Some games just scream summer – maybe summer’s on my mind as I’m writing this in my shed while the sun sears down – and Ninjala’s surely one of them. Colourful, upbeat and brimming with energy, it feels like the perfect accompaniment to long June afternoons, so the timing of its release on Nintendo Switch this week – a few weeks later than originally planned due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, though now coming in the middle of a heatwave in the UK – couldn’t be more perfect.
At Ninjala’s developers GungHo Online, it’s the next step in some three years of development since the project’s genesis. “A very long time ago I wanted to make something themed around ninjas,” GungHo Online CEO Kazuki Morishita tells me over Zoom from the Tokyo office the team has just returned to. “I saw some kids playing around with sticks – it’s called chanbara in Japanese – and I asked myself why do people do this? When they pick up a stick, why do they start fighting like it’s a sword – it’s almost like a natural instinct!”
It’s an instinct I’m sure is shared across the globe – even at my tender age I’m still likely to do the same when I pick up a stick, though I’m also likely to accompany it with some improvised lightsaber noises too. “In Japan every kid does that,” Morishita continues. “When you’re a little kid, we used to play as ninjas – so that, combined with chanbara, that’s where it all comes from.