Ninja Blade Review
Written By Gaetano Prestia
With plenty of hack-and-slash action titles already available for the 360 (Tenchu Z and Ninja Gaiden spring to mind), there were always going to be comparisons made between Ninja Blade and those very games. There’s nothing wrong with a game being in a heavily represented genre, but it’s just that the Japanese ninja-based action genre doesn’t really have all that much room to work with. The gameplay is generally pretty basic and the stories so bad that they’re surprisingly memorable. As long as the title can bring at least one new thing to the table, the game will pass. Unfortunately, Ninja Blade brings nothing new to the genre, and anyone familiar with the genre will see how near identical this is to other titles in the genre before it.
Ninja Blade takes place in Tokyo (surprise, surprise) as infectious beings called “carriers” (originality at its best right there) take over the city. You, as ninja Ken, aim to take down these enemies with a variety of action movies and weapons. You’d think such an idea would make way for some awesome gameplay and a fantastic hack-and-slash experience, but it doesn’t. The idea sounds like “zombies in Tokyo”, but the execution doesn’t allow the game to be nearly as exciting as that.
You’ll come across countless enemies before reaching the bosses, so you’ll get plenty of chances to use your new weapons and skills throughout the levels. The enemy AI is near non-existent, but that won’t really matter considering how many actually come at you at once. The combat can be fun for a bit, but then the games biggest problem – an over abundance of quick time events – eventually shows its head to ruin the experience.
Where the game really falls down is that it moves in a million different directions at once, forcing you to change style once you’ve finally gotten into a groove. You’ll learn a whole bunch of special moves and finishes, but once you start moving through enemies with ease, you’ll suddenly be confronted with a ridiculous amount of quick time events. As the game begins, you’re forced through a tutorial, which teaches you the ropes of the action. However, this problem is evident right from the get-go. You’ll learn some moves and start focusing on a certain combination, but then the game literally forces you to change your pattern and use a specific move to get jobs done. It doesn’t just happen once either. It happens often, and sometimes for quite a few minutes.
The QTE’s just reek of lazy game development. They’re OK if used sparingly throughout a game, but Japanese developers seem to use them so often lately that the feature is actually becoming tedious. Who would have thought the button-mashing gameplay techniques would outlast quick time events, a feature we all thought was revolutionary when it first came to the attention of gamers in RE4. It’s been around for a while, but it’s been over-used terribly over the past six years. Ninja Blade is without a doubt the biggest culprit of this, blinding us from some decent gameplay mechanics and stopping us from hacking and slashing ouR way through the game, instead throwing countless quick time events on us like we’re dumb, brainless zombies who can’t remember button combinations.
What’s really disappointing is that the boss battles just aren’t what they used to be. In a game like this, you’d expect enormous boss battles that require strategy and smart combat to take down. However, QTE’s make up most of the grunt of the battles, making them all too simple. The boss battles can’t be feared, because you know they can be taken down if you just follow the QTE’s correctly. Forget about placement or protecting yourself – just hit a bunch of pre-rendered buttons and you’re on your way!
It’s not just the over-use of the QTE’s that hamper the gameplay. It’s the actual execution and ease of the gameplay as a whole that ruins the experience. For example, you might be required to hit a certain combination of buttons during a boss battle. If you miss one, you’ll die, but you’ll be able to return right to the moment before you died to start again. Forget about a complete restart. This title actually holds your hand to the end, ala. Prince of Persia. From that restart, the QTE combination hardly changes, making it pretty much impossible to fail a second time. It’s as if the game was made for a crowd not only new to the genre, but also new to games altogether.
If Ninja Blade has anything going for it, it’s its cinematic feel. The QTE’s do give the game a “movie” feel to it, and the story is told well for the most part. Voice-actors do a decent job, although there are plenty of corny lines that have come accustomed to pretty much any Japanese developed game nowadays. The look and feel of Tokyo is great, especially as you fight against mammoth bosses while overlooking a seemingly endless horizon of skyscrapers.
The Final Verdict
Ninja Blade brings nothing new to the genre and does a good job of ruining some fun combat mechanics by incorporating a horrendously high amount of quick time events. The boss battles aren’t as big as they should be and this ultimately distances Ninja Blade from genuine entries in the ninja hack-and-slash genre.
You can learn some pretty cool moves and get your hands on some awesome weapons and there are plenty of enemies that come your way to show off your skills. But then the QTE’s show up and ruin the experience…over and over again.
Ninja Blade moves really smoothly, with some nice lighting and fire effects. But there’s nothing really outstanding here. The style as a whole is disappointing.
A really good soundtrack and some great sound effects more than make up for the cheesy dialogue. Voice-actors do an OK job.
You’ll play through it once, if that. There are unlockables and weapons to get, but it’s not an experience worth going through again.