TGS 08: QTE madness with this Ninja Blade hands-on

From Software’s Ninja Blade really came out of nowhere. One day we just woke up and there it was — a new ninja game for the Xbox 360.

It may have just suddenly appeared one day, but Ninja Blade was playable at TGS and as soon as I saw it and remembered it existed, I headed right on over. A small section of the game was playable, incorporating a number of different gameplay elements, and I tried as much as I could to shed a little light on the latest ninja-flavored action game, and the huge number os Quick-Time-Events it contains.

Press X, Y and then tap A to hit the jump.

A word of advice before we start: If you are one of those people who hate Quick-Time-Events, then you might want to skip this one. The game actually starts with a QTE, and it doesn’t skimp on them as the playable level continues, either. 

The game is packed full of flashy action sequences that require your button pressing skills, and while it all looks incredibly impressive, you’re really not doing all that much. You get rated for each button press, and it can be gratifying to achieve a string of perfects, but you don’t feel too involved either way.

It isn’t all QTE, of course, with combat also being a heavy focus. Fighting the mutated creatures of Tokyo is fun, but very bog standard, and this particular build lacks the depth of Ninja Gaiden or the outrageous style of Devil May Cry

Once you’ve slashed your way through a horde of enemies, you will get to partake in a bit of free falling. The camera will assume a top-down position as main character Ryu plummets along the side of a building. With you traveling down, a number of winged enemies as a rushing up. Your task is to move from side to side and then hit the attack button to kill the creatures with a quick instant-death animation. This looks incredibly cool and is a great idea, but simplicity and repetition quickly puts a dampener on the proceedings.

After more Quick-Time shenanigans, one is swiftly ushered into a boss fight against a giant, fireball-spewing spider. The spider is at the end of a long walkway, and it’s sending various energy waves your way. The flat energy waves can be jumped over while the sets of two thin ones can be slipped through. Once you have navigated your way to the spider, you need to dodge its fireballs before it slams two legs onto the platform. 

Of course, when legs get stuck right next to you, it’s fairly obvious what the next course of action is, so you’re invited to hack away at one of the legs until the armor comes off, exposing the red, sensitive flesh beneath. Attacking this finally takes off some health, only for the spider to retaliate by sending a particularly strong energy wave your way, initiating yet another QTE in which you hammer a button repeatedly to “endure” the attack. If you fail, you’re pushed back to the end of the walkway and need to dodge the energy waves to continue fighting.

Once you knock off enough health, there is one more QTE before the demo ends.

Ultimately, I took away from Ninja Blade the feeling that a solid action game was in the works, but one that will do little to stand out from the crowd. Everything there functioned as it did, but nothing grabbed me by the bollocks and demanded attention. An action junkie like myself is sure to have fun, but I don’t know if this game is going to offer anything for more discerning gamers.

James Stephanie Sterling