What happens when you cross the cartoony antics of Arms with the calculated multiplayer zaniness of Splatoon? It might look something like Ninjala, GungHo Online's upcoming multiplayer action game that's headed to Switch as an exclusive in 2019. As much as its vibrant world gives off heavy Nintendo first-party game vibes, it's very much its own adventure with unique quirks and characters all its own. Most importantly, it was some of the most fun I've had with a multiplayer affair from a third-party Switch developer in some time.
According to GungHo CEO Kazuki Morishita, Ninjala was actually inspired by ninja and sports "chanbara," or sword-fighting. The influence is clear, as you take on a series of rainbow-hued ninja characters who happen to kick butt and chew bubblegum – except this time, they've got plenty of gum.
In fact, they chew it and then blow massive bubbles. The bigger the bubble, the bigger the weapon that can be formed from said gum. If you blow a bigger bubble, you'll get a slower, heavier weapon with higher damage. If you blow a smaller bubble, you'll get a smaller, faster weapon. The blitz of a demo I participated in during PAX West barely gave me time to play around with the mechanics, but running around busting out parkour moves on rooftops and up the sides of buildings gave me a rush like little else.
Making sure you've always got a weapon is a huge part of the game, and you can't forget to make sure you've got your bubblegum weapon available if you suddenly get taken out or eliminated. As I was getting my bearings, I made this mistake a lot. The demo found me and News Editor Charles Singletary squaring off against a squad of other attendees, with all of us working against each other to score as any points as possible by knocking each other out. I ended up taking second place, which wasn't too shabby.
The PR rep at my side coached me to blow bigger bubbles for more powerful weapons, and I knocked out my opponents with gusto, though there was a certain floatiness to locking onto enemies that disoriented me and found me wandering around in a circle instead of pummeling the others. I chalked it up to the lack of a great lock-on mechanic, but I had plenty of fun running around the expansive world nevertheless, utilizing parkour to get from point A to point B .
In the end, I was left wanting more. A lot more. As the PR rep ushered Charles and I away to try out the next game at the station so the next few attendees could have their time with the game, I lamented how sad I was that it wasn't going to be making its way to Switch until 2019. Unfortunately, there's no concrete release date for when Ninjala will make its way into eager multiplayer fans' hands, but we should know more in the coming months.