Ninjas are cool. Everybody knows that. They have swords, smokebombs and they run silently through the night. They also kill people…which isn’t good per say, but still the swords are cool. On top of all that, the last thing you want to give a ninja is a reason to go after you. Say by doing something like getting in their way. Unfortunately not everybody got that memo and many characters were harmed in the making of this videogame. No animals though.
More of a mission than a story. Kuro, our player character, has received some dire news. It would appear that the Amida Clan is rising once again, which isn’t good for reasons unexplained. Anyway, it is up to the lone ninja to slay his way through opposing forces to ensure that his Sensei receives the message and begins preparations. Trouble is afoot.
Shadow Blade plays like an old fashioned side-scroller, on account of it being a side-scroller game. Players take control of the ninja Kuro and attempt to make it to the end of each stage. Of course, it’s not as simple as all that. First of all, the game isn’t a flat landscape. Luckily ninjas are quite adept at jumping, a skill that is consistently useful. As the game progresses, Kuro gains the ability to double jump and air dash, abilities that greatly increase his aerial acumen. Coincidentally, these skills are acquired just when they are needed. Talk about lucky. For a little extra height, wall jumping is also an option.
Moving on from movement, there are also a number of enemies who will attempt to hinder Kuro’s progress. Though they appear sparsely, these enemies are a very real threat as Kuro will be defeated in a single hit. Starting at the common swordsman, opponents will steadily increase in strength and variation as the levels progress, even netting themselves some long ranged weaponry. Enemies also bolster their forces with a number of tricky traps and devious devices. Mainly spikes. Deadly, deadly spikes. They’re also not opposed to electricity, so watch out for that.
The game itself runs on a star based ranking system, a ninja star based ranking system in fact. Enemies killed, time taken to complete a level, collectibles collected. Each of these factor into the total score. That being said, a perfect star ranking is not recquired to progress through the game, as simply finishing a level will suffice. There is a total of three chapters in the game and an additional Hardcore option, featuring a few extra levels that are considerably harder due to the lack of checkpoints.
Visuals and Audio
Shadow Blade features a very unique and stylised look. Characters feature certain exaggerated elements, such as slender limbs or a dramatically hunched pose. Kuro himself is also recognisable by his odd style, for example his pure white eyes and solid black mask. The bright yellow scarf is also fairly attention drawing. The backgrounds are also rather picturesque and feature elements that, whilst visually pleasing, do not overpower the characters in the foreground. The overall visual theme varies depending on the chapter and serve as a visual connection between the levels.
Being centred on the actions of a ninja, the soundtrack is understandably inspired by ancient sounds. Japanese percussion and wind instruments give the game an authentic air, lending to the old fashioned nature of the plot. Strings are also played when point orbs are collecting, adding an extra track to the audio that is only truly appreciated during a clean run through of the stage. Closer to a gameplay level, sword strikes are met with a classic “schwing” sound effect. Firearms also have a charge up tune, serving as a warning for Kuro to get out of the laser sights. Quickly.
Shadow Blade is a simple, fast paced bundle of fun. With ninjas, so it’s at least 20% cooler than regular side-scrollers. The game’s slow release tutorial provides a fair learning curve and doesn’t overload with moves right from the get go. The option to choose either a touch or button based control scheme also adds range to the game, making it more accessible to players and their individual preferences. The levels themselves take roughly one minute to complete and, as such, do not prove to much trouble to complete. Even if you’re of the perfectionist mindset, it’s not too much effort to replay a level until those three ninja stars shine on the score screen. Essentially, Shadow Blade is a short, fun experience that is more about the gameplay than any form of plot. Though ninjas are notoriously secretive, they probably wouldn’t reveal much anyway…
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