reviewed on X360
Not Another Ninja...
As one of the coolest sub-genres out there, the Ninja game has definitely stood the test of time. There are tons of games with Ninja influences: Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi, Onimusha, Dragon Ball, Naruto...hell, you could even say TMNT. All of these titles have one thing in common: they have tons of sequels and re-releases. It’s time to add another game to the list with Ninja Blade, a bloody, gritty, and frantically paced action game developed by From Software.
It’s the year 2010 and the survivors of a horrid attack by unknown creatures have been moved to a research facility known as Alpha Site (located somewhere within Japan). Soon after, the survivors begin showing symptoms of a flesh eating disease that deforms their bodies but grants increased strength and stamina. After the mutated humans escape the facility and the military is powerless to stop them, the government sends in a group of secret ninjas lead by Ken (the protagonist) to deal with the monsters.
Timing Your Way to Victory
Crazy story aside, Ninja Blade actually turns out to be a pretty good time. Mechanically speaking the game flows pretty well and the frame rate rarely dips. The boss battles are where Ninja Blade shines...and sometimes, doesn't shine. The game is almost entirely made up of boss battles, which basically consist of repeated quick time events (QTEs). I would go as far as saying it's about 80% quick time events, 10% story and another 10% dedicated to hack and slash tactics. So, suffice to say: if you hate QTEs, avoid this title.
Every boss battle ends in a quick time event, and there are a ton of boss battles. Typically, each battle will flow as follows: Encounter boss at the end of a level, find its weak spot, attack it a lot, wait to be prompted for the QTE, go through said QTE and finish off the baddie with a “Todome” (The Finisher Move). Slash, rinse, and repeat.
Making the Devil Cry
The rest of the game play is over the top, non-stop action with simplistic button smashing tactics. There are times you'll be fighting monsters on top of motorcycles (this is the least over the top example) and other times you could be falling from the top of a sky-scraper fighting flying dragons with machine guns attached to their heads all while plummeting to the ground. Even this is just the tip of the awesomeness. While the overall gameplay isn’t as polished, Ken puts Dante of the Devil May Cry series to shame in terms of style. If you were to combine Ken and Dante into one character, the libido alone would be so huge it would cause the Earth as we know it to implode.
As you progress through the game you’ll wield three swords: a big heavy one, a medium sized one, and dual swords that also act as grappling hooks. In addition to those weapons you also have your Ninjitsu Blades. Think throwing star meets an over sized Frisbee. Each Ninjitsu has a special power as well; one is fire based, one is wind based and the other has electricity. As you progress through the game you can unlock new moves and upgrade your weapons. There are plenty of moves to choose from since you have six weapons at your side, all sporting at least a dozen different moves.
On top of the weaponry at your disposal you’re awarded an assortment unlockable outfits. As you progress through the campaign you’ll find hidden treasures containing outfits for Ken. These outfits add on to the already over the top brashness of Ninja Blade perfectly. You can dress Ken in everything from a traditional Japanese Samurai outfit to a pink and lavender clown outfit. Yes, a clown outfit, and that’s not even the most “out-there” outfit in the game. This sort of customization and tomfoolery is what makes Ninja Blade so satisfying.
Not Quite There Yet
Graphically, Ninja Blade isn't going to knock your socks off. In fact, there are many parts of the landscapes that feel bland and outdated. Buildings tend to look 'blocky' and character models seem dull at times. In some instances, the foregrounds actually look like something straight out of the PS2 era. Bland, grey-scale coloring and lifeless backgrounds will remind you that this game isn’t perfect by any means.
Ninja Blade offers up an extremely satisfying experience. That is, of course, if you like gigantic bug bosses, button mashing battle mechanics, tons of over the top action, blood, some guts and a heaping pile of quick time events that escalate into some of the most eye popping ninja bravado you will ever see. With an eight to ten hour campaign at most, Ninja Blade makes for a great rent.
No Pros and Cons at this time