At first glance, Ninja Blade looks to be a clear success. The title plays like a hybrid of Ninja Gaiden and God of War, which is really a solid mixture. The game’s cinematic, stylistic violence is extremely representative of what fans of games like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry have come to love, and seeing as this appears to be an off year for both of those franchises, it looks like Ninja Blade might be able to gain some footing in the realm of giant sword toting, magic wielding badasses.
Players take on the role of Ken, who slashes through demonic forces in what seems to be an effort to save the world. The demo didn’t really go into the plot much and felt a bit disjointed, but after all it’s just a demo. The gameplay is really straight forward. Using a combination of weak and strong attacks, magic, blocks, and acrobatics, you take on your foes and attempt to bring them to their knees. Peppered in between these moments of combat are dozens of quick time events. Nearly every interesting moment in the demo build was a quick time event. For many that might be a clear turn off, but for others it’s something they can move past.
The quick time events were very forgiving compared to other titles. It’s not a simple binary result of pass or fail, but a solid range of possible outcomes: fail, good, excellent, perfect, etc. This allows a decent sized window that is much friendlier to a newer player in the genre. Should a fail rating happen on a quick time event, the game rewinds and lets you try again. It’s a very forgiving system, similar to the one seen with Prince of Persia. The game also consistently uses the same button for each type of move done via quick time. This makes it a tad easier to guess what will be coming.
From this early look, the game just feels more accessible than past action titles, specifically Ninja Gaiden. Hopefully, harder difficulties will be able to actually engage the more “hardcore” player, as the demo can easily be beaten by sheer button mashing. There are combos, but like with many titles, once you find one attack that works you can sort of fall back on it, neglecting the rest of the facets of combat. Even when button mashing, during the course of the demo my health bar never reached below fifty percent.
It’s clear that some strategy is meant to be used, especially when using a feature called “ninja vision.” This allows the player to clearly see enemy weak points and hidden information. It’s not really anything worth getting too excited over, but it breaks up the game and again adds some accessibility for new players.
Unfortunately, there was not near enough to the demo to discern whether this new Ryu/Kratos will be a success or a failure. The game clearly has its moments, but players may tire if they feel there is nothing beyond the quick time events. The graphics aren’t anything notable as whole, either. They aren’t bad in the least; they just don’t push the limits of the 360. The game really feels rehashed, but hopefully a unique plot and some interesting battles can shake that feeling. Otherwise, this might just fade back into the shadows.
Ninja Blade releases April 7th exclusively for the Xbox 360. However, if you need to quench that thirst for a bloody katana, a public demo will be available starting March 9th.