Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja

Atlus USA really loves localizing kooky Japanese video games: Disgaea, Contact, Trauma Center, and Touch Detective just to name a few. Fortunately, they also have a knack for keeping much of the humor intact in the translation process. The dialogue in Disgaea (my favorite SRPG ever) actually made me laugh out loud at many points, and when Atlus adds voice acting they do a darn fine job.

That said, no amount of excellent translation can save a game that just isn't fun to play. While I loved the story and the early couple of hours in Contact, I soon tired of the battle system, happily trading it in toward FFV Advance when the opportunity presented itself. I then changed my mind about buying Touch Detective when it appeared to suffer from the same gameplay problems. That may not seem like much, but you must understand that adventure games are in my blood... I'm like an adventure game vampire, insatiable since the heyday of Lucasarts' SCUMM games.

With all of this in mind, I present the next Atlus game for the DS:
Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja

Precious little is known about this game currently, but I can tell you that it is a self-proclaimed "old school, hardcore, monster bashing" dungeon crawl of an RPG. Until very recently, one of the biggest complaints about the DS in North America was the limited RPG selection, but Izuna marks the third dungeon crawler to be released within the same calendar year (the other two being Children of Mana and Pokemon Mystery Dungeon). Of course, Izuna is the only one that is (and I quote Atlus' press release): "strong enough for a man... but played as a hot chick!"

Never play the same game twice:
I'm gonna leave off from commenting on that, so let's talk gameplay. The game has been confirmed to be based on randomly-generated dungeons, proudly stating that these "deep, challenging labyrinths" will require you to make the best use of customizable weapons and elemental magic to defeat your (many, many, many) foes.

In poking around on the Japanese site, it seems that elemental attacks are attached to "familiar" type creatures of different elemental types. I would even to so far as to guess that the combined use of creatures from varying elements will cause new, more powerful attacks. I wouldn't discount the possibility that you'll have to work to make these familiars happy with you, either.

Izuna explains it all... just not clearly:
I ordinarily steer clear of using large quotes in my writing, but this one is just too much to try and paraphrase. Here's Izuna explaining the plot (taken from Atlus' press release):

"Hi there! I'm Izuna! So you see, we were canned because "Ninjas are sooo yesterday," and now we're looking for a nice place to settle down... That stupid lord... Just wait'll I get my hands on that jerk! So anyways, we found this quaint little village, but... Everyone's actin' all weird. Grandboss's acting like a kid... Shino-Sis's all mean... What's going on!? I mean, what is up with this place!?"

In other words, the plot isn't that important, but it's looking like the characters may be entertaining. Dialogue gems from the early translation include: "I heard there's some fine-looking fillies in the group that just arrived!" and "Holy crow, that's a lot of makeup you've got on there."

No stylus allowed:
A month or so ago I said I hated to see developers add touchscreen functionality to a game when it isn't necessary. Considering the press release also tells you to "drop your stylus, you pansy," I'm not terribly worried about that being a problem here.

So, what's the tally on Izuna, then?
The Good:
- Random dungeons means new gameplay each time
- Lots of battling can be a good thing, if it's fun to play
- Quirky dialogue translated by a company that knows quirky
- Hot ninja chick
- Likely to be no (useless) implementation of the touch screen

The Bad:
- Random dungeons with battles that aren't fun... really aren't fun
- Graphics don't look all that impressive
- Plot may not be enough to drive the gameplay
- Japanese gaming mag Famitsu gave it a 27/40 - not the best news

Waiting and seeing:
I really can't decide how I feel about this game. Part of me knows that Atlus' localizations are at least worth trying out, but another part of me was really disappointed with Children of Mana, a dungeon crawler in much the same vein.

For those of you who always love a good crawl keep an eye on the February DS release list, Izuna may be just the girl to hire.