You may be thinking that Within the Blade is the retro-inspired, ninja-platformer game that you have played before. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not the case. Not only do you have to hack and slash with your sword, you will need to hone your ninja skills and be stealthy. Being able to successfully block an enemy's attack is incredibly helpful. Within the Blade brings something totally new to the table. I can honestly say I’ve never played a ninja game where my sword would break and that had me crafting my own kunai, throwing stars and other random weapons.
You play as Hideake, a ninja in the Black Lotus Clan. Your quest is to do whatever the Genshi, the head of the clan, wants you to do. Most of the time these quests involve taking down bandits and members of the Steel clan in a brutal fashion. Though I do have to admit there is something satisfying about successfully sneaking up on the enemy and dispatching them. You learn that the steel clan’s leader, after receiving the power of an evil warlord samurai, has been summoning demons into his army. Of course the ninjas from the Black Lotus Clan are the only ones that can stop them.
Within the Blade has the option to complete a tutorial as soon as you turn on the game. I highly recommend doing this because there are a huge number of attacks that you learn how to do. To complete the tutorial you have to successfully perform the move that is shown on the screen. This can actually be quite difficult at times. It’s not always super clear if all the buttons that they show have to be hit concurrently or one after another. It definitely required some trial and error. During the training if you happen to screw up the move you are required to do, you will have to keep trying until you successfully complete it. If Hideake dies, you will have to start over again from the beginning, so I suggest taking your time and not just running and slashing because chances are this will not end well for you. That is unless you want to punish yourself and get stuck in a loop constantly starting over from the beginning.
The weapons that Hideake is armed with will all depend on the items that you loot from fallen enemies and chests spread throughout the levels. Once you get back to the village you can enter a crafting tent and use all these items to create the weapon that you want. If you don’t have all of the required pieces, there are multiple merchants around the village that you can buy items from so there is a chance you can find exactly what you need. The points you receive from performing assassinations and that you get at the end of levels can be redeemed at the village dojo to learn new skills and power-ups like extra HP. This is set up as a skill tree so once you learn one ability, all the ones connected to it will be unlocked and available to learn.
The pixel artwork in Within the Blade is very detailed and looks great. So are the different environments the stages are set in and the village also looks really nice. Unfortunately, just because the levels look great it doesn’t mean they are super fun to play. In the stages, the enemy outpost levels are always platforming to find the keys. The forest levels have you running straight across to the goal. The village level requires you to be fast so you can avoid all the booby traps. Now you know exactly what is in store for all the rest of the stages that you will challenge. It felt like it would just keep going on and on with no end in sight. The levels were overly long and just didn’t offer much variety in gameplay; it became incredibly repetitive.
Within the Blade has sometimes finicky controls if you are playing on the Switch due to the Joy-Cons. But I found they weren’t bad enough to really hinder my playing. The harder part was remembering what buttons you had to hit to perform all the different moves. I really enjoyed being able to be sneaky and stealthy when coming across the variety of enemies. It feels like how a ninja should act; plus there are definitely heads flying and blood spilled like you would expect.
If you enjoy ninjas, 2D action-platformer games and sneaking up and brutally killing your enemies, Within the Blade is definitely a title you are going to want to check out. Especially if you can look past the repetitive levels there is a ton of ninja action and stealth here to keep you happy!
Within the blade (Reviewed on Nintendo Switch)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
Within the Blade is full of action and stealth, just like what you would expect a ninja to be good at. Unfortunately some of the levels become quite repetitive, but the game offers a unique weapon crafting feature that you don’t usually see in games like this.