Something to chew on

One of the more unusual games I checked out at last year’s Tokyo Game Show was the multiplayer Ninjala for Nintendo Switch. Its cute characters and bright colors may seem reminiscent of the Splatoon franchise, but Ninjala swaps out that series’ paint with weapon-generating bubble gum.

To get swords, hammers or bats to pummel each other, players need to blow a bubble with their gum (the bigger the bubble, the better the weapon). Using their mastery of the gum, they can even run along the sides of buildings and perform other daring feats.

Why bubble gum? Well, the idea here is that the World Ninja Association has developed a special ninja-DNA-infused gum that gives the eight playable characters some sweet abilities. The bubble gum aspect is interesting, the characters are adorable and the whole idea brings another kid-friendly multiplayer experience to Switch.

Ninjala was designed by Takeshi Arakawa (who previously made the fighting game Dissidia Final Fantasy for Square Enix) and was inspired by GungHo Online CEO Kazuki Morishita’s boyhood love of ninja and chambara (sword-fighting) films.

Ninjala will be released for Nintendo Switch on May 28. It is free to play, with in-game purchases.


Platinum for the PS4

Bayonetta and Vanquish | © SEGA
Bayonetta and Vanquish | © SEGA

It has been more than a decade since the Osaka-based PlatinumGames released Bayonetta, a 2009 action game starring a witch decked out in a bodysuit of hair and heels embedded with pistols. The brainchild of game designer Hideki Kamiya, Bayonetta showed off the studio’s flair for outrageous fun. The developer followed it up a year later with Vanquish, a shoot’em-up featuring an agent in a futuristic Augmented Reaction Suit. The game was designed by Shinji Mikami, who helmed the first Resident Evil (aka Biohazard) game for Capcom.

PlatinumGames was founded by former Capcom game developers who had initially formed their own Clover Studio within that company. It created some truly innovative games, such as Viewtiful Joe, Okami and God Hand. The developers left Capcom and founded PlatinumGames in 2007, where they have continued to churn out offbeat and enjoyable titles. Such a move isn’t always as successful as it has been here.

To mark the anniversaries of Bayonetta and Vanquish, the studio is rereleasing the games for PlayStation 4. If you missed either one the first time around, this is an excellent chance to go back and discover them.

Priced at ¥3,990 (plus tax), the Bayonetta and Vanquish bundle will be released May 28 for PS4.


An exceptional remake

Trials of Mana | © SQUARE ENIX
Trials of Mana | © SQUARE ENIX

Seiken Densetsu 3 (aka Trials of Mana) was released for the Super Famicom in Japan 25 years ago. The sequel to 1993’s Seiken Densetsu 2 (Secret of Mana), this fantasy role-playing game follows a band of heroes as they try to recover the spiritual Mana sword and save the world from destruction. When the game was first released, it was praised for its beautiful graphics. Now, over two decades later, it’s getting a 3D makeover as Seiken Densetsu 3: Trials of Mana.

Though international fans have long clamored for a release, the original game didn’t get an official English-language version until last year’s Collection of Mana for Nintendo Switch and, of course, this month’s remake.

The updated version closely follows the 1995 one, with players able to select one of three heroes whose storylines intertwine. Since each character has a different backstory and motivation, the game is easy to play over and over.

There are some key differences, though. Unlike the original, which features 2D top-down graphics, the 2020 version is in 3D with an eye-level third-person point of view. Players get the feeling of running behind their characters as they explore the game’s lush fantasy world. The cutscenes are also much more cinematic, and fully voiced. Even the musical score has been given a fantastic orchestral update, but players can also select the original retro one.

Square Enix is skilled at remaking its titles and, with its attention to detail, Trials of Mana is no exception.

Trials of Mana was released on April 24, at ¥5,980 (plus tax) for the Switch and PS4. It was released April 25 for PC via Steam, with a “collector’s edition” priced at ¥17,980 (plus tax) also available.


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