Within the Blade, originally known as Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru, finally makes its way to Nintendo’s hybrid after a stint on PC, Xbox and PlayStation. Does its stealthy Shinobi antics translate to a more portable form factor? Lets take a look.
You play as Hideki, one of the most respected warriors within the Black Lotus Clan. A civil war of sorts has broken out as the leader of the rival Steel Claw Clan consorts with demons and kills innocent civilians in an attempt to sieze power as the last Shogunate in 1560 dies. Only your clan can stop them.
Whilst the lore up on game store pages can be long, the story isn’t quite so detailed in practice. During the game its quite snappy when presented so doesn’t really get in the way, but offers just enough to give some depth to your missions and the opposing Steel Claw Clan. There is an amusing amount of Engrish in the game, you could either chalk that uo to mistranslation or purposely done as a throwback to dubbed Kung-Fu movies of yesteryear.
Retro styling is the order of the day here with regards to presentation, and it gets stuck to doggedly for the most part. Things do look decent enough for the most part, but lack much in the way of fine detail due to this style. Every now and again the game does step out of it’s 8-Bit shell, the magic effects and Gore in particular are beyond what we would’ve seen then, but aside from a few effects there’s not much else. Fire & smoke effects are a real highlight tho, and the environment damage in the form of trees, grass, items etc. is a nice touch.
Audio isn’t quite as good, there’s a nice menu track but then barely any BGM once on a stage – only a little ambience unless back at the village hub. The sound effects during combat are generally good tho, and their quality does carry the audio side of the game. Luckily the games general performance is great, no frame issues were noticed when undocked and the docked mode even seemed to offer a higher resolution. To be honest it’s probably best played docked, especially if you have a Pro controller, given the speed of the game at times can lead to stumbled inputs on the Joycons.
If you’ve always wondered what a fusion of games like Shinobi & Ninja Gaiden would turn out like then this might tickle your fancy. You’ll generally need to reach the end of a stage whilst completing some goals on the way, but how you get there is up to you. You can take on all the enemies, not an easy task given the lack of braindead AI, or take a more stealthy approach by hiding and using high objects such as trees to go over enemies – you can even wall run. You’ll generally look to stealth, as not only is the one slash kills on unaware enemies economical, it prevents you getting overwhelmed when a variety of enemies turn up. Not every enemy is the same and you need to plan accordingly. That same variety isn’t really applied to level design tho. You either go through forests, villages or outposts, for the most part. Each does offer a different challenge, but stages within the level get repetitive quickly.
Item use and crafting can play a big role depending on how you play. I used a lot of items when going toe-to-toe and would generally run out of crafting materials, so you gotta plan ahead still with item use. Stealthy approach was the complete opposite. I very rarely, if ever, used any of items or had a need to craft them usually as defeated enemies drop some. It leaves the crafting feeling undercooked, but in reality it’s not if you vary your play-style. Aside from the occasional bout of camera annoyance when trying to stealth on the ground, I suppose the lack of info, or maybe the game not having key characters stand out, also doesn’t help. If I hadn’t randomly spoken to the Teacher back in the village I would’ve continued playing the game without purchasing gear or upgrades as I had no idea till a few levels in by chance
Within the Blade takes all those classic Ninja games you used to play as a kid and mashes them together into one game whilst not actually looking any better than you remember either. There’s some genuinely good stealthy action to be had here, if you can forgive the somewhat repetitive levels and other minor niggles, as its fast paced nature can make for some enthralling stages. It’s not going to be a game for everyone, but if you’re on the lookout for some challenging Shinobi fun on the go then this could be what you’re looking for.
Allows you to relive your ninja/shinobi nostalgia with added bells & whistles.