It’s obvious that every single gameplay mechanic in Ninja Blade is ripped straight from another game. The combat and style are extremely similar to Ninja Gaiden, its pacing is Shadow of the Colossus-esque with near constant boss battles, and the emphasis on quick-time-events is straight out of God of War. Despite feeling like a complete rip-off at times, Ninja Blade manages to emerge as a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
This is thanks to the incredibly amusing and over-the-top quick-time-event action sequences. These QTEs seem like corny action at first, but there’s an “ah-ha” moment when you realize that the whole thing is one big, wonderful joke. This moment comes during a sequence about a quarter of the way through the game. The main character gets thrown up hundreds of feet into the air to grab onto a motorcycle mid-flight, turn on said motorcycle, and then proceed to ride the motorcycle across flying debris. This culminates in the player ramping off a city bus (both the bus and the player are in mid-air, mind you) and throwing the motorcycle at the level’s boss. Of course it then inexplicably explodes inside the belly of the beast.
If you somehow see that and not realize the entire game is tongue-in-cheek, the action only gets more heavy handed. The game’s thesis of grand sarcastic exposition comes when the main character surfs a helicopter missile, diverting it from a building as if he were riding a skateboard, and then redirects it back at the helicopter that fired it. Awesome.
If this doesn’t sound appealing or entertaining, Ninja Blade isn’t for you. On one hand, it’s a capable game in its own right, but on the other, there’s nothing to the gameplay you haven’t already played in better games. Combat is standard fare for a ninja action game. As stated earlier, Ninja Blade borrows liberally from the first Ninja Gaiden (Xbox). You have three different weapons: a quick attacking set of dual-swords that does little damage, a heavy two-handed sword that can break shields and knock enemies back, and the titular Ninja Blade which lies between the two. Also like Ninja Gaiden, defeated enemies drop orbs. Some of these heal your character while others can be used as currency to purchase upgrades for your different swords. You also have a set of large, multi-bladed shurikens which each possess a different elemental power such as fire or air. These are often employed to solve puzzles and defeat special enemies (*couDark Sectorgh*).
Puzzles and average enemies aren’t the focus here, though. Ninja Blade places emphasis on impressive boss battles. These battles take place against gargantuan creatures, taking ten minutes or longer to complete. This may not sound like much, but ten straight minutes of intense combat against one enemy is draining in practice. These can be frustrating because you can die at any time. If you die near the end of a fight, you have to start over. This gets old fast.
Though most of the game is derivative, it’s more accurate to call them a lampoon. Ninja Blade combines these elements in a fresh and unique way. If you’re a fan of From Software’s past work, this is a welcome return to form for the developer whose titles can often be as much social commentary as they are mindless entertainment. Ninja Blade is not wholly dissimilar to their sublimely absurd Metal Wolf Chaos. The ludicrous storyline is fun by itself, but even better when viewed as commentary on the ridiculous storylines of modern action adventure games.