Platform: Xbox 360
Category: Action Games
Developer: From Software
256 KB game save
From the creators of the acclaimed Otogi for the original Xbox, From Software, comes Ninja Blade for the Xbox 360. On paper the game the game a lot going for it. It is a ninja game that has you taking on hordes of nasty zombies and battling in some huge epic-scale boss encounters. Judging by some of the trailers online Ninja Blade looks to be a compelling and exciting title in a genre that hasn’t really gotten it’s just due as of late. So how does the game actually play? Read on to find out.
In the graphics department, Ninja Blade looks pretty good for the most part. The boss characters are the highlight as they are crafted with some impressive models that are truly huge. For example, the giant spiders found in the game fill the screen with color and fantastic texturing. They are very fluid in motion as are the other creatures which you are challenged to take down throughout the game. Any gamer will be impressed with the visual eye candy. That being said after a while the main enemies tend to get a little bit repetitive and recurring clipping issues cause the overall aesthetic to lose some of its lustre. What is worse is that the game has some pretty extreme bouts of slowdown when the on-screen action gets pretty thick which causes the pace of the game itself to slow down as it actually interrupts the flow of the gameplay. While the game is nice to look at some more critical gamers will notice the graphic issues right away, although I think most others will like the huge scope of characters on screen enough to not really care.
I thought the sounds in the game were a treat. It rumbles and crackles with a ferocity that befits the theme of the title. I loved the sense of speed and carnage as I battled my way through a boss battles. The game is encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 and all speakers are fully utilized. My subwoofer had a great work out and it had my wife complaining each time it rumbled. The game had a few dialogue parts that are decent, but on the most part they are quite cheesy and sometimes funny to listen to. As for the music it is full of fairly generic hard rock tunes and they suit the game well enough, but it has no real stand out tracks to remember.
The storyline in Ninja Blade is pretty convoluted and can be a bit tough to follow. You may even roll your eyes at the overly done story bits. Basically, from what I could decipher a particularly potent strain of hookworm parasites has infected the population. In order to combat this, a group of ninjas have been deployed to kill off the infected population, zombies if you will, in a modern day Tokyo. What is not terribly clear is how or why huge monsters come out of the wood work to wreak havoc. How is it that mutant spiders the size of city buses, or giant worm creatures, inflict terror? Heck, how do helicopters become infected? Throw in some early double-crosses and you have got a pretty somewhat complex story that frankly does not make a lot of sense.
Aside from the hard to believe story, Ninja Blade plays out like any number of action titles. You have access to a variety of different ninja abilities, including wall-running, wall-jumping, and several other acrobatic moves. You also have access to elemental magic which is useful in some minor puzzles and situations where you have to use the right element to get past certain environmental hazards. You can take down specific enemies with the ability, but this rarely comes to the forefront of the gameplay. Ninja Blade’s learning curve is pretty moderate; I quite like using the comfortable 360 controller. The buttons are a bit awkward at first but I found them easy to navigate and well placed after a brief time.
Being a ninja game, sword-based combat obviously factors into the gameplay quite a bit. Ninja Blade offers up several different weapons to use on your foes. Any weapon in the game will give you different types of advantages and disadvantages in combat, and will work on different types of enemies. For example, sooner or later you will obtain a large sword that is capable of busting through walls and destroying enemy shields. The drawback here is that the weapon is maddeningly slow and cumbersome. In some cases you will find that using smaller or dual swords will work better by sacrificing the raw power for agility and speed. Some of these smaller swords can act as grappling hooks as well and getting across gaps will be made easier. The challenge here is to find what works. Various weapons or equipment can be upgraded by gaining orbs, eerily similar to the God of War games. After playing for sometime I thought the combat component of the game never felt up to par with some of the other Ninja action titles out there. The overall pace of combat feels slow and clunky, and not really as responsive as it should to feel any satisfaction for your gaming time. This keeps the flow of the game from ever feeling like a real ninja title, like Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi, or even Ninja Warrior, and it hurts the overall gameplay in my opinion. That being said, it is not unplayable.
Titles like God of War, Resident Evil 5, and others, make extensive use of QTEs (Quick-Time Events). These gameplay moments require you to press a specific button at just the right moment in order to get your character to pull off a lavish and cool-looking move. If done right these moments can be a lot of fun. In the case of God of War, tapping a button quickly in order to yank a Minotaur’s head off of its body can be pretty engaging and fun. Unfortunately the QTE’s in Ninja Blade are not nearly as compelling. You simply have to push whatever button that appears on screen to watch your character do a certain move. There are no combos or chaining required. To me this drops the challenge level and can create a bit of a boring experience. It is just too easy to push one button. Over the course of the game these QTEs occur far too often. You will run into a QTE after almost every single scuffle with enemies, either by dodging a rocket or another giant enemy.
The game’s huge boss battles are meant to be centerpieces of the action, but they unfortunately fall flat due to the fact that you’ll spend half of the time mindlessly hacking at your foe and the other half engaged in a QTE. The scale of the boss battles loses scope when you are merely watching your character perform all sorts of cool moves while trying to take down a huge boss, and not actively participating.
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