DONE BY: From Software
IT'S FOR: Xbox 360
It's hard not to enjoy something as deliberately silly as Ninja Blade. The entire game plays out like a Ryuhei Kitamura film, all superhuman martial-arts and explosions and dudes riding missiles like they're surfboards. In the first thirty minutes, you will have already jumped out of a plane without a parachute, killed a hundred zombies, ran down the side of a building, and used a wrecking ball to crush an enormous monster spider that can shoot flames out of its rear end. Later on, you can dress your ninja in a hot pink clown suit and hit a giant enemy crab for massive damage.
But here's the problem: almost all of that awesome stuff takes place in a quick-time event – or QTE. In fact, the very first thing you do in the game is a QTE. As a rough guess, I'd say you have to do another one every five minutes thereafter, some of which last for almost 10 minutes at a time. Fortunately, unlike the ones in God of War and Resident Evil 5, you can't actually die during the QTEs in Ninja Blade. Instead, whenever you miss a prompt, time stops and rewinds a few seconds, allowing you take another shot straight away. While this lessens the frustration typically associated with QTEs, it also nullifies any satisfaction you might get from completing them. They effectively become cut-scenes – cut-scenes that sometimes loop.
What's worse is that the stuff you do outside QTEs isn't very fun. The best way to describe it is Ninja Gaiden Lite: some of the flash, none of the substance. Even though Ninja Ken (that's your ninja) comes equipped with three different types of sword and a magic shuriken that shoots tornadoes, combat feels remarkably stodgy and dull. Thick-headed undead goons show none of the cunning or finesse of Gaiden's demon ninjas, and are universally susceptible to the same one or two moves repeated ad nauseam. You can upgrade your weapons to unlock more moves, but there's really not much point once you've found your preferred bitch technique.
Boss battles demand a bit more strategy, but even they devolve into rote repetition more often than not. You find a pattern of attack that works, and then you repeat it on auto-pilot until it's time to perform a gruesome and spectacular finishing move via QTE. In most cases, the only challenge lies in overcoming cinematic-but-useless camera angles. Yes, From Software, the enormous lightning crab looks wonderful, but it doesn't need to be entirely in-frame all the goddamn time. Sometimes – and I know this sounds crazy – I like being able to see what I'm doing.
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