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Ninja Blade [360]

Let’s talk Ninja Blade.  If you’re looking for a hack ‘n’ slash game which you can play over and over again, mindlessly, then this is a title for you.  Equally, however, if you are intrigued by a variety of moves and are somewhat of a list completionist, then this too could be the game for you.  If you’re the kind of person that gets involved in the story, then the story here of a parasitic alien-worm thing hell-bent on taking over the world starting in Tokyo, may pique your interest. However, despite all of this Ninja Blade can feel empty, as if it were a beautifully crafted pie with hardly any filling.  But sometimes it’s not the filling that makes the pie, and if the filling is good enough, it’ll leave you wanting more, but hopefully not at the expense of the crust. 

The game does have some redeeming factors, and in the eyes of some it may not be much, but when you’re comparing it to the likes of Ninja Gaiden 2 and Afro Samurai, two completely different hack ‘n’ slash games, it’s inevitable parallels will be made.  What Ninja Blade does really well is resolve that old issue of camera angles.  This isn’t a third-person game so much as a platformer in an open world, and once you get your head around that, you’ll find a whole load of fun inside.

And because it’s a platformer, you won’t get lost.  Even if you do, you have your Ninja Vision to help you find your way, an ability to look at your surroundings from a Ninja’s point of view presumably.  Tap the left bumper and your screen goes into some kind of red-filtered fish-eye lens view where exit routes are shaded blue, making it clear where you need to go.  Ninja Vision can also be extremely helpful when you’re trying to find enemy weak spots, and equally helpful when you’re overwhelmed by enemies, as it slows time down around you, allowing you to get more hits in.  Beware though, your Ninja Vision isn’t infinite and runs on a Chi bar.  Once the Chi bar is empty you’ll have to wait for it to regenerate.

But getting your hits in requires weapons; swords and ninjutsu (special ninja powers to be precise), for you ain’t no Ninja if you got no weapons.  Ninja Blade doesn’t inundate you with weapon choice, but instead gives you each of the three extra weapons as and when you need them through a series of cut-scenes, which we’ll get onto later.  The weapons are the standard Oni-Slayer blade, a single blade, samurai-esque sword; the Twin Falcon Knives, two smaller blades which have some wire rope hook things that are seemingly hidden in the Tsuka (or handle as we English speakers call it) allowing you to travel across rooftops by grappling buildings; finally there’s the Stonerender Sword, a bad-ass heavy thing made from stone and designed to destroy ANYTHING in its way.  In addition to the blades you have the aforementioned ninjutsu which takes on the power of the elements wind, fire and electricity.  The blades can be selected using the dpad, while the blade attacks are dealt with the X and Y buttons, the latter being the heavy attacks.  The ninjutsu power can be selected using the right bumber, while deploying the weapon is done by pressing or holding the B button.  The ninjutsu, however, uses up your Chi, so use it wisely.

Of course, you can upgrade your weapons as you go along, and you can do that at any time through the inventory, which also allows you to replenish your health and boost your adrenaline for a while, making your hits more powerful for a short period of time.  Upgrading weapons – and you can only upgrade your arsenal to level three the first time you play the game through –  can be done by trading in red Blood Crystals which are acquired as you defeat the enemies.  By levelling up your weapon, you also unlock new moves, and new moves mean bigger combos and more damage.  Along with Blood Crystals there are also Health Crystals or orbs, which are yellow. These Health Crystals replenish your health immediately, but you’ll need a good few handfuls if yoll


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