ESRB Rating: M
Developer: From Software
Review by: Dan Braun
With ridiculously outlandish action sequences, some epic encounters and humor good enough to poke fun at itself, Ninja Blade could have been one of the most fun games ever made. The disappointment is that Ninja Blade is painfully derivative of more popular games, and has enough glitches and inconsistencies to besmirch the good name of ninjas everywhere.
Ninja Blade lands young Ken Ogawa in the near-future of Tokyo, wielding the titular weapon against parasitic worms that fully mutate humans into a host of bizarre and horrifying creations. There is nothing complicated or deep about the swordplay; simple button-mashing will suffice. Level navigation is linear, and the level design is fairly rugged and unimpressive. Certain areas get repeatedly used during the game. The ninja techniques, weapons and upgrades available feel like a direct rip from the Ninja Gaiden series, which is a huge turnoff for folks looking for some originality in a title. And some of the bosses and on-rail sequences are rehashed and dull. The game is also noticeably glitchy, paving the way for unexpected deaths, lethally cheap combos from some opponents, and unfortunate lock-ups that prevent further progress. During one playthrough, one of the enemies Ogawa was required to defeat was permanently hidden, which resulted in having to restart the entire forty-minute level. And that brings to mind the fact that game saves are non-existent except for between levels. That is some ninja BS.
But these off-putting elements can be easily forgotten (momentarily, at least), due to the liberal smattering of epic boss fight after boss fight, tied to the level through “Quick Time Events” or “QTEs.” The events depicted in these cuts are spectacular, brutal and absurd. Ever want to surf a guided missile into a helicopter? Done. Ever consider riding a motorcycle through space into a giant worm? No problem. The hilarity, creativity and sheer awesomeness of these events are where the game shines. The only detraction from the QTEs is that they get abused during the game. Their recurrence can easily become boring or frustrating, especially when fight requirements become variations on a theme used from previous battles.
Ninja Blade is by no means a fresh face on the scene. It is unpolished and unabashedly plagiaristic, yet it is surprisingly aware of its own farcical nature. Ninja Blade will inspire both laughter and awe at times – a remarkable trait for any game. Unfortunately, these cannot outweigh the horde of problems that keep this game from achieving its full potential.
For more info, www.xbox.com/ninjablade