When I think ninja games, there are a few that come to mind. I’m an old school gamer so I think of titles like the original Ninja Gaiden, Strider, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Shinobi just to name a few. These were ninja games I grew up with and loved for many years. Some of these games continued on throughout the generations expanding on their gameplay and also changing with the times. However I still miss those days of challenging 2D side-scrolling ninja games and luckily, we have some options that take us back to those days. Within the Blade by Ratalaika Games and developed by Ametist Studio is just such a game that features retro action, looks, and RPG elements for that euphoric nostalgic feel.
So the gist of Within the Blade is as follows: In 1560 A.D – Japan’s last Shogunate has lost full control over the realm, causing a plunge into a massive civil war. All hope lies within the ninja clan “Black Lotus” to sabotage and defend against the forces of the villain and his demonic allies. The warlord must be assassinated. That’s pretty much loosely what the story is.
While the story usually is important, I find that with these type of games the gameplay and action is just as important, if not more. Within the Blade has some really interesting ninja mechanics, much of it open as you play. You start off with a normal slash and jump slash but can unlock moves like assassinations, spin attacks, throwing stars, grappling hooks, and more. There are even over 100 types of weapons you can find and craft which means that you can vary your play based on the style of combat you like. I do highly suggest playing the tutorial. It’ll teach you how to use all the different types of attacks even if you haven’t unlocked them yet in the main game. At least this way, you’ll know what to look out for when you start unlocking skills.
There’s also a crafting element to Within the Blade. You do collect a ton of material while playing and you use this to create weapons and other forms of gear.
For those who want to experience the game without much stress, you can opt to play on easy mode or even normal. For those who want to be true ninjas, there’s a permadeath mode which basically means if you die, you start all over.
Graphically, those who love retro styled games will be pleased. There is definitely a retro feel to Within the Blade. Most of the art elements are made up of blocky pixels in the foreground, though the background has a bit more detail. I do like that the background moves independently of the foreground and it’s in layers so it gives each level the appearance of depth. It’s a nice effect that would make an otherwise flat game feel more alive.
Now is there anything I don’t like about the game? Well, the control scheme could be tightened up a bit. Sometimes it feels like there’s a lag when trying to switch to different directions. Also, selecting items in your inventory can be really wonky as there doesn’t seem to be an indication for what your picking and you sort of just need to guess. It’s an odd bug or just an omission.
Despite this, Within the Blade is a very good ninja-themed game. It has all the elements you’d expect in a game like this – stealth, hand-to-hand combat, assassinations, weapons, deadly enemies, and interesting locales. Not only that, it seems that each time you play, the levels get randomly generated and become different. So in essence, you’re never really playing the same game again. The boss battles however end up being the same. So with that said, Within the Blade is totally worth the purchase if you love ninja games. The retro vibes certainly give it tons of charm and there’s enough action to keep you satisfied for quite a while.
Received game from developer and/or publisher for coverage purposes.
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