Ninja Blade


Japanese developer FromSoftware made a smart move by deciding to make this Xbox 360 ninja-based brawler. The simple reason being that ninja games are popular on both sides of the world. But let’s face it, any game that lets you smack a giant spider in the gob with a wrecking ball, or crush a mutated woman who has snakes for arms with a steam roller, is bound to sell better than the likes of Ninety Nine Nights and A-Train HX.

Comparisons with Ninja Gaiden II are to be expected. It’s so incredibly similar to Tecmo’s slightly lacking slasher though that with a few nips and tucks it could easily be passed off for a third Ninja Gaiden instalment. Lead character Ken (who Capcom had a hand in designing) has a near identical skill set to Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu, capable of running up and along walls, casting Ninjutsu magic spells and dodging attacks. Other similarities – enemies leave orbs behind that can be used to upgrade swords, the levels are the same length (around an hour each) and Ken can carry weapons the size of small countries without hassle.

The only real difference is the inclusion of Shenmue-style QTE sections, some of which let you finish off bosses with fatal flamboyance. Of course, these sections are no more interactive than a Mega CD game but they’re fun to watch and ridiculously over the top. They show off the generally impressive graphics rather nicely too. Ken also wields some swords that can be used to latch onto objects and swing around future Tokyo like some sort of ninja Spider-Man. If you mess up a QTE event you can restart straight away but it will affect your grade at the end of the level, and your score is also ranked on a leader board for all to see.

The rest of the game is spent hacking and slashing infected mutations, using magic spells accordingly to progress (wind magic puts out fires; fire magic burns objects blocking paths) and a few on-rails shooting bits. The difficulty level is perfectly pitched with checkpoints sensibly placed and extra objectives for those wanting to play through for a second time. Fans of easy achievements are also well looked after – I managed to unlock thirteen worth 145 Gamerpoints by the end of the first level. The rest aren’t quite so easy to unlock, mind you.

There are a few minor gripes – a few cheap deaths (being pushed off a building springs to mind) and some uninspired scenery – but this is still a game that deserves consideration. Who’d win a fight between Ken and Ryu though? That’s what i’d like to know.

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