With all of the roguelike games appearing in the American market lately, it was just a matter of time until more of them contained actual rogues. Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns looks like it will fit this bill with its sass-talking heroine, preoccupation with loot, and humorous translation.
"Focusing solely on the mechanics would be a disservice to the wacky flavor that Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns seeks to slip into the roguelike establishment."
Roguelike games (also known as Mystery Dungeons) are typically divided into two camps based upon their difficulty: introductory adventures that can be overcome through perseverance, and the more brutal ordeals where repeated, painful death is the sole way to gain enough information to eventually defeat the dungeon. Both styles of roguelike games are characterized by randomly generated dungeon levels and unending streams of monsters, both of which Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns promises in full. Nevertheless, it's wary about acquiring the title of a hardcore roguelike. Unlike many games within the genre, Izuna doesn't lose her experience points when she dies -- just her gold and items.
Serious roguelike gamers needn't despair. There is a secret dungeon that's unlocked by completing the main game, which should satisfy even the diehards. This monster-sized bonus mission resets every character to level 1 before sending them into the most dangerous dungeon in the game. Luckily, Izuna is still able to bring a partner with her on her life-or-death spelunk.
The TAG team system is Izuna 2's most notable mechanical difference over Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja. Instead of sending a single ninja alone into the depths of Japan, Izuna can partner up with any one of over a dozen allies and local gods. Only one is controllable at a time, but the two can be switched at the push of a button. This allows for longer trips into the dungeon as well as a number of different combo attacks. After the Tag Gauge fills up, the two active characters combine their power for a mighty, screen-blasting mega attack.
The talisman mechanic from the first game is essentially the same. Given the number of monsters and their dangerous attacks, a great deal of Izuna's strategy revolves around maneuvering them into advantageous positions and using long-range tools such as ninja talismans. The sole addition is that of the talisman staff. After attaching a talisman to it, each swing of the staff uses the talisman for free while expending a charge from the staff.
Focusing solely on the mechanics would be a disservice to the wacky flavor that Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns seeks to slip into the roguelike establishment. The story begins hot on the heels of the events in Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja. The titular heroine is quickly thrust into situations involving free wedding food, a shadowy quest for a long-lost sister, and a startling invasion by the Gods of the West. Although dungeon exploration will take up the majority of the game, the story will play a strong part in differentiating Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns from the pack.
The story is primarily carried by original Japanese voice acting and English subtitles, bolstered by talking-head graphics. Character art is grounded in familiar anime designs. The similarity between some of the character portraits and their spritely representations is questionable, but the graphics as a whole are serviceable and provide structure to the game. The Nintendo DS's top screen provides an automap and summary of Team Izuna's statistics. It's also used for dialogue, leaving the lower screen free for action with either the stylus or control pad.
The American version of Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns features several improvements over the Japanese release, which suffered from freezing and other minor bugs. The game will slip into the American stores on July 22, 2008, disguised by the release of several other high-profile games.