Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade claims itself to be a “Action RPG of Martial Arts, Mysticism and Rebellion” and truly sticks to that description. The setting is influence, quite obviously even, by traditional Asian themes such as Taoism (Yin and Yang) and ch’i (qi). However, the setting itself is unique (although influenced by Asian legends and folklore) and contained within its own world filled with ninja and a seemingly large empire. Traditional fantasy themes are replaced by those of martial arts philosophies and cinematic fiction. The setting, and much of the mechanics, is also influenced by martial arts Anime creating a seemingly over-the-top effect filled with kick-butt ninja action!
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade is powered by the Dynamic Gaming System. A basic roll-over d20 system where bonuses are added from a characters attributes and skills and then compared against a fairly standard target number (doesn’t float around as much as THE d20 System). The system utilizes only a single d20 with in-game mechanics based upon bonuses and penalties instead of using different dice for each roll. After learning how the mechanics work (as noted later on), it almost seems as if the system was built around the non-stop, martial arts action prevalent throughout the setting. Game-play should be very dynamic, interactive and filled with ninja action!
One of the strongest points of Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade is how the mechanics can replicate high-action, cinematic combat (common to many ninja-themed movies and Anime). If you’re ever looking to replicate this type of gaming experience, then this is the game for you. The setting is very focused upon the atmosphere it’s trying to create (that of the latest war referred to as The Ninja Crusade) and characters are bound to find themselves wholly absorbed into that setting. As stated before, the game is very dynamic and very interactive.
Publication Quality: 8 out of 10
The chapter-by-chapter layout and presentation is very smooth and well done. Along with lots of great looking illustrations, the publication quality is high. However, the overall layout of what order the content appears could be improved upon. I found myself skipping ahead to Character Building to make sense of the Clans section (where the in-game mechanics for choosing a clan are found). While seemingly minor, I found myself not fully understanding the first two chapters due to a lack of knowledge concerning how to create a character. Once you get past this hurdle, everything flows well and the content is very easy to read. This content is also done in a very concise manner which meant I rarely found myself misunderstanding what was being presented. Much of this is easily overlooked when you see the illustrations and how awesome some of them are. While they have a bit of an Anime feel, they are definitely fit perfectly with the settings theme.
Mechanics: 9 out of 10
I love how the mechanics fit in so well with the martial arts, action theme. When you think of a cinematic fight between two ninjas, it’s a constant exchange of blows – actions and reactions. The choices you make effect the length of time your action and reaction requires. The seemingly more difficult the move is, the more time it should take. And as opposed to simply taking turns, a single round is interactive in which all characters are performing moves instead of simply waiting until your opponent resolves all their actions. Another big plus is how the mechanics are tailored to fit the theme of the setting (such as wushu replacing magic). Character creation is fairly straight forward but the number of character bonuses and penalties can be a bit daunting. There are a lot of bonuses/penalties to calculate outside of a simple bonus-to-hit or bonus-to-damage. There are bonuses/penalties for the different combat moves and opposed checks and it becomes a bit much. You don’t want players to worry about too many mechanics during game-play. However, this fairly minor and the system still works wonderfully with the setting’s theme.
Desire to Play: 9 out of 10
For a game focused on high-action martial arts, there’s no need to look any further than Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade. Many of the Asian themes and influence come through quite nicely and the interactive turn sequence means that combat should never be dull. Many of the stereotypes surrounding ninjas and their high-velocity combat is felt within the mechanics (especially the fighting styles in chi). This is a definite, solid action system that keeps all players involved in every step of that action.
Overall: 9 out of 10
With solid mechanics, an interactive system that reproduces cinematic action and a fully fleshed out setting, Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade is an excellent choice for fun-filled action adventures. Those who enjoy Anime and ninja-clad movies should get plenty of enjoyment out of this game. Those who enjoy high-action, cinematic combat will also get lots of enjoyment out of this game. There’s even opportunities for long-term campaigns pinning the PCs in a struggling rebellion against a repressive empire.
[5 of 5 Stars!]