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The original Hyperactive Ninja
If you’ve been following us lately, you’ll probably know that SHN is a remake of an Android game. In the original Hyperactive Ninja, we also had an evil Shôgun who steals all the coffee from the ninja village, and you, as Kohimaru, had to recover it.
This was just an excuse to get the game rolling, and justifying why Kohimaru had to pick up coffees.
Unfortunately, that was all, we never had an opportunity to flesh out the story and build a world with more characters. That wasn’t our intention either.
When David and me (Víctor) started making the original Hyperactive Ninja (under the name “Ninja Coders”, pretty rad huh?) we didn’t intend to make a great game with a great narrative, we were just two engineering students trying to figure out how to make an Android game, starting from scratch without any pre-made engine.
And it showed. Even if the game was fun (I believe that for being a “first game” we, and specially David, made a great work) it was hard to mantain and update. We updated it with new level packs twice or thrice before we gave up. So we never got to the climax battle against the evil Shôgun. And neither did we know how to do it.
The original Hyperactive Ninja had only one input: a single screen touch. We developed it for Android 1.5; Android didn’t even support multitouch back then, so we designed the game with that in mind.
Thus, the game was very limited in the player mechanics section. The player could only jump and wall jump, Kohimaru ran endlessly automatically and changed direction when he colided with walls.
We wanted to make boss levels, and we tried it two times. One against an Oni and the other against a Sumo Wrestler in a tie that throws barrels (get it?). But the mechanics didn’t allow more interesting battles, we were very limited. Also, we didn’t made the best design choices: many people didn’t understand how to beat the Oni and got frustrated.
So even if we got to fight against the big bad, we didn’t know how to start designing the boss battle.
Those were some of the things we (now Javi and me, as in Grimorio Team) wanted to “fix” in Super Hyperactive Ninja.
Remaking Hyperactive Ninja: First Steps
As we said in a previous post in our blog, David always wanted to do more with Hyperactive Ninja since we released it in 2010. Later, he began developing Path of Shadows which would eventually become Aragami (check it out if you haven’t, it’s awesome). So Hyperactive Ninja was left aside but never forgotten.
When we asked David about making a remake, we had something in mind: the game would not depend on a single input. We wanted to ditch touch controls, which limit the kind of games you can do.
So the long awaited remake of Hyperactive Ninja would be for consoles and PC!
This time, we thought the player had to move Kohimaru freely. It would be a waste of a controller otherwise. But then, there was a problem: now that the player can control Kohimaru, how can we add one of the signature features of the original game? I am referring to Kohimaru running from wall to wall.
It HAD to be in. Many people loved the little ninja running all caffeinated, it conveyed “hyperactivity” very well.
We though of a simple solution: making it a state you could enter into and give you a boost, Hyperactive Mode.
At first, Kohimaru went into Hyperactive Mode when he collected enough coffee to fill the energy bar at full, and it lasted until the energy bar reached the half. We designed some test levels with this approach, but there were some problems, mostly related to having to wait to leave Hyperactive Mode.
Chatting with David, we got an idea: having to charge Hyperactive Mode (by pressing a button), and leaving when you want (releasing that button). Kinda like Sonic’s spin dash (well, not really but that’s what came to our minds).
With this new approach, the gamefeel was really good! We succeeded in adapting a feature that was there just so the player could play only with a single input on a mobile device to a real mechanic.
While Kohimaru is in Hyperactive Mode, he can run faster, jump higher and perform “wall jumps”, and if he runs to an enemy while this is not facing him he can pulverize it. All at the cost of a higher energy expense and not being able to change direction.
In “normal mode” you can control where to go and jump and… that’s pretty much it. So we had to give the player an excuse to not be always in Hyperactive Mode. And we found it: pushing boxes.
This was the second mechanic we designed. At first, this was thought to build platforms to reach higher, but after testing it was deemed too slow. Not very Hyperactive.
So, we refactored it to have a more aggressive and direct approach: push a box over an enemy and watch it being crushed under. It was faster (just push a box off an edge), and more important, it was more fun.
Those changes in gameplay (Hyperactive Mode and pushing boxes) were just the tip of the iceberg, but were the start to more liberty in designing levels and challenges.