From Software’s cinematic action game, Ninja Blade, jumps exclusively onto the Xbox 360 platform. Bringing a unique blending of stylized action and quick timed cinematics, Ninja Blade gives gamers something new to slice through. Grab that controller and get ready for the button press... this is Ninja Blade.
Japanese developer From Software who is most famous from their work on the Armored Core, and Tenchu series tries their luck at something a little different. Ninja Blade isn’t your A-typical action hack n’ slasher, this unique action game tries to blend cinematic action via quick time events with the normal 3rd person action that you would expect to find in a Ninja Gaiden. Right from the get you can tell that you are dealing with a different beast as Ninja Blade kick-starts the adrenaline filled action in the first frame of the game. Ninja Blade is like a missile that is dangerously weaving out of control, you can’t really predict what is coming next, and its obvious From Software’s imagination was fully unleashed when developing this surprisingly entertaining action title.
Ninja-Man, Ken Ogawa
Ninja Blade seems to have no boundaries as it puts the player in the Ninja, who seems more like the Ninja version of Spider-man, then your average Tenchu slicer. The story behind Ninja Blade is set in the future, well, not so distant future, the year 2010. As Ken Ogawa, you take on the role of the unsung hero, the underdog with unbridled talents. Ken is called in to take down a research experiment gone wrong, a deadly mutating infection that is creating massively sized mutant creatures and breaking down the humankind. As the cities last hope you'll fight this mutated threat across the high rise cityscape in Tokyo, Japan.
The Bigger They Are...
Ken’s main duty is to eradicate the “carriers” who are spreading the virus. It seems that it’s just his luck that these carriers are ultra-aggressive mutant monster beasts. Without spoiling it too surprises too much you’re first encounter is with a massively oversized spider that fights Ken over multiple levels of Tokyo’s skyscrapers. Climbing up the side of buildings and fighting to the death, even the first boss in Ninja Blade is a challenge as you pound down its hard exterior to get to the tender spots of its muscle tissue. Yes as you can probably tell, Ninja Blade is a graphic title, and it fully deserves its “M” rating.
Are You Sure Capcom didn't Make This?
The whole plot seems like it was pulled from Capcom's Resident Evil and then given a booster shot full of creepy crawlies. Expect to see giant bats, giant spiders, giant worms... basically giant everything. Besides the fast action, Ninja Blade excels in its sense of scale. It’s not God of War big, but damn these beasts are pretty freaky. The game also uses quick-timed action events like Resident Evil has adapted over the years. I can’t blame From Software for pulling some inspiration from the Capcom flag-ship title. Even though the inspiration is slightly borrowed, it feels original under the Ninja Blade marquee. Since we are dealing with a mixture of Ninja action, modern weaponry, and lots of bugs, you can’t really nail it down to any other game. Hmm, come to think of it, I might be wrong... I can also see Ninja Blade pulling some inspiration from another Capcom’s favourite, Lost Planet. If you haven’t played Lost Planet, it’s the snow shooter, the one with the giant mutated bugs.
Just because Ninja Blade has elements that could have been ripped from those two Capcom games doesn’t mean its plays like a Capcom game. In reality, Ninja Blade plays more like a cheapened version of Ninja Gaiden. Ninja Blade is your basic hack n’ slasher with the inclusion of multiple swords and an elemental ranged weapon. Ninja Blade has a slight focus on combo manoeuvres, however like most action slashers; you won’t need them to defeat the average enemy. Rhythm plays a small role in Ninja Blade; don’t expect Dante-esq over-the-top mega-moves, just a few simple cool sequences. Oops Devil May Cry, that's another Capcom title... mark the total down to "influenced" by three.
Don't Be So Quick to Judge
So far Ninja Blade sounds pretty damn sweet, but there is a problem... and it’s a big one. The problem is the quick-time events... because Ninja Blade uses these events extensively gamers who are not-fans of quick button hits, more thumbstick jitters will be annoyed and ultimately frustrated with the amount of times you have go through the motions in any given level. From the developers perspective they wanted a Hollywood-esq type feel keeping the flow and continuity of the gameplay moving. Rather than non-interactive cut-scenes, they chose to use quick-time events.
Personally, I found them to a little troublesome at times, however in the grand scheme of things, I applauded From Software’s unique approach on the action genre, and basically approached it like they where meant to be, a part of the game, and not a gimmick. Other titles that uses these events usually take the stand of randomly throwing them in once and a while, making the experience feel cheapened. In Ninja Blade they happen so frequently that it becomes a part of the games mechanic and something you can count on ever few minutes. Quick-time haters, I understand why its not your cup of tea, but I think with a little bit of time, you might come to enjoy how Ninja Blade utilizes this function.
Looking for a Challenge?
Another factor that will hurt Ninja Blade’s mass appeal is its difficulty. I wouldn’t say Ninja Blade was the toughest Xbox 360 game I’ve ran through, but it has its moments. Ninja Gaiden still puts up a good fight and there are several other contenders, but Ninja Blade can be added to that pile. Besides being a little tough in its difficulty, the save points are staggered in odd areas and the game can force you to replay an entire level if you quit out early and want to jump back into the action later. Starting from scratch after you invest a lot of hard-work in a level really sucks. So keep in mind if you fire up Ninja Blade make sure you have some time on your hands to play through an entire chapter before setting down your controller.
Hits the Wall, but Keeps Climbing
From Software’s Ninja Blade is truly a unique beast, on one side it’s a plays out like an interactive action movie, and on the other side its your average hack n’ slasher.... add in a few super mutants, giant bugs, and a ninja that can move like Spider-Man, and there you have it. The only real down-side to this highly original action game is the extensive focus on quick-time events. Gamers who despise them, or feel like it cheapens the game experience will have a hard time getting into Ninja Blade. This is where Ninja Blade hits a wall and will no doubt, limit its consumer base.
For all those who don’t mind trying something a little different, and can accept having to play through lots of quick-time cinematics then Ninja Blade is worth a look. I was pleasantly surprised with From Software’s effort to create an action game like we haven’t seen before, and I think they accomplished it. Ninja Blade isn’t going to cast a shadow over any of its Capcom influences, or the Ninja game of all ninja games, Ninja Gaiden, but it is a nice diversion from the norm.
Gameplay:7.5, Graphics:8, Sound:7, Innovation:7, Mojo:7.5 Final: 7.4 / 10
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 04.29.09
- Unique blending of action and cinematics
- Epic battles against large monstrous creatures
- Upgradable abilities, weapons and powers
- Interesting take on a Ninja storyline
- Production values are slick
- Customizable costumes
- If you don’t like quick-timed events, don’t bother
- Action is split up between cinematics a little too frequently
- Quick-time events can be frustrating
- Staggered save points could have been divided better
- Besides boss battles, the enemies are monotonous