Video game review: Ninja Blade - the name says it all

Released here as an X-Box 360 exclusive, Ninja Blade is a Japanese developed game that takes place in a near future Tokyo that's been overrun with infected zombie-type creatures and giant monsters. You play Ken-Oh, part of an elite team of special forces ninjas who jump out of planes to fight said monsters using nothing but your swords, gravity-defying acrobatic skills, and Ninjitsu magic. You can switch at will between three flavors of sword (big, medium, and small-but-on-wires) and, eventually, three flavors of magic (wind, fire, electricity). You can slow down time with your ninja-vision if you need to dodge invisible shock waves spit at you from the mouths (which you will) and weave your way through inconveniently placed helicopter blades and steam vents. Periodically you'll be forced to stop cutting up zombies and small monsters and fight some really freaking huge boss-type monsters that are usually some form of overgrown garden best, like spiders, worms, slugs, and flies (and women with snakes for arms riding giant dogs).

A dull as dishwater story involving family betrayal, scene-chewing bad guy monologues, and mystic destinies ties the action sequences together. But if the sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English dialogue is the game's framework, it's the quick time events that stitch the thing together. Every big bad you fight ends with a quick time event – a series of hit this button right now moments that allow the wild cut scenes to continue. These are the sequences where your ninja rides missiles and smashes giant spiders with wrecking balls or acts as a human break for a crashing jet plane. The timing on them is pretty forgiving, and if you miss one you only get knocked back a few seconds and can try again. As quick time events go, these are about as painless and enjoyable as they get. Again, as quick time events go. Ultimately though, I don't think they achieve the goal of making you feel like you're in control of these awesome events – it's more like you're watching a movie with a very finicky remote control in your hand.

On balance, Ninja Blade is an OK game. For those who love them some ninjas and giant monsters, there's plenty for you. For those who find big boss fights repetitive and frustrating enough to make you scream “I hate this game!” over and over again at the screen (like me), you might want to take a pass on this one. I see why some people do enjoy it. I really didn't.

There's a place for experiences like the one Ninja Blade has to offer. It's the kind of thing you can really only do with a video game these days: surf a missile into a zombie helicopter, fight a giant lightning bolt spitting crab in a subway tunnel, run down the side of a skyscraper while chopping giant bats in half with a sward that's as big as you are. Hit the X Button not to die. Ninja Blade gives you all that, and a lot more that's pretty similar. But is it worth the price of entry? Maybe not, but it's definitely worth watching the video trailer below.

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