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Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru (Early Access)
Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru (Early Access) Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru (Early Access) Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru (Early Access) Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru (Early Access)
This is Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru, the debut release from indie developer Ametist Studio. It's a throwback ninja game that combines stealth action with challenging platforming. I've played through the Steam Early Access version and know you have a bunch of questions, so let's crib this.

Who are the Nine Demons of Mamoru? Oh, we're just going to jump right into the story? So apparently it's 16th century Japan and the Shogunate has lost control and doomed the country to a violent civil war. To make matters worse, the leader of the Steel Claw has been dabbling in the forbidden practices and has been infected by the spirit of a vindictive and malevolent Samurai warlord. You play a Shinobi who has been sent on the mission to break the evil curse and bring order back to the land. No pressure.

Pixel Shinobi is a throwback 2D action game that tries hard to evoke memories of Ninja Gaiden, Shadow of the Ninja, Ninja Spirit and Shinobi. It's a fairly straight-forward adventure with an emphasis on stealth action and leveling up the nameless hero. You'll also be able to craft more than 200 recipes and carry a wide assortment of secondary attacks. It's the kind of game that looks simple at the start, but the more you play the deeper it gets.

Do you have to play stealthy? No. I'm going to level with you, I run hot and cold when it comes to stealth games, so I'm always a little concerned when a developer forces it on you. Thankfully, that's not the case with Pixel Shinobi. Sure, you can hide in the tall grass and wait for the absolute perfect time to strike, but you can also play this like a typical hack-and-slash action game. The Shinobi hero moves quickly and you don't have to spend too long on each enemy. Plus, you have plenty of health to survive a bunch of hits. The only downside is that you don't regenerate health when you hit checkpoints or continue, so you'll want to do everything you can to avoid surviving a bunch of hits.

What is the best thing about this game? Oh, that's easy. I love the look and challenge of the boss fights. The Early Access build I played only has two of these battles, but there will be a total of ten by the time it's fully launched. The first fight may not be visually spectacular, but it's tense and atmospheric. Things definitely pick up with the second boss, which is a massive poison-spewing monster that towers over our poor Shinobi. This fight is action-packed and reminded me of some of the best bosses from those old school 8-bit ninja games. With demons and supernatural possessions, there's a lot of room for some cool looking bosses. I'm excited to see where they go from here.

Conclusion: Even in its early state, there's a lot to like about Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru. The levels are large and full of different paths, the boss fights are cool and the role-playing elements help to add much needed depth to what could have been a straight-forward action game. In its current state, Pixel Shinobi is short and only features a handful of the "25 challenging levels" the developer promises. That's not a lot of content for the $10.99 asking price, but if the rest of the game is anything like the Early Access build, then Ametist Studio may have a real winner on their hands.
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