The Five: Ninja Blade
The Skinny: If you're an Xbox 360 owner, we hope you're not sick of ninja-themed titles yet -- because From Software (the creator of Otogi and Otogi 2) is bringing an all-new franchise to the 360 next year. Don't fret, this isn't a complete Ryu Hayabusa knockoff. Instead, the cinematic Ninja Blade seems to borrow many concepts from many recent high-profile titles.
1. Heavenly Sword + God of War + Spider-Man + Ninja Gaiden II = Ninja Blade. Take context-sensitive button presses and add over-the-top moves, blades with chains, the ability to fight on the sides of buildings and someone that looks like a close relative of the Hayabusa clan, and you've got Ninja Blade.
2. Play the movie. Many cut scenes in Ninja Blade will have interactive, context-sensitive moments, so don't put down your controller to munch on some popcorn while you're watching cinematic elements.
3. Let's face it: Even though Ninja Gaiden 2 was more accessible, the original Ninja Gaiden was a bitch. Producer Masanori Takeuchi wants everyone to be able to finish Ninja Blade. Takeuchi-san hinted at the fact that Ninja Blade will have a dynamic difficulty level that will automatically tailor itself to each player's skill set.
4. Bosses, bosses and more bosses. In the short demo we played, a gigantic carrier spider was tearing up Tokyo. Takeuchi-san noted that the game will feature a number of major and sub-boss battles. Sounds good to us.
5. Sorry Otogi fans -- this isn't Otogi 3. While there are hack-and-slash elements, protagonist Ken Ogawa will trade in aerial combat to stay much more grounded in his efforts against opposing foes. Using swords, dual short swords on wires and ninjustsu attacks, you'll lay waste to Tokyo's intruders.
The Big Question: Is Ninja Blade going to be more than "Generic Ninja Title X?" We only saw a short chunk of gameplay in the demo, but so far, Ninja Blade has a been-there-done-that-feel with all that it borrows from other titles. That's not to say it isn't fun, but it doesn't feel truly fresh, either. We hope From Software has a lot more tricks up its ninja sleeves.
This preview is based on a producer roundtable demonstration of the game and hands-on gameplay at Tokyo Game Show 2008.