Ninja Blade

BY Matthew Theroux  //  April 17, 2009

It runs a middle ground: fairly decent.


adly, Ninja Blade, From Software's latest action-adventure game for the Xbox 360, doesn't bring anything new to its genre. You play as Ken Ogawa, a member of a special op team created solely to contain outbreaks of what are called Alpha Worms. Alpha Worms are parasitic organisms that attack human hosts and cause massive physical transformations of the host.

The game begins with the start of an attack of Alpha Worms in Tokyo. A short time later Ken's team is sent in to crush the outbreak. After taking out the first few Alpha Worm carriers,

Combat: it ain't broke,
so why fix it?
Ken's team is suddenly betrayed and destroyed by both Ken's best friend and his mentor/father Kanbe Ogawa. While not the most original of stories (in fact, it sounds very similar to some fairly recent games) it suffices enough to drive the player through the game.

Combat is fairly straightforward. You have three main weapons: fast, normal and slow and powerful. Finishing moves are pulled off via a short Quick Time Event and are activated by pulling off a complete combo on an enemy. Boss fights are large events; often enough you'll be able to defeat them by simply pounding on them, though some bosses have various weak points to exploit.

Ninja Blade includes other standard features of this kind of game. Enemies drop orbs that can be collected and used for weapon upgrades, including overall damage output, appearance and more useable combos. Nothing's really broken with this kind of system, so there's no real need to change it up.

The music for the game, while particularly charged and appropriate for the situation, was not particularly memorable for me. Character models are extremely well detailed and enemy design has a fair bit of variety to it, but aren't nearly as detailed when compared to the central characters. Environments are fairly decent, with the level design being very linear right up to the final level, where the player is finally given some choice in where to go.

The biggest draw that Ninja Blade has are its action-oriented cinematic sequences. These scenes would feel at home in any summer blockbuster movie and this game is full of them. Anyone who enjoys a good action film would enjoy seeing these scenes. However all of these action sequences are accompanied by Ninja Blade's other common feature: Quick Time Events.

They are simply everywhere, from normal combat, as noted earlier, to opening cinematic, to boss finishers, and everywhere in between. It feels as though all you're doing is moving from Quick Time Event to Quick Time Event; this sensation is particularly magnified in the first few levels.

Quick Time Events are everywhere.
I am well aware that some people do enjoy having Quick Time Events in their games but I feel that they were particularly overused here. If there's any consolation in having so many, it's that there is very little punishment for messing up during a Quick Time Event. If you screw up, the game rewinds a bit and you get another go. And it is possible to change the difficulty of the Quick Time Events via the main menu.

Another issue is the hit detection of the finisher attacks. There are plenty of times where you'll be performing the attack and not be hitting the enemy. Sure, you may still be hitting them, but it just looks a tad sloppy. During times where there's a lot going on-screen, the framerate for the game takes a big hit. It's not very prevalent but it is very noticeable. The only really interesting thing that I noted about the game is that it makes a lot of references to past games by From Software, which is great for fans of the publisher but are likely to be lost on the average player.

If you're a fan of the genre, try Ninja Blade. If you're not, then don't worry about missing out on something. Ninja Blade doesn't bring anything new to the table. It runs the middle ground of being fairly decent while not being overtly spectacular.

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