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The Reason I-Ninja Should Have Had More Success On The GameCube

In late 2003, the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC game I-Ninja was released by developer Argonaut Games and publisher Namco. It didn't do very well, as evidenced by the fact that it's largely been forgotten. In fact, Argonaut Games, which had developed the Star Fox series and had once done so well for Nintendo, closed its doors for good in October 2004, less than a year later.

Yet I-Ninja was, by and large, a charming and quirky game that people enjoyed. The GameCube version, especially beloved, has a 77-percent Metascore on Metacritic. GameSpot called it a "short but well-crafted third-person action game with a surprising variety of gameplay," and Nintendo World Report, while noting that it didn't offer anything new, named I-Ninja "a fun-filled and genuinely humorous romp with plenty to offer even the most jaded platform-gaming fan." 

Reviewers said the game basically had no coherent story, but they liked the angry, skillful protagonist Ninja himself – he even took No. 8 on PCWorld's Top 10 Video Game Ninjas list. A sequel was even once contemplated but never madeI-Ninja is still considered an underrated classic by many fans in comment sections across the internet. 

If only the timing had been right

Why didn't this little game become the breakout hit that Argonaut Games sorely needed? It's hard to be certain exactly how I-Ninja got so overlooked, but one big reason that this game should have done better than it did comes down to bad timing. 

Holiday 2003 was big for the three major platforms and the Game Boy Advance. In fact, Ubisoft released Prince Of Persia: The Sands of Time about two weeks ahead of I-Ninja's Dec. 4 GameCube launch, and some have attributed I-Ninja's poor showing to competition with this similarly styled platformer, which sold almost 600,000 units in November and December.

But that wasn't even its only competition. Ubisoft was bringing out Beyond Good & Evil, the shooter XIII, Tom Clancy's Rainbox Six 3, and Batman: Rise of Sin TzuI-Ninja was also competing with the likes of Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Tony Hawk's Underground, the original Call of Duty, and several Star Wars games, including Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

Basically, late 2003 was chock-full of good games. It's not surprising that the original IP I-Ninja got lost in the fray.