|System: X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: From Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Microsoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 7, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
While the platforming is not challenging at all - the inclusion of Ninja Vision means you'll never get stuck - it does keep the pacing up at a significant clip. In fact, most of the game, taking advantage of optimized controls, is not particularly difficult. Most action gamers will have no problems - except for a few sections - getting through this game on Normal difficulty, though Hard definitely amps up both the skill and frustration factors. Mixing up the platforming and action elements just a bit are turret, vehicle, and vertical sequences. While shooting guns from a helicopters and joy riding in motorcycles may not be ideal, falling down a building at terminal velocity, hacking your way through infected Oni is a true visual treat!
Speaking of striking visuals, the graphics in Ninja Blade are very competent indeed. Taking a cue from the latest Ninja Gaiden, textures are shiny and detailed, the environments are cleanly depicted, the action and speed is captured superbly, and the multitude of bosses are cleverly designed and awe-inspiring. Additionally, the load of in-engine cinemas is truly beautiful to behold. All these factors combine to provide a breathtaking, cinematic experience throughout. Equally as solid is the caliber of music, sounds, and voice acting. Battles and cutscenes are truly enhanced by the score and ambient effects, while the voice work is certainly in the upper echelon. I especially liked the option to toggle the bilingual voice track option; while players can choose to listen to Ninja Blade in either English or Japanese, there is a hybridized option that steals the show. Essentially, players will get a mix of English and Japanese that melds perfectly together. The developers obviously took their time matching the English and Japanese voice tracks to one another. The result is voice work that is outright compelling.
Outside of the attractive, boss-filled single-player campaign, there isn't a whole lot to do. Players can collect a bunch of character clothing and other customizing bits strewn throughout the levels, though. Also, every level - much like in Ninja Gaiden - ends in mission results. Improving your completion time, increasing the amount of Blood Crystals you gathered, and collecting all the Health and Chi pieces as well as Shinobi Moji may motivate players to try their skills at the game several more times. Additionally, scores and personal bests can be uploaded to the supported leaderboards in order to measure yourself against the rest of the world.
In the end, Ninja Blade is an excellent action game that fans of the genre will love. Of course, many - including my peers in the industry - may scoff at this title's similarities to Ninja Gaiden and even God of War. Still, action fans owe it to themselves to keep an open mind and at least download the demo. If you absolutely abhor QTE mechanics, know that Ninja Blade is full of the stuff. However, the implementation of the QTEs is done exceptionally well; I typically loathe the mechanic but found it immensely enjoyable in Ninja Blade. If you consider yourself a hardcore action hound, Ninja Blade offers up challenge in a delightful package that'll keep you busy as you patiently wait for God of War 3.
CCC Editor / News Director