17th Apr2015

‘LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin’ Review (Nintendo 3DS)

by Phil Wheat

Ninjago-SofR-Art

The latest game in the now long-running LEGO Ninjago franchise, Shadow of Ronin is also apparently the 24th LEGO title in the video game series (can you believe that?). Based on both the building set line and moreso the cartoon it spawned – in particular the characterisation and the humour – LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin sees the titular ninja’s take on Ronin, an evil ninja with an army of dark samurai, who is on a mission to steal the Ninjas’ memories using an ancient and powerful weapon called the Obsidian Glaive.

It’s been quite some time since I last played a Ninjago video game, a VERY long time. In fact despite being a huge fan of both ninjas and LEGO (and the LEGO Ninjago mini figure line), the only previous game in the franchise I’ve played is the original title – simply entitled LEGO Ninjago: The Videogame – way back on the Nintendo DS. And it’s fair to say a LOT has changed…  For one, in the intervening years between the first game and this, makers TT Games have taken production in-house and, honestly, LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin is all the better for it. Having much more in common with other games in the series rather than the RTS type gaming previously linked to this franchise, this game plays much more like a small-screen iteration of  its home console brethren rather than any “portable” iteration of a LEGO game I’ve experienced.

LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin takes place in iconic locations from the TV series, including the Ice Temple, the Toxic Bogs, Chen’s Island and the mountain village of Spinjago where the Ninjas train in the art of Spinjitzu. Speaking of which, the game allows players to use the famous Spinjitzu abilities to unleash each Ninja’s unique elemental power to deal with bad guys and solve puzzles – there are even points in the game when the ninjas must team up to create the fabled multi-elemental Tornado of Creation!

Graphically there is little difference between this new game and those found on previous gen systems, PS# and Xbox 360, admittedly that’s because there is not much to the LEGO-ised imagery in every game but it was a surprise to see such detail included on a small-screen game; previous LEGO games have alwasy seemed to scrimp on the finer points of the graphics and gameplay but here, they don’t. I cannot stress it enough, this REALLY is a console title on a handheld; and much like previous generations of consoles saw some of their most graphically impressive titles debut towards the end of its life, so does the Nintendo 3DS (which has been superceded by the “New 3DS” with a faster processor and more graphical and processing power).

For fans of the TV show, LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin continues the long-standing traditions of the franchise. From the humour, to the characterisation, even the core story and plot points are followed through and referenced in this game. For the target audience who voraciously eat up all things Ninjago, the little touches such as this will surely be a crowd-pleaser. Yet for those who aren’t overtly familiar with the Ninjago universe there’s still plenty to love about this title, even if taken purely as a new game in the LEGO series: the off-the-wall, offbeat humour and the “gotta collect it all” mentality is here, as is the need to redo levels over and over to FULLY complete the game 100% – a formula which anyone who’s played a LEGO game before will be well-versed in.

Easily the best iteration of a LEGO game on handheld systems (on a personal level I enjoyed this game much more than the Pirates of the Caribbean and LOTR/Hobbit tie-ins), replete with some amazing voice-acting, LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin is out now on Nintendo 3DS and PS Vita.

**** 4/5

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