What's better than a game about a shuriken-chuckin', rope-swingin' cyber-ninja with green glowing eyes and powers of invisibility? Two games about that ninja. Nitrome's Final Ninja Zero is a prequel to Final Ninja, our choice and yours for browser-based platform game of 2008. It's 20 more levels of explosions, stealth, and lasers, with plenty of new surprises to befuddle and destroy you.
Steer your ninja with the [arrow] keys or [WASD]. Aim and throw stars by tapping the mouse button. Hold the button to extend a climbing rope that sticks into walls. Press [down] to activate your cloaking device, which is a very cool effect that warps lasers around you, and of course prevents sensors from spotting you and setting off nasty alarms.
Zero tells the story of our hero Takeshi 40 years before the vendetta against his master Akuma, back when he worked as a mercenary for the espionage department of a powerful mega-corporation. During his first mission against rival Food Pharma Corp, a mission which somehow involves both samurai and hamburgers, a mysterious force incapacitates him, and he finds himself imprisoned within blah blah blah blah there are cyborg ninja monkeys!
Did you hear me? Cyborg. Ninja. Monkeys. Play this game and you get to fight them.
You also get to dodge behind pipes to hide from snipers, who this time around have infrared scopes so they can still find you when you're cloaked. You get to disguise yourself as a surprisingly nimble scientist. You get to hack into remote-controlled mines and fly them around like your own personal carrier pigeons made of dynamite.
Gee, that sounds like fun!
It sure is, Betsy. Final Ninja Zero may not be a giant leap forward from its cyber-pappy, but it's still a fantastic game. Not exactly a casual game, mind you. About a quarter of the way through, you'll already need some serious platforming skills or you're ninja dust. But the challenge is how you know you're a true warrior, from the first tricky wall jump past a cutting laser to the slightly disappointing final boss.
Analysis: Wait, what? Yes, Betsy, there are some disappointments. While the first half of Final Ninja Zero offers non-stop shocks and thrills, introducing new enemies and abilities regularly and putting you through a gauntlet of tight and focused levels, the second half… doesn't. The new ideas just stop, and everything from the first half gets recycled, but five times more difficult.
Mind you, it doesn't become a bad game at that point, by any means. It just comes down off the crest of the wave that it was riding so effortlessly. That's the curse of platform games: they don't stand up well under the weight of repetition.
The other big problem, as before, is that a browser window surrounded by clickable ads is very badly suited for a game where you're clicking around all the time. Unless you can engineer a clever solution, be prepared to occasionally take a sudden break from dueling with samurai to plan your vacation in sunny Arizona.
Golly, that sounds discouraging!
Don't be crazy, Betsy. Final Ninja Zero is still one of the finest platforming action games you can play in a browser. It's so fun just leaping around spewing ninja stars, even a one-on-one battle with a machine-gun toting grunt is a blast. The infamous Nitrome difficulty, the gorgeous Nitrome artwork, and the bizarro Nitrome pacing are all part of the experience. Once again, this development team proves they possess the powers of incredible action-adventure. The rest of the internet would do well to infiltrate their lair and steal their secret.
Hint: the secret is cyborg ninja monkeys.