N+ vs N+

30 Jan / by: M&R / 54 comments / tags :

Before getting to the actual subject of this post, we should point out that the latest installment of our IGN developer blog is up: https://blogs.ign.com/Metanet/

To make up for the lack of substance last time, we’ve packed 8 pages of Q&A into a single column! Aw yeah.

We’ve also updated the N/N+ website: https://www.thewayoftheninja.org/

We’re still in the process of digging through our webmail to find all of the N-related pics submitted over the past couple years; one of the best new ones is this halloween costume. Classic — inadvertently homicidal robots are definitely the new ghosts. Take that, Pac-Man!


Now for the actual blog post:

One thing that’s becoming increasingly obvious as we near the launch of N+ (and the interviews/marketing/etc. this entails) is that there is some confusion regarding what’s different between the various versions. In hindsight we should have simply used two different names to denote the two different projects.. perhaps N^X for the XBLA version, and.. well, part of the problem is that we could never figure out a better name than N+. Aside from N++ of course, but that was deemed too geeky even for a game where level numbers are counted from 0.

As a result, there are two totally different games being released called “N+”: one on XBLA (developed by Slick Entertainment), and one on DS/PSP (developed by Silverbirch). It’s actually more like 2.5 games, since the DS and PSP versions are the same in terms of the game itself (graphics/design/physics etc.) but differ in terms of content, each having completely different levels.


In order to reduce the confusion — and if we might be so incredibly bold as to analogize our game with one specific series of gaming masterpieces which influenced us — we’ve developed an explanation which we feel is both concise and easy to grasp intuitively, while working on many different levels to explain the sundry subtle differences between the various forms that N+ is taking:

If N was Super Mario Brothers 3, then N+ on XBLA would be Super Mario World, while N+ on DS/PSP would be The New Super Mario Brothers.

This can be taken in many ways, in terms of differences between the various platforms themselves, to differences between the art direction and gameplay of the titles, to differences in the lineage and development teams behind each title… it’s a remarkably apt metaphor (or simile or whatever, smart-ass).


Since our meaning may not be as obvious as we ourselves feel it is, here’s the long version:

The XBLA version is a super-improved evolution of the original: it supersedes the flash version in that the low-level movement and feel of the physics and control is identical, while many solid improvements and exciting new features have been made at higher levels. Multiplayer and augmented graphics and sound being the biggest ones, but there are tons of smaller ones such as modification to buggy enemy and object code, the addition of new enemies and objects, and the happy removal of the glitchy-collision-when-running-up-hills bug! Plus now we can sit on the couch rather than at our desks πŸ˜‰

Anyone who likes N will absolutely not be disappointed by N+ XBLA.

Of course, this cuts both ways — those who don’t like N will more than likely find that N+ doesn’t change that, though it is definitely much more friendly in terms of level progression and learning curve. Perhaps “less intimidating” would be a better way to put it…seeing your ninja’s corpse repeatedly savaged by robots may not be all that friendly. πŸ˜‰ Anyway, since anyone who doesn’t like N more than likely has no soul, and/or really sucks at games, nuts to them.


The handheld versions, in contrast, are more of an alternate take on N than a revision of the original. The style/design in general, as well as the feeling of moving the ninja, are definitely more “influenced by” than “identical to” the flash version. We worked very hard with the developer to make sure that the movement and feeling of controlling the ninja are as close as possible, but in the end platform differences (such as screen resolution, lack of floating point, and many other factors) made it impossible to get it perfectly right. Running and jumping is still fun and fluid, and is definitely very close to the original, we just want to make sure that die-hard fans are prepared — the handhelds are definitely different-feeling than the flash version. Don’t get us wrong, this is not necessarily a bad thing, some people might prefer how the handheld versions feel.

In terms of design as a whole, we don’t agree with some of the decisions that were made with the handhelds; this seems to simply be a consequence of the unfortunate nature of licensing something and given the vague title “consultant” vs being in charge of production and able to more closely guide development. Mostly these are smaller things, which have been termed “nit-picky”, such as the choice of font, menu layout, interface, graphics etc., however we feel that these things do make a difference. David, the project’s producer at Atari, has been terrific and helped us shape things as much as we could, however at the end of the day the developer also had their own ideas about what N+ should be, which unfortunately didn’t always match ours. We should point out that the developer behind the XBLA version, Slick, also brought in ideas for N+, but we mostly agreed with them; they were in many cases additions we hadn’t considered but felt were perfectly suited.

As a result the handhelds are not the games we would have made, whereas the XBLA version is exactly what we wanted. The emphasis is important, because we realize that what we like and what everyone else likes aren’t always the same thing; we’ll have to see which version ends up being considered “the best” by everyone else. If it’s not completely obvious, we aren’t exactly experts when it comes to making games or predicting the reaction of the retail market. We know what we like, and our well-educated opinions in this regard are primarily what we go on.

As it stands now, we can say that the handheld version of N+ is among the best platformers we’ve ever played on DS/PSP. It’s a good game; we just don’t think it’s as good a rendition of the original flash game as the XBLA version is — and this may or may not matter to anyone else! It’s very hard for us to say sometimes whether the differences are “better” or “worse”.. we’re so close to the project that all we can see is all of the things we disagree with, and that makes it hard to objectively evaluate the project as a whole. Also, we’re not sure how many people will be buying N+ because they like platformers and/or ninjas, and how many will buy it because they know and like N; the former is probably far more likely.


So that basically covers the differences. Of course, there are also many similarities between the two versions of N+. Most notably (to us) is that the level design in all versions of N+ is much better than in the current flash version. This is probably just a product of us learning and improving over time; looking through the flash levels there are only about 200 out of 500 which we would consider “as good” as the levels in N+ (one caveat is that we didn’t make the multiplayer handheld levels).

The difficulty curve in N+ is much more gradual than in N — levels are still insanely hard at the end (especially some co-op levels on XBLA — yikes!), but the progression is much more gradual. To counterbalance this, we tried to made sure that the easier levels all have little tricks or dangerous alternate paths which expert players can use to get better scores — this way anyone who’s beaten the game won’t be bored by the “intro” episodes when they replay it. The game is definitely still very hard!

And of course, all versions of N+ feature the addition of various co-op and competitive modes of multiplayer, which might be the most exciting new feature. It can definitely get intense!


Anyway, hopefully some combination of our ingeniously concise analogy and the rather more verbose version following it has helped to, at long last, clear up exactly what the difference is between N+ and N+.

[Insert funny ending here]

p.s – AAAAAAAARRRRGGHHHH!!!!!!! We’ve just heard that the N+ XBLA launch has been delayed from “very very soon” to “very soon”.. damn it!!

comments ( 54 )


    I’ve waiting for this since PAX! PAX!!!

    What are we talking about for “very soon”? I know they release on Wednesdays. So maybe it went from next Wednesday to the Wednesday after? I mean it passed certification, and it’s distribution online. WHY?!?!

  • Waiting……. waiting so long……. only game I’ve ever waited for on XBLA.

  • D:
    I would have preferred the orginal style for the handheld versions, instead of that blue-ish mush.

  • sorry about the delay.. unfortunately we got bumped for games from more important publishers πŸ™

    @sucker: the handhelds have a “pure mode” in which the graphics/colors are all the same as the flash version

  • Yeah, sadly it looks like Poker Smash next week. Not a bad game in the least (and developed by a teeny tiny team of 3), but it’s no N+!

    I’m just bracing for the pain in the coming weeks as titles like Brain Challenge and Go Go Sudoku hop over ninja platforming awesomeness.

  • Also, any hints on what the secret achievement is going to be? It’s so rare to see secret achievements in XBLA games! Collecting all the gold seems like it could add a hefty amount of replay value πŸ™‚

  • I have to ask the same question Robbertom asked,

    what would “very very soon” have been? 1 week?
    What does “very soon” mean? 1 month?

    I’d like to at least have a general idea for when to expect N+ to come out, it’s getting hard to keep patient..

  • we can’t actually say because (a) we’re not allowed to say until 1 week before launch, and (b) in XBLA they never actually assign you a slot, basically you get stuffed in a queue, and as we’ve found out it’s a priority queue, so VIPs apparently get to cut in front πŸ™

    the planned release date was early december, so basically ANY DAY NOW, but not next week or we’d be able to say. in the next few weeks? we don’t want to be specific because at any point we might get delayed again.. we’re really sorry about this, we’re dying over here because we’ve been playing it for months and can’t wait to get it out there for everyone else!!

  • thanks.

    Also I just realised that a long time ago, I told a friend I’d showed N to about how the game would be great on the DS, and how awesome multiplayer would be for it.

    Even though I was just sort of hoping you guys would do that, I’d say I made a pretty accurate prediction of what you’re doing now.

  • “@sucker: the handhelds have a β€œpure mode” in which the graphics/colors are all the same as the flash version”

    The best news I’ve heard all day πŸ™‚

  • Well let’s do some math. This post went up on the 30th, and as that’s a week from Wednesday, that means you could have told us, so it wasn’t going to be the 6th. So then that’s the 13th

    Then if that got moved back a week, that would put it on the 20th. So I’m going to assume the 20th. You don’t have to say if I’m right… just… say if I made a faulty assumption? πŸ˜›

  • yes, one.

  • Bah. I think I’m close enough.

  • Yeah, but whaaaaaaat’s with the graphix??!? I just don’t get it!

  • If you cant tell us about the xbox version then what about the pc version 1.5. I can’t wait for this version. Any idea when we can expect it to be released.

  • Just letting you guys know, your link to the forums on the N Community page doesn’t work for me. You have it as http://www.metanet.forumer.com, but it should be metanet.2.forumer.com.

    Looking forward to N+!

  • When is the new pc version(1.5) coming out?

  • @chase: not for quite a while — we want to finish robotology first! sorry πŸ™

    @tktktk: “tytyty” πŸ˜‰

  • hearing about the handheld versions makes me want the XBLA version so much more!

    …you guys better REALLY be serious about porting the game over to psn in a few years, cause i think thats the only way i’ll ever get to buy the REAL n+

    ..i refuse to buy a 360 for ONE 400-800 point xbla game, when i already have a ps3.


    i refuse to get over this!

  • I would love a ps3 version because it is the only game system I own besides pc and I also would never buy a 360.

  • /me wants it to be announced today…

  • “(a) we’re not allowed to say until 1 week before launch”

    Does this mean you’ll let us all know in here if it’s coming out the following week? I.E. is next Wednesday out of the question?

  • @Rusty

    Looks like it…

    Wikipedia has February 26th up for some reason…

  • *gasp* That’s not a Wednesday!

  • Hrm… And here I assumed competence…

  • Uh yeah, Wiki is not a great source. “Both the handheld and XBLA versions are slated to be shipped on March 18, 2008.”

    I think that’s about as wrong as it gets.

  • it won’t be next week, sorry!

  • M&R said “unfortunately we got bumped for games from more important publishers”

    M&R said “(b) in XBLA they never actually assign you a slot, basically you get stuffed in a queue, and as we’ve found out it’s a priority queue, so VIPs apparently get to cut in front”

    Joystiq said “Disney releases Tron for XBLA next week”

    I think I’m seeing the connection…

  • Just tell me this: will we see an XBLA launch in 2008? ;)_

  • yes!

  • the wait continues…

  • how’s that little ole’ thing called Robotology looking these days?

  • Another Wednesday coming up…which means we could be just 7 short days from the release of N+! I shall be checking here tomorrow for word on whether ninja goodness is OTW!

  • it turns out we can’t actually say anything until the MONDAY before launch. that’s a bit silly.. both tron and poker smash were known a week ahead of time!

  • But…..


    And yeah seriously the last post I put up was Tron being announced on Wednesday. Maybe because it was put out in a press release they were able to tell people earlier?

    Maybe you should write up a press release?

    Maybe you should get an exclusive interview on CNN? Maybe get on Larry King?

    Because seriously drumming up hype for this game would be so awesome.

  • Call me crazy but adding up facts brings out a suprising point. Last week, febuary 7th was the post “Its is not next week” and now a week later instead of a “Not next week” we get a “it turns out we can’t actually say anything until the MONDAY before launch. that’s a bit silly.. both tron and poker smash were known a week ahead of time” That means just recently they found out they have to wait tell monday, meaning that it is a high chance they recently talked to microcrap represntitive, meaning it most likly will be coming out next week. But they still cant tell us.

  • my apoligise i mean microsoft

  • Yeah…that’s sorta promising…but I’ll reserve excitement until I know for sure.

    And so what if you let it leak early? What’s the worst that could happen? M&R could totally take on the legal might of Microsoft!

  • we just don’t want them to bump it again!

    about the press release, this whole thing is due to the fact that Microsoft has their own marketing team who are sending out the press release on the monday before, so they don’t want it undermined i guess.

    i don’t know.. maybe we can post something tomorrow, we’re still waiting to hear back from microsoft, because as mentioned it seems like every other game was announced a week early (which led us to believe that was the rule).

  • i saw the preview for N+ on Kotaku today.

    …he LOVED it, which is great, consider me re-excited for the game, despite the minor control differences…

    i can’t tell you how frustrated i am that i can’t be excited about what i consider the REAL n+…

    ..i want to be excited about it coming out too!!

    ..and to think, i have a perfectly good PS3 sitting there in my livingroom…

    /whines some more

  • oh, and here is the kotaku link:


  • Meh… that’s the PSP one. I want XBLA!

  • we’ll have a proper post soon about the launch party!

  • so i was right?

  • Took care of your comment, R πŸ™‚ Any interest in doing a post-mordem interview when the game comes out…whenever that may be?

    I’ve included my work email in this comment, if you wouldn’t mind hitting me up with your guys’ contact info.

  • sure, thanks! if you’re at the gdc next week we could do the interview live. i’ll email you..

  • […] that one in the we’ll see category. According to a comment made on the MetaNet Software blog, developers Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns (as poster M&R) hinted at a February 20 release […]

  • […] this one in the we’ll see category. According to a comment made on the MetaNet Software blog, developers Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns (as poster M&R) hinted at a February 20 release […]

  • […] this one in the we’ll see category. According to a comment made on the MetaNet Software blog, developers Mare Sheppard and Raigan Burns (as poster M&R) hinted at a February 20 release […]

  • Pssh that site dosent even mention the great discoverer of the hint πŸ˜›

  • […] We actually just wrote a pretty detailed comparison of the two versions of N+ (XBLA and handheld) on our blog: http://www.metanetsoftware.com/?p=36 […]

  • Wow it’s funny. After hearing that interview with EAR I was torn over which version of N+ to get. It’s like, I’d much prefer this game on my PSP, but there was like no real discussion of that version there. Thanks for clearing up how different they are!

  • i think that you should be able to fight in n+ for example still do the normal levels but have robots that u can attack and even some boss fights

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