In the world of Ninja Blade, it’s perpetually midnight, the moon is perpetually full, and you’re perpetually several hundred feet in the air above the streets of Tokyo, fighting huge monsters who appear to have escaped from every other game on your shelf. The game stars neo-ninja Ken Ogawa, whose Lone Ranger mask doesn’t make him him look like a ninja so much as like a pervert in search of the nearest fetish club. Ken’s master is a graduate of the Mr. Miyagi School For Masters. He shadows Ken during the game’s opening act, offering a steady supply of cryptic bon mots and flashy new weapons.
But Ken’s master, whom we quickly learn is also his father, betrays Ken within the game’s first 20 minutes, making this quite possibly the fastest master-student sellout in gaming history. Ken is stabbed and left for dead on a rooftop. He doesn’t stay dead, of course, but players are likely to wish he had.
Ninja Blade aches to be a Ninja Gaiden clone. But it offers none of the intuitive moves-rolling-off-the-fingertips of Tecmo’s series of far superior ninja sims. Instead, thanks to Ninja Blade’s awful controls, Ken lurches around like a drunk uncle at a bar mitzvah.
The game also relies far too heavily on scripted quick-time events, where you watch a cutscene and input a series of increasingly complex button-presses to “defeat” a foe. Quick-time events are acceptable when used sparingly. But in essence, Ninja Blade is one overlong quick-time event, which only marginally lets gamers actually participate in what’s supposedly an interactive entertainment.
Beyond the game: Swords can be upgraded, unlocking new moves that, at best, you might inadvertently pull off once in awhile.
Worth playing for: The fight with the giant spider. It’s in the free demo on Xbox Live. Download it and save yourself $60.
Frustration sets in when: The quick-time events are too unforgivingly quick. Expect to see the “miss” screen often.
Final judgment: The absurd design issues water down the production values and some decent ideas. If Ninja Blade succeeds on any level, it’s only in creating a greater appreciation for the superb Ninja Gaiden series. Play them instead.