Derivative, shallow gameplay and frustrating exercises in precision timing dull Ninja Blade's appeal and sharpness.

User Rating: 5 | Ninja Blade X360
Amidst a sea of ninja-themed action games, Ninja Blade tries to stand out as a smoke bomb of a different density. And while it does offer some neat gameplay features that set it apart from the rest, it's still nothing more than a mediocre copycat of every other source that inspired it. Derivative gameplay, frustrating exercises in precision timing and bumpy pacing dull the game's sharpness and renders it a disheartening, forgettable mess. Simply put, Ninja Blade doesn't cut it.

A horrific Alpha-worm epidemic has ravaged the city of Tokyo, transforming infected human hosts into hideous mutations. With the entire metropolis under siege and the threat of a widespread pandemic of catastrophic proportions clearly imminent, the U.S. Government dispatches an elite group of soldiers---known as G.U.I.D.E.---to effectively confront the Alpha-worm infestation head-on and destroy the multitudes of mutated monstrosities tearing the beloved city to pieces. Among the soldiers; a hardened modern-day ninja named Ken Ogawa---who carries a natural blood immunity to the Alpha-worm parasites. Alone and seemingly outnumbered, it's up to Ken to not only save Tokyo, but stop the spread of the infestation before it devours the entire planet.

Although Ninja Blade doesn't necessarily break any considerable ground in the genre, there are a couple of indicative variants that help deviate it slightly from other similar games. For one, Quick Time Events are cinematic showcases of unadulterated "ninja awesome" that demand interactivity from the player as well as precision button pressing at the right moments during visual prompts. Doing so successfully will afford you a greater payout in reward such as a ranking in the online leaderboards, and you can also adjust difficulty settings for QTEs if you're itching for a sturdier challenge. But, as visually exciting as QTEs can be, technically they can be frustrating exercises of precision timing as on-screen cues appear within a window of only a few seconds, and you're often distracted by the fast-moving cinematic action. If you mess up the timing and miss the cue outright, the QTE will backtrack to the start of the trigger event and prevent your progress---which is rather irritating in itself. Furthermore, Ninja Blade places too much of an emphasis on these events, making it a tough pill to swallow for casual players and disrupting the flow of gameplay.

During the game, you have the opportunity to use a variety of different weapons---some of which will help you deal with environmental hazards. For example, Wind Shurikens can blow out stationary fires, while your Twin Falcon Knives allow you to quickly navigate hard-to-reach platforming areas. Collecting blood crystals from slain enemies can be spent upgrading both your weapons and ninjitsu, and you can even attain new combo attacks in this matter. An interesting character growth system to be sure, but it takes a long time and a lot of blood crystals to reach the maximum potential of all your weapons and ninja magic. Fortunately, getting good with the QTEs as well as successfully implicating Todome (finishing moves) every so often helps in accumulating as many of these much-needed resources as possible. You also have possession of an ability known as Ninja Vision; which allows you to pinpoint concealed areas of interest as well as slow down time for when you're dashing across crumbling floors. It's a pretty cool feature----that is, if you can deal with some momentary blurriness after using it for prolonged periods.

Broken into individual chapters, Ninja Blade takes the player on a trip through various areas of Tokyo---the focal point of the entire game. Interestingly enough, many of the game's environments are based on actual real-life locales in Tokyo and are accurately represented as such. The graphics aren't anything to smile about, but they do a good job in conveying Ninja Blade's dark nature. Voice-overs are genuinely awful and, oddly, Japanese tracks are included but only through bilingual means---meaning that some characters will speak in their Japanese tongue while others (like Andy Walker and Michael Wilson) will speak in their typical poor English. It might have been nice if there were a full-blown Japanese audio track, but no such option exists.

Apart from the Quick Time Events and some other admirable features, Ninja Blade just doesn't offer anything noteworthy outside of what's been done before. The hack-and-slash platforming action is derivative and stale, and the entire experience ends up being a below-average copycat with little to show for itself. If you're looking for a good ninja platformer for your 360 and were hoping Ninja Blade would fit the bill, you're better off playing the original sources that this disappointing imitator rips from.