If you’ve played Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team you’ll have a fair idea of how Izuna: Legned of the Unemployed Ninja works. Izuna is part of a small niche of dungeon RPGs where the entire scope of the game is about exploring randomly designed dungeons and getting better gear. Something that you have to get used to in Izuna is that enemies move and react to your motions. Each time you take a step or change gear you use a turn. After you make your move all the monsters in the dungeon will make theirs. However, if you stand still all of the monsters will freeze into place. If you never played a dungeon RPG before you have to learn that dashing around a dungeon is a fast way to get surrounded by monsters. Combat takes place in the same pseudo real time format as exploration. All of the enemies are on screen and when they are in range you can hit them with a sword or a claw. Once you take a turn a monster like the frogs in the first dungeon will take theirs. Going face to face against monsters is one way to fight, but Izuna has ranged tools like shuriken and kunai to help her out. The tools menu can be brought up by holding down the R button where you can pick between which items to throw. Early on shuriken are probably the best tool for adventurers because Izuna can sit back and hit monsters that are closing in on her. Kunai do less damage than shuriken, but they spread out into three directions which make kunai useful when you’re surrounded. Scattered in dungeons are another useful tool, talismans, which are like magic in Izuna. You can use them immediately to anchor the monsters to the ground, create an explosion of fire to damage a group of monsters or to teleport to a random part of the dungeon. There are a lot of different talismans to find and each one contains a different spell. Once you use a talisman you spend SP and the talisman is gone for good. Instead of expending the talisman you can stick it to your weapon to give it abilities like increasing your critical hit percentage or a new skill where Izuna will randomly teleport behind an enemy.
Atlus wasn’t kidding around when they said Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja was for the hardcore crowd. Even though you start out with a couple hundred HP, Izuna will die if she gets hit more than five times in the first dungeon. You have to find places to hide and skip turns to recover HP. While you skip turns enemies still move around so if you’re not in a good spot you can find yourself surrounded again. If you do die you’re taken out of the dungeon, but you lose everything that’s on you. All of the money you earned and weapons you found are gone. The Kikan talisman is going to be your best friend in Izuna, when you use it you teleport out of a dungeon with no penalties. While Izuna is unforgiving in the beginning you learn quickly (after dying a few times) to be more cautious with your moves. In many ways Izuna is like Diablo… with ninjas. In both games you explore random dungeons to scout out better gear and fight your way through tons of monsters.