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Game Dev Story and Dungeon Village developer Kairosoft very nearly returns to form with its shogun-themed strategy and city-management hybrid, Ninja Village — but a promising setup and compelling core mechanic too soon devolve into tedious grinding. Managing a village full of ninjas trained in the art of war, your task is to build up a thriving local economy while battling rival lords, all in an effort to help the shogun reunify Japan.
Ninjas work in the village when they’re not off at war, and you'll need to build shops that sell a variety of wares, along with depots, workshops, and fields that produce raw goods. Building placement — especially homes relative to industry — can make a big difference in productivity, but it’s easy to turn a comfortable profit no matter how you play. Territorial expansion comes in the form of land deeds, which you win in battle against other lords or in training with the imperial army, while other upgrades and improvements are discovered through research and conquest.
Meanwhile, Japan’s feudal lords scramble to fill a power vacuum, and it’s on you and your clan of heroic ninjas to work with the shogun’s army to quell the uprising. Warriors fit into four classes, depending on their equipment and talents: infantry, archers, gunners, and cavalry. They battle over three rounds, during which you're able to dictate basic tactics, such as which ninjas to send out, which line to focus attacks on, and when to retreat. It’s a fairly hands-off experience, but you have just enough control — and there’s ample charm in the army characterizations — that it feels fun.
Things turn sour when you near the endgame, wherein most of Japan is back under shogun control. Enemy armies at this point are huge, and you’re left grinding out gold so that you can level up your ninjas and raise enough troops for the shogun’s army to stand a chance. Not even Kairosoft’s delightfully charming art and writing can stop Ninja Village from turning lackluster in its final stages.
The bottom line. Ninja Village brings all the usual Kairosoft charm and quirkiness in a cool feudal Japan setting, but it falls apart toward the end as the fun turns insipid.
iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Imaginative, personable world design. Engaging mashup of strategy warfare, role-playing, and city building elements.
Sticks fairly close to the standard Kairosoft formula. Tedious, drawn-out endgame scenario. Winning battles too often comes down to luck.