Ninja Blade (PC) review
"Every single one of us, in some stage of our lives, entertained the idea of becoming a ninja. Be it after watching one of the horrid movies that celebrated fictional martial arts, a book in which a person dressed in black pajamas tries to establish themselves as an arse-kicking machine of violent death. In today's example, we also find them in video games where they're often portrayed doing things that no mortal person ever should or could do. "
Every single one of us, in some stage of our lives, entertained the idea of becoming a ninja. Be it after watching one of the horrid movies that celebrated fictional martial arts, a book in which a person dressed in black pajamas tries to establish themselves as an arse-kicking machine of violent death. In today's example, we also find them in video games where they're often portrayed doing things that no mortal person ever should or could do.
No matter the source of fiction, there was something inherently great about these mysterious assassins that could kill you before you blinked.
One of those sources is Ninja Blade, an action adventure game in the same vein of Ninja Gaiden, God of War or Shinobi, games from which many parallels can be drawn. The makers, From Software, call it a "Cinematic Action Game" in which ninja are portrayed as enhanced human beings that work as honourable soldiers of the future instead of the low life scum assassins that they were in reality.
In the not-so-distant future, a necrotizing disease spreads through the population of Japan, infecting normal citizens, animals and even plants. Instead of dying horribly, they are mutated into hulking versions of themselves, gaining exceptional strength, agility and combat abilities which they use to kill or infect everything in sight.
Troubled with this turn of events that threaten to turn Tokyo into a Romero movie, the government sends an elite force, composed mainly of sodding ninja, to investigate and terminate all infected juggernauts of destruction with their fancy swords and less fancy helicopters armed with mini guns and rocket launchers. But mainly swords.
The story follows one Ken Ogawa, and he's a totally awesome ninja that needs to destroy the invasion before the world decides that the super original plan of nuking Japan is safer than allowing the possibility of a worldwide infestation.
The first moment you establish control is also the moment you realize that Ken moves in a way no human could ever hope to move without breaking every law of physics and every joint in their body. Be it with doing countless impossible flips, wielding a sword with his feet or growling an obligatory one-liner about how fantastic he is while hurling a shuriken imbued with fierce fire magic.
This won't last long, because after a few quick slashes that teach you the basics of ninja combat, you will be interrupted by cutscene in which a giant on fire tries to smash you to goo. Just as Ken is about to be liquefied with one casual swipe of the giant's fist, the time slows down and an icon -- "DODGE (A)" -- jumps out. In that second, you have a choice to make. Either you do not press the necessary button and watch Ken get smashed into a moist pile or do as you're told and watch Ken flip out of the way, run towards the giant, summersault over its head and stab it straight in the back.
"What the hell just happened?" You might ask yourself. This, dear reader is what is known as a quick time event, and boy are there plenty of them.
In fact, there are so many of them, that the actual gameplay in which you run along walls, slice an odd random beast or smash objects for energy are an afterthought. This game thrives, relies, and utterly depends on quick time events. It seems that every time something RADICAL needs to be done, the game decides players are too incompetent to make it cool enough and takes over, giving just enough of an input to not feel completely worthless. And trust me, the definition of "cool" in this game is so over-the-top that Dante and all his "pizza-eating-while-shooting-everything-in-the-process" trickery can go into retirement.
For instance, during your investigation concerning the infection, you'll come across a huge mutated worm looking for a new job after Dune finished. After fighting it for some time, quick time events take over. You have to press a plethora of buttons, one after the other, while the presence of "hard rock" music mixed with some oriental themes to make it more "unique" follows.
The resulting buttons pressing skillz will show Ken slash the worm, avoid being impaled on its forked tongue, endure its massive headbutt with the strength of his own body, slash at its tongue again, use a pair of wire swords (yes, one of the standard issue ninja weapons are a pair of swords that also serve as climbing spurs) to get to his other side, slash at it again and propel himself many feet into the air. At this moment the massive worm will throw up a bus, a few cars and a motorcycle at you. Ken will evade the cars, use the wire swords again to pull the motorbike so he can get on it and drive over the surface of the bus, from which he'll jump (with bike still beneath him) in the air, and use his hook swords to pull the bus towards the gaping mouth of the worm. As the bus falls into his mouth, Ken will also propel himsef from the bike, which also will fall into the worm's mouth, and use his last kunai blade to throw at its gas tank making everything explode.
Simple, no? I bet you couldn't do that without the quick time event!
It all boils down to what you're looking for in a game. If you yearn for a game with a supernatural twist to it that has cheesy, but great, action scenes in which you do little to participate, then this game is great.
If not, you are perhaps better off finding a game starring a swashbuckling pirate, for we all know deeply inside who wins that battle.
Staff review by Dark Eternal (February 28, 2010)
Occasional reviewer of random stuff.
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