trouble.
To accomplish all your tasks, you march for miles across old Japan, and traveling can be a pain. Although your Iga ninja moves fast across the overhead view terrain screens, it's tough to tell exactly where you are. There's no map readily available. You must find castles that have a map room, or rely on the sometimes sketchy directions from the other characters.
- Maps of the provinces help you locate yourself. They're in castles that have a Tower such as Kii, Mikawa, and Totomi.
- Mt Fuji is in Sagami (Province 8).
- To find Mt Tsukuba from the Mt. Fuji Training Dungeon, head North along the Tone River. Cross the bridge next to Kozuke Castle and head right.
The sights and sounds of Inindo's feudal Japan are a mixed bag. The character sprites are small but sharp, and some pretty story screens are interspersed with the action. The sound effects are minimal, but ear-friendly. The music's Japanesey, clean, and forgettable.
Be a Ninja for a Day
Inindo is a good RPG, featuring myth, magic, mayhem, and history -- similar to Koei games of the past, but with a few fresh twists. It's a great fantasy that enables you to step into the silent footsteps of real-life ninjas.
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KOEI, the uncontested king of Japan's military/economic strategy games, has come up with an absolutely incredible new role-playing game. ININDO is based on historical facts and yet it is not afraid to reach for the magic realm of fantasy.
In the game ININDO you are a young ninja hungry for revenge against the ruthless ruler Nobunaga who destroyed your home village.
Travel on foot or by boat to famous training grounds where you will learn ninjutsu, the art of stealth fighting! Use your various skills, weapons, and magic to defeat vicious monsters inside Japan's treacherous dungeons. Accept jobs from warlords and once you've gained their trust, use them and their armies to lay siege to Nobunaga's castles until you have complete revenge. Go ahead and have fun out there! Join up with many healers and warriors to help you along the way. Always remember victory will raise your skill level and gold will be your reward in ININDO way of the ninja!
As a young ninja heavy on revenge, travel by foot or boat to the famous Ninjutsu training grounds. Here, you'll become powerful 'enough to lead the stragglers you've picked up on the way into battle against the ruthless ruler, Nobunaga, who destroyed your home village. This overhead-view, role-playing game has 18 challenging, multi-level and dungeon mazes. With maps, magic spells, and swords to help you, you'll destroy more than 100 sinister monsters in this one-player game. Revenge is sweet.