Ninja Gaiden is a really good game; it has amazing boss fights and thrilling action which leaves you challenged at every point through-out. But guess what? This review is for Ninja Blade. Ninja Blade isn’t a terrible game, but along those same lines it can’t be said that it’s anything more than a “good” game. If you are to take only one thing from this review, know that you’ll find a decent game, but nothing more.
Ninja Blade tries really hard to be a great game, or more accurately, it tries really hard to be like Ninja Gaiden. So much so, that even the games main character, Ken Ogawa, is suspiciously similar to Ninja Gaiden’s protagonist. It’s not that homages and clones are inherently bad but there are plenty of games in existence which attempt to clone other games and pull it off very nicely, sometimes even improving on the original formula. Ninja Blade attempts this strategy but is plagued with a common theme of mediocrity.
The story is the first aspect of the game which falls victim to this game’s short-changing nature. The story centers itself around an evil parasite which has mysteriously appeared in Northern Africa mutating humans into vicious, savage creatures. Unable to control the rate of infection, it was decided that the site of infection should be nuked ensuring that this dangerous parasite did not spread any further. Years later this parasite has washed up onto the shores of Japan and into Tokyo where Ken Ogawa and his special team of elite ninjas are sent to fix the problem in the only way ninja’s can.
At its core, the story is based off a really cool concept which explores a lot of interesting themes, such as the morale choice of killing the 30 million people in Tokyo, or risking the spread of the infection to the mainland. It also gets you thinking that if a highly infectious disease ever did emerge in real life, whether or not this is a plausible scenario. Unfortunately though, any interesting or thought provoking points about the story ends there. Your character is sent from one location to the next with very little change in the narrative except for the fact that the infection is spreading to more areas.
The ninja sub-genres of action games are typically high paced exciting romps that usually pit your character against countless hoards of enemies just waiting to be sliced up every which way by your swift ninja prowess. Once you have achieved your quota of slaughtered enemies you finish up the level by facing off against a formidable boss. It’s clear from the get-go that Ninja Blade attempts to stick to this formula but with minor tweaks and adjustments here and there.
The most prominent addition is the inclusion of quick time events (QTEs). Almost every cut-scene and boss fight will force you to go through a series of timed button presses. You even have the option of finishing off some of the enemies you battle by utilizing QTE in special executions. At first this feature was really fun, as it kept you on your toes for the entirety of your play time, but it starts to get old pretty quickly once you realize that there will be one event every 5 minutes.
There will be so many sequences that you can’t comfortably take a sip from your drink during a cut-scene because you know you will need to perform a QTE. This urgency is slightly diminished through the fact that there is no real consequence to failing a QTE. If you miss one, all you have to do is hit retry and go back one or two events and replay the exact event over again with zero consequences (much like Prince of Persia’s “no death” mechanic).
In addition to the over reliance on QTE’s, there is also a heavy emphasis on boss encounters. This can especially be felt during the beginning portion of the game where it often feels like you are fighting more bosses than normal enemies. Though battling bosses is a necessary part of the game, it would also be fun to fight wave after wave of enemies to diversify the gameplay.
It wouldn’t have been half-bad if the boss encounters were engaging and fun, but this is hardly the case; they’re actually quite boring, and unimaginative. The majority of the time, you are fighting a stationary boss, avoiding his attacks until he does a specific action and then attacking him. Repeat for five to ten minutes and then your done the boss fight.
Oddly enough, even though the actual encounters are quite boring, it’s always worth it considering their exciting climactic endings. Once you finish off a boss, you enter into some of the most over the top, ridiculous QTEs which show Ken killing them in some of the most spectacular methods I have ever seen in a video game. The game is over-saturated with both QTE and boss fights, but the irony here is that the only redeemable aspect for both of them is their combination.
The rest of the gameplay isn’t as innovative. Through out the game you will be able to level up your different weapons, and in doing so unlock different moves you can perform, but just because you unlock these moves does not mean that you will be actually utilizing them. Hitting X as fast as you can is the most efficient way of killing all the enemies and will pretty much be your only mode of attack through out the game. Performing the special executions on enemies is fun at first, but once you get your achievement for 25 of them, you will see very little need to waste your time, particularly since the animations get pretty boring pretty quickly.
Regarding the graphics, there is the occasional slowdown during a boss fight here or there, and they’re pretty to look at, but beyond that, they are wholly unimaginative. Instead of seeing the wide world of colorful lights which Tokyo inhabits, you’ll often see a city full of bland office buildings. When you look down from your helicopter at a supposedly evacuated district of Tokyo, and see the basic backdrop of cars driving through the city, the immersion of the game is diminished significantly. These are just a few of the examples which transform the game from artistic potential to blandness.
The sound effects of the game are forgettable, and the music fails to incite any emotion over the events of the story; be it getting you pumped for a fight or portraying sadness. Ninja Blade’s voice acting is just terrible, but this is probably more of a problem of being lost in translation than anything else. Ken is pretty much monotone throughout the entire game so it’s a good thing the subtitles have exclamation marks, otherwise the player wouldn’t know there was any urgency in their actions.
All in all, Ninja Blade is an O.K game. As I previously mentioned, it’s plagued by a common theme of mediocrity through out its entirety. The graphics and sound do little to inspire emotion or awe, and the gameplay itself is just bland. This doesn’t mean that it’s entirely a horrible experience, however; there still are many redeemable parts to it. Certain sections through out the game can be a lot of fun, and I encourage everybody to at least experience the over the top quick time boss events; you just don’t have to buy the game to experience it.
There is the occasional slow down. Animations and graphics look rather bland.
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Quick time events and bosses are over done. Repetitive gameplay. Amazing end fights.
Boring music and sound effects. Voice acting is extremely poor.
Takes about 8 hours to finish the campain. There is little reason to go back and play it.
The game can be fun, but it gets old quickly. There are highlights to the game but it is recommended to experience them through a rental.