Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2008-08-18 Nintendo DS Action/RPG T (Teen) Atlus / Ninja Studio

Continuing on my habit of playing sequels before the original games, I didn't play the first Izuna game and here I am checking out the return of the little Ninja girl that could.

Izuna 2 is an action RPG with quirky characters, funny dialogs and lots (and I do mean lots) of dungeon runs. The story begins as Izuna and friends leave a restaurant, with a hefty bill ot pay thanks to her appetite, so it's time to make some money to make up for it. But not so fast, there's a wedding to go to first. All goes well during the ceremony and celebration, but in the middle of the night, Shino - Izuna's best friend - leaves. Rumors say a mysterious muscular man was seen around there recently, and that Shino was headed into the cave north of the village. What could possibly be going on? Well, it's up to our Izuna to find out, of course.

I have to say I had to idea what I was getting into, so everything felt a bit awkward at first. Fortunately there is a handy tutorial at the beginning to explain the basics. The dungeons are randomly generated once you enter them, and you must progress through a series of floors and descend to the last level, where eventually you will encounter a boss. To get there, you must find the stairs on a given level and go down, but this isn't as easy as it sounds.

There are plenty of monsters in the dungeons, some of them with certain special abilities. For example, a mole will set traps that you can't see unless you trigger them, a frog will leave an egg that if it hatches, will spawn something that hurts a lot, some monsters will root you in place, others will use ranged attacks, and so on.

Every time Izuna moves, uses an item or attacks, that counts as one turn. Basically, as you walk around the dungeon floor, so do monsters, so the tactics often change and you must keep your eyes peeled for enemy movement on the map. Enemies show as red triangles, items as blue, stairs as white. And once you go down the stairs, there's no way back up. This means you can only exit the level by completing it, escaping by using a talisman that takes you back to the village, or dying. If you go back to the village, you will have to re-enter the dungeon and start back on the first floor. If you die, all your items are taken away, but at least you keep your levels and experience.

Don't expect to just enter a dungeon and run through it in one setting, and this may really annoy players who like to rush through them, beat the boss and be done with it. You will be going back, over and over, especially because your inventory is pretty limited and you don't want to risk dying without losing that special item you just found. And no, you can't just reload a previous save. The game saves automatically when you die and are brought back to the village.

There are some particular talismans that you can stick to items so that if you die, they will be found in your storage. Make sure you sell things you don't want and deposit money and items that you do want whenever you go to a village, just so you will have something in the event of dying.

Talismans are actually curious items. They have single uses in combat and special effects if you stick them to a piece of equipment or weapon (such as defense or attack boost, change to sleep an enemy, change to split an enemy into two). Experiment and create more powerful equipment with them, it's definitely worth it.

Eventually you will gather party members that can help you out in battle. Before adventuring into a dungeon, you can pick one of them to go with you, or any two other characters. Some characters complement others better (there's even a handy chart in the game manual for this), so pick a pair that works well together. The advantage of the tag system is that you can do a special attack once the gauge is full. The downside is, both characters share the same limited inventory.

Overall, Izuna 2 is a very challenging game with plenty of hilarious bits throughout, but be warned, this is one game that it will test your patience. If you're looking for a fast-paced hack'n'slash, look elsewhere. But if you're in the mood for something a little deeper, check it out.

Special thanks to Aram Jabbari and Atlus for providing a copy of this title.