Reviews

Ninja Blade

ReviewBy Utkarsh W

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Ninja Blade is not a poor-man’s Ninja Gaiden. It might look very similar to the titular action title at first but plays rather differently. Ninja Blade doesn’t want to punish you by making you perform long elaborate combos or fight an extremely challenging boss with a sliver of health remaining. Instead it makes you want to feel like a badass ninja, who can do everything from riding a motorcycle vertically up a building to stopping a crashing airplane with nothing but his elite ninja skills.

You play Ken Ogawa, a highly trained modern-day ninja, who happens to wear a rather laughable superhero mask. Ken is a member of a special military ninja unit, which is sent to eliminate the source of a parasitic infestation that has broken out in the city of Tokyo. The game starts with a pretty slick intro video, which wouldn’t seem out of place in a Resident Evil game. While the story might seem like throwaway material at first, it does evolve quite well as the game progresses. It’s far from being great, but isn’t too shabby either. But you wouldn’t be playing a game called “Ninja Blade” for its deep and interesting storyline now, would you?

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Makes you want to feel like a badass ninja

The core gameplay is your standard action game fare. You have your melee and ranged attacks, magical powers aka Ninjutsu, and some nifty platforming skills at your disposal. The controls are pretty responsive and the various flashy looking combos are easy to pull off and none of them rely on more than one attack button and a trigger. And did I mention they look spectacular? Deflecting enemies’ projectiles back at them while in mid air, or watching Ken wrapping his dual chained blades around his legs and spinning around on his hands never gets old.

Ken can carry only three weapons at a time but each of them is pretty unique and you can upgrade them to unlock more moves while also drastically changing their appearance. There are plenty of different options available during combat, but it’s a shame that most of the standard enemies you’ll be fighting are dumb brutes and rarely need any real strategy to beat. Boss fights fare better and the game seems to love throwing a boss at you every chance it gets. There are multiple boss encounters in each level and an end-of-level epic fight that usually ends in a dramatic over-the-top finale.

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“The various flashy looking combos are easy to pull off”

If you’ve tried the demo you’ll know that quick time events (QTEs) form a major part of the gameplay. While many action games have employed quick time button presses in the past, Ninja Blade takes it to whole new level. Understandably QTEs aren’t really too popular with a lot of gamers. The over reliance on QTEs in this game may seem frustrating when you read about it, but these segments aren’t really so bad. In fact, they add a lot to the gameplay and mix things up rather nicely. The QTEs themselves are pretty forgiving and give you plenty of time to press the required buttons. Even if you fail, you can always retry that particular sequence. The game does not force you to replay entire sections for failing a QTE. And it helps that the scenes which play during these events are pretty enjoyable to watch. If you loved the outrageous cutscenes from the Devil May Cry games, you’ll no doubt love these.

The game also puts you in a few on-rails shooting sequences where you’ll control a mounted machine gun on an APC or an aircraft. There are also a few short platforming sections and some very basic puzzle-solving, which usually requires you to use a specific weapon or Ninjutsu on something. None of these elements are particularly great, but prevent the game from ever feeling monotonous. The pacing is very good and you’ll keep moving from one set piece to another with very little lull in the action. The game can be finished is less than eight hours on the normal difficulty setting. It might seem low, but it’s clear that it’s designed with multiple playthroughs in mind. There are harder modes, costumes and weapon upgrades to unlock. There is also an option to customise each and every part of Ken’s ninja outfit but most of the unlockable costumes are ridiculously silly. I’m pretty sure no one would want to watch a fluorescent green-wearing ninja acting all badass.

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“The QTE’s are pretty forgiving”

As far as the visuals go, it’s hard to complain about the game. It’s not exactly stunning, but it looks pretty good and the framerate is silky smooth for most part, which is a must for a game like this. The city of Tokyo is highly detailed and looks great as a backdrop to many of the larger set pieces and boss fights. There are a lot of flashy effects and fancy animations on display as Ken pulls off some of the more powerful combos and the huge screen-filling bosses are a treat to watch. On the downside – most of the game takes place on rooftops, in underground areas and subways, so there isn’t much variety in the environments.

Perhaps the biggest flaw with Ninja Blade is that it’s not terribly original and feels somewhat easy at times, especially if you’ve made it out of the Ninja Gaiden games alive. It has a “been there, done that” feel all the way through. The AI doesn’t offer much of a challenge and checkpoints are generously placed. As a result, some of the more hardcore crowd might find its forgiving style a bit of a turn-off. So if you’re looking for a decent challenge, I’d suggest playing on the hard difficulty setting. The game is also a bit on the shorter side if you’re not planning on multiple playthroughs.

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“There isn’t much variety in the environments”

Conclusion

Ninja Blade is a pretty enjoyable title in its own right and should satisfy most of the fans of the genre as well as casual gamers looking for a decent action game. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but is much better than its budget-game-like title and box art may lead you to believe. It’s fast paced, looks great and offers plenty of thrills with very little filler.

Next Page: “Spectacular QTE-enhanced gameplay

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