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Izuna 2: Hands-on with an Unemployed Ninja

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If you enjoyed Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja (or at least thought you might), then there's good news: the sequel is just as charming, just as engaging, and perhaps even a little more fun than the original. The sequel has a lot of new things, including a second baby step toward making Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns a hair easier on your sanity and frustration levels.

That's right -- while Izuna's games definitely fall under the roguelike label, they're a fingernail easier than the traditional dungeon crawler. That doesn't make them any easier to me, but the hardest of the hardcore may scoff at Izuna's differences, while the rest of us can actually attempt the game without "accidentally" dropping the DS or anything. What's different? In both Izuna 2 and its predecessor, when you die (and will you ever die), you keep your levels. In keeping with the roguelike tradition, you lose everything else, but it's not absolutely everything in a square-one sort of way. Izuna 2 adds something else on top of that: the tag team system. And that's where things get a little sticky.

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Here's the thing: if you want your roguelikes infinitely brutal, in which each move is like playing chess with a grandmaster, then Izuna 2 is probably not for you. If, however, you like the idea of a softer, gentler dungeon crawl, Izuna's great, and made even greater by the tag team system. But in order to enjoy it, you just have to accept that Izuna 2 isn't going to be as traditional a roguelike as it can be. It's not a flaw, but rather, a stylistic choice, and it's up to the player to decide if that's appealing.

Me, I'm not that great at roguelikes. I enjoy the challenge, but sometimes find it difficult to find the patience to persevere through the worst spots. That makes Izuna's slightly-lowered difficulty more appealing. It helps that Izuna is fun and never takes itself very seriously. The dialogue (with Japanese voice acting!) is charming, amusing, and frequently breaks the fourth wall. All the quirks that made the first game such a treat are here again, and coupled with the new gameplay mechanic, Izuna 2 really becomes a unique experience.

But how's the tag team system work? Essentially, it's like having an extra "life" (at least, if you've kept your chosen teammate leveled up). You go into dungeons as a pair, though only one character is playable at a time, and when one dies, the other takes over, with all of the same items. It definitely lessens the pressure that usually comes with entering dungeons in a roguelike.

But here, that just feels right. This game isn't taking itself seriously, so why shouldn't you relax? Early on in the title, it all just works so well together, and more aggressive challenges would take a little of that away. It's difficult to enjoy the jokes when you're swearing under your breath because you've just died for the tenth time in an hour.

Check back later for our full review!

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