Ninjala - A surprisingly good game

2022-03-17

This document is still in development, as it goes through the few months of playing this game and describing past experiences.

Links in this document to Youtube or Reddit will be going to Indivious and LibReddit instances respectively.

I'm planning on doing a video version of this document upon further completion.

Too Long, Didn't Read.

The game is really good, it's catchy and fun, and I really like the style of the game. Main gripes I have with it is the griding that must be done when you don't have a pass (alongside the limited ammount of plays without a pass), the (still to research myself) weapon balancing, and the recently added Gum Lab on Season 9, which could change the course of balancing for the game.

 A couple of disclaimers

Hi, welcome to this document. There are a couple of things to mention beforehand:

  • I've only played Ninjala for a total of about 25 total hours.
  • I haven't interacted with the community at all to have more insight about how the experience is.
  • I actually have no idea about the collabs except for a tiny bit of
  • I've watched the Anime, but I haven't watched the 2D animated show fully to give it proper insight on the chapter "Hey, there's an anime with this game".

If at any point you would like to play some matches with me, you can ask me for my Nintendo Switch code via email (Or Discord if you happen to know where I am).

Also, if I have any kind of information wrong, please let me know! I still don't know everything about this game and I'm bound to mess up somewhere, so clarifications are appreciated!

 Introduction

Back in 2020, I had heard about this game called Ninjala, and initially I just passed it out as a Splatoon clone; an often common term that I see when people talk about this game, in which I'll try to demostrate that it isn't later on this document.

It was back on the news page on the Switch, which just had the trailer for it. I was somewhat excited for it, and decided to wait until release to play it. However, when the day arrived, I installed it, but didn't actually play it. I guess I felt betrayal or something about playing something that wasn't Splatoon (given at the time I was invested in that), however I can't be sure, I just had this feeling of concern. It wasn't until the start of 2022 that I decided to give it a chance again, after seeing some posts about Ninjala back on the news feed on the switch but also some images of the anime. I hadn't even known that an anime existed, so that intrigued me.

When joining, it was about the last week of Season 8, so what I decided to do is get the lite season pass, which only gets you until tier 30 with the prizes. Another thing that I didn't noticed was that, because I had made the account back when the game came out, I had a lot of mails and gifts waiting for me, regarding: server interruptions, player milestones, years of play, and other things. This definitly bumped my initial Jala to a reasonable ammount to start fully on the next season.

This led me a to a situation, which I also explained to a couple of friends that happened to be on the same situation: save on the Jala now, at least get the Lite Season Pass, to see how the game is like - as even the lite pass gives you unlimited plays - and then spend the full pass on the new season if you so choose. I did this process exactly, I was offered a small discount with this as well, as it was my first pass. I think it was about half the original price but I cannot recall well.

 Multiplayer and the internet infraestructure

The multiplayer is split into several categories, but it can be summarized into two: Free-For-All or Team Battle (For an exception in a bit).

 Free For All

Easily I've been playing this mode the most. It's dang fun, despite the often realization that some weapons may be buffed or not. I haven't felt the need to stop playing, I just kept having this smile on my face while playing. It's an (up to) 8 player match, where everyone just beats the shit out of everyone else, and you try to make the highest ammount of points. Keeping in track with what I learned on the first 20 or so matches, I've come to this conclusion:

  • Drones are really important to get.
  • The spear (or whatever you call it) is really fast.
  • Range weapons are uhhhhhhhh, rangey.

So I ended up with a combination of just using the GRB Gears with the Ninjutsu reserve and Memoire mirror (that's how it's mentioned in English I think?).

 Team Battle

I've only played 2 matches on this one so far. It's basically the same as the Free For All, but now you just beat the shit out of the other team, while also there are a couple of extra drone spots on some maps. While it's fine in the concept, I'm still thinking why the execution leaves somewhat to be desired (at least in my perspective).

That brings me to an extra point that I want to bring which is the competitive aspect of the game. Surprisingly this game has one; but its so hidden it took me a few minutes to figure out how to even enter a competitive match. Now it's just second nature somewhat, but it can be streamlined with a side toggle on the matchmaking menu, instead of having to enter the "Ninjala Combat" menu and then picking the mode. (A.k.a it could be added as a button toggle on the menu itself which would toggle the modes on the quick options).

 Special Events

Fron time to time, the game gives out these special events that are time limited, but offer some mix up with the general play of the game. So far I've played through 3 of them: Soccer mode, Last Ninja Standing and the one where you are the uh, I don't know what the beast you become is called, the one where you transform when you have the spear weapon thing, and you go chase the other ninjas like hide'n'seek.

Easily enjoyed the Soccer mode, knowing full well its just like Rocket League, but you have to walk to it, so in that sense its just regular soccer? I don't know at this point. Most of the matches always ended up being a 2v2 match, but when full, oh man it is fun.

Connections and Matchmaking

I mean, if you've played the game on either modes (Global or Regional) it's the same deal. Due to the matchmaking part of the game not being really well balanced which I think its in part to the smaller userbase that constantly plays the game, you can end up in situations where you're up against players that are about 5-15 times more leveled and experienced than you. There really isn't much it can be done here unless new players come into the game, and try to make the matchmaking on those new players not as messed up as the ones coming to level 25-30 for example.

If the server can't find enough players in a certain ammount of time, then it just fills the rest with preset players; a.k.a the main characters of the game. Note the players already marked as ready.

There were also connection problems that just made me question how the game prioritizes actions. However I did find this Ippon funny.

In the end, if you want matches, play on Global. If your internet isn't great, play Regional and hope other people in your continent play too. While in this chapter, I would invite you to experience these 30 seconds of pure dumbness from me.

 Let's talk about Season 9

Season 9 is insect themed, which I didn't really expected much being on setting, but it somewhat fits. I will say, given this event I was really mesmerized on a particular item as it reminded me of old fun times with my friends, and a Megaman Zero character. I ended up buying it after staring at it for 10 minutes, leaving me with no Jala.

The costume in question.

However, eventually I did return back to a stable earning while participating on one of the Matsuri events they held, which are events where the daily missions are tagged with insane exp rewards and you can just switch the ones you don't want to do at any moment.

Also in this event, was the "re-introduction" of the WNA Resort. Apparently this was already shown before but it was still unfinished, and it still somewhat is? It's even only available for a limited time. I'm really not sure how this resort's development history goes, however it is being used as an alternate hub where you can meet up other players that are also in it. I must say it does have some nice spots for background shots.

Update: It has been closed again, but they've assured it is opening officially next season.

Image: Closure annoucement and reopening announcement

In this island you can interact with players in there to view their profiles or join their game lobbies, which is a really good idea to find people to play with, and check up if you can be up to the task. I kinda wished the transitions between said menus wasn't as long so it doesn't feel you're just standing there while checking their stats/room. Maybe just have a quick info pane about their stats that doesn't show their character model rather than fetching back to the Player Information screen that is inside the system options?

A fun thing I tried to do here, is trying to get to the flying platform that was on top of the map, figuring it should've been solid, to then succeed, only to find that there's a portal there where it explains it's the Sky Lounge, and it was under the waterfall this whole time.

There was a WNA Cup, I participated in it, didn't go so well that I ended up in about 4000th spot, one of the matches was actually one of the screenshots shown above.

Currently I'm not even done with all of the season's contents. I'm only at tier 66, so I still got plenty of things to do before declaring I've completed this Season.

But definitely, the biggest thing introduced in this event has also been the controversial aspect of this season.

The Ninja Gum Lab

This will take a moment to explain. During the reveal stream for season 9 (Dev Diary #22), the Gum Lab was teased as a way for players to research attacks and to perfect their Ninja-Gum, by "increasing its damange, reducing its cooldowns, and more"; which is something the Shinobi cards already did for some specific weapons or tactics. However this one is applied as a permanent upgrade to either every attack or cooldown in general or to specific weapons, thus the categories shown above.

Do I think this could work? Maybe but I'm not even sure; especially considering that there's a bundle to buy research points on the store, which brings the pay to win aspect into question. It is worth noting though that these bundles are only one time purchases, so it's likely they know the situation this could fall into.

There is no shortage of concerns from players about the potential mess this could bring for player balancing, specially for newer players.

Reddit Post: "Gonna talk about that "Ninja Gum lab" feature, because it genuinely scares me"

Reddit Post: Let's not forget that The Resort is open for a couple of weeks and is in beta

YT Link: [Ninjala | Gmod] Ninja Gum Lab is a Joke

 Hey, there's an anime with this game

This section includes small general summarized spoilers for the Ninjala Anime ep 1-12.
If you'd like to skip this section, click here.

Yeah, there's one. Technically this is the third attempt they've done to make a series that explains the story of Ninjala, previously being a 2D animated cartoon, and even before that, months before the release of the game a CGI toon, created by Marza animation Planet, ModelingCafe (subdivision of Cafegroup), VISUALMAN TOYKO and The Monk Studios. However, at the end of 2021 it was announced that a new Ninjala Anime was being produced by OLM, Inc. which would air in January 2022, and it's good. Currently at the time of me writing this, there are 12 episodes, with the 13th happening the same day I'm writing this sentence right now.

If you want any info about airings and stuff like that, they have an entry on the Anime section in TV-TOKYO. Usually the youtube uploads are about a week after the original airing.

The mayor thing I've noticed with this anime is a lot of the episodes (until the 10th) are retellings of what happened on the 2D animated series, like the first episode of the 2D show is Van's origin story, which is retold in episode 3's "Awaken, Young Van!"; or Lucy's origin episode, being the second on the animated show, and episode 4 in the anime. I do find interesting that the show never had an episode that showcased Burton and Rebecca perfecting the Ninja-Gum, which is what the CGI episode and the Anime did as their first episodes.

I would say my favourite scene has to the the chase between Jane and Ron with the Oniwabanshu, on episode 8. It has a noire-style feeling with the calm but unapologetic jazz; which reminds me of stuff like L.A. Noire, alongside the cherful students from the academy admiring the fireworks providing a stark contrast to the current events, while both of the undercover ninjas are being chased with a cliffhanger to top it off for the next episode.

Would I recommend watching the anime? Yeah. It's got its highs and lows, the pacing is a bit weird in places, but you can get through it, and do mind there's a couple of filler episodes, like ep. 9 where it's just Lucy and Emma fighting some thugs.

I know it's meant to imply that Lucy can make some friends even in her manic personality, but the mayority of the episode just felt like retelling the traits of some characters and just let them do things.

 What about Splatoon? Would that kill interest in this game?

This is the important question that I had while making this document. I was in the camp at the beginning of the idea that, this game was basically just a Splatoon clone and nothing more, and that I would just wait for Splatoon 3. However, the thing to address is:

  • While I am knowledgable on the lore of Splatoon, and have collaborated on Splatoon content in the past, I have never played any of the games, however I have seen plenty of footage of the game, and even seen live events of matches to understand the mechanics.

What I'm saying is this: while Splatoon has its unique elements that define a team-based third person shooter, I really don't think it can knock out this game from the userbase. Slowly over time this game - just like any game with some unique elements - gains a passionate fanbase that always supports the game over to watch it grow and succeed.

Right now, Ninjala is somewhat seeing a small renaissance in its userbase and player interest, with a lot of people coming to the game to play for the first time, and even returning players that left the game a long time ago because they got tired about the grinding. The assortment of fan content is slowly but surely getting there, with people making drawings of their their characters, animations in GMOD, hand-drawn coming along, custom game modes, podcasts, and other things.

Even recently I've seen people merging both fanbases together in animations or custom content, as if they were on the same universe, and honestly, it fits right in. There shouldn't be conflict with these fanbases, they can co-exist, grow and mature.

 Conclusion

Ninjala is a good* game. If you have a switch and Switch Online, give this game a go, it is quite fun. Sure, the grind is going to be somewhat taunting at first given the ammount of rewards it gives you at the start, however, once you've got enough Jala to get at least the Lite Pass (which is at a discount when its your first time), that'll be your rocket to fully experience this game without the inconveniences.

The game can absolutely last, it has a really distinct style and combat system that brings some fresh take on the brawler genre, and Splatoon isn't going to be the one taking it down.


*The Gum Lab will absolutely need reconsideration given the mayor pay to win factor it brings to the table, and the sheer fact that skill always beats, and the grinding to obtain these research points are basically dependant on when Gunho currently wants them to add them, like every Anime broadcast on YouTube or via mail.

Another factor is the weapon balacing, as I've seen that people are keen about how certain weapons are quite unbalanced, however I do not know the difference between them yet as I haven't used them all.