Video Game Review - Ninja Blade
Bearing a shameless resemblance to Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden series, From Software's Ninja Blade mixes fast, sword-slashing action with giant boss fights and insane cinematic quick time events. Can it match the series it undoubtedly attempts to emulate, or does it whiff on the fatal strike?
Ken Ogawa is part of an elite ninja squad tasked with exterminating alpha worms plaguing the citizens of Tokyo and turning them into monstrous creatures. After an early mission, the team is betrayed by their infected leaders, and Ogawa tries to fight back with the legendary ninja blade. He lacks the ability to break its seal, and his own father turns the sword against him, leaving him for dead. Ken must soldier on to save Tokyo from the alpha worms and unlock the secrets of the ninja blade and his own special blood. It's generic monster movie fare with plenty of melodramatic moments, cheesy dialogue, and a fist-pumping American agent who guides Ken to the central hive. It can be entertaining, but not usually in the way the developers intended.
Ninja Blade takes you through nine missions across Tokyo rooftops, alpha worm tunnels, and even a zombie-hijacked plane. The pacing tends to favor big, showy centerpieces. There are three to four boss fights per level, and you'll spend a lot of time in rail shooting sequences and extended quick time events. The level design can feel somewhat repetitive as well, and mission seven is the biggest offender as it mashes together earlier stages so blatantly that the achievement for completing it is titled déjà vu. There are no mid-level save points, either. You'd better plan ahead as missions are usually more than an hour long.
Your arsenal is composed of three sword types and three ninjutsu spells. There's a standard katana, good for most situations; a pair of twin knives that can be unleashed in a flurry of attacks and reflects projectiles; and the heavy Stonerender which is used to break through enemy shields. Unfortunately, the ninja blade that replaces your main sword later in the game drains your health after a few moments, forcing you to rely more on your secondary weapons in the late going. Ken's elemental ninjutsu include a wind spell to blow out flames, a fire spell to burn away obstacles, and lightning to stun enemies.
Ninja Blade does have a few collectibles, but nothing you'd want to go out of your way for. Blood gems dropped by enemies can be used to upgrade weapons and ninjutsu. Tucked away in each level are emblems to decorate your forehead protector as well as some of the ugliest alternate costumes we've ever seen, including a clown outfit, pink flower prints, and bright hearts.
Running about nine to 10 hours in all, Ninja Blade is of average length for an action game, but its repetitive level design and laughable bonus costumes don't offer much incentive for replay.