Team Ninja is the type of developer whose games don’t just leave an impression – they define you. Cutting their teeth with the rebooted Ninja Gaiden – they have defied genres from making 3D fighters to volleyball games. Ninja Gaiden is a type of franchise that balanced the fine line of flash and panache with addictive kinetic gameplay systems. Under the umbrella of Koei Tecmo, this is a Japanese developer that pays respect to it’s heritage, it’s unique systems, and audience with each and every iteration.
Nioh is a franchise that took the SoulsBorne formula by storm. Doubling on difficulty, tripling on anxiety, and embracing its roots as a Ninja action game: many consider it Team Ninja’s absolute best work. Critically and commercially smashing expectations – fans were left in anticipation for a followup. So here’s the million dollar question: Does Nioh 2 live up to the hype or does it fall under the weight of its legacy? Spoiler alert- it’s incredible.
Nioh 2 takes place before and after the events of the original game during the Sengoku period. Many of the era’s historical figures play a huge part in the story. Unlike the original game, Nioh 2 lets you create your own protagonist. Your created character will be known as Hide, a half human / half Yokai who’s hired as a mercenary to hunt down the – wait for it – Yokai. During your quest, you’ll befriend Tokichiro, a trained merchant who sells special spirit stones to stabilize your character’s powers. Tokichiro acts as a mission guide where you are sent to do multiple quests, but not everything is quite as it seems. In any case – from this point forward players will go on an epic journey where they will cross paths with many historical figures in a fusion of Japanese mythology and literary fiction.
One of the first changes players will notice is the story in Nioh 2 is a massive upgrade over the original. Taking cues from multiple modern AAA blockbusters – voice acted cutscenes, set pieces, and character to character interaction are focal points in the package. There is an awesome mix of gameplay driven beats that make the narrative, without any spoilers, bombastic.
Moving on to the player – the create a character is another area of refinement in Nioh 2. You can completely customize the look of your character from gender to facial hair to build. This isn’t a passive detail either, the system is deep and reminiscent in depth of the old THQ wrestling games.
The real meat and potatoes aren’t the awesome story or the cool customizations – it’s the gameplay. The combat is pretty much like the original game with a few minor tweaks and changes. If you’re not familiar with the first game then there’s no need to worry–the game does an awesome job introducing you to the systems.
Your character will have three stances: high, medium, and low. You can earn skill points and unlock many new moves and combos. There’s a lot to take in when it comes to fully understanding the combat, but you can learn most of it at the Dojo and tutorial sessions. Nioh 2 also has many Guardian Spirits that you inherit during your journey. Many with unique powers and abilities.
Soul cores is a cool new addition. This allows you to summon a Yokai briefly as you do battle. Think of it like a Summon from Final Fantasy. They can, for example, help you counter a burst attack. As you build up your Anima gauge meter, your Yakai powers come in to full effect. This helps combat feel unique and fresh.
Lastly, the Co-Op in Nioh 2 adds an extra player in the mix. I’ve had no issues with connection time outs or summoning other players. Nioh 2 also allows you to summon AI to help you. The only downer to that is that they pretty much die easily. On the bright side – the Co-Op and expeditions allow you to help others in their quest when it comes to boss battles or collecting Kodama.
Oh did I mention: the game is BRUTAL. With over a 100 platinums- I consider myself a seasoned gamer – but Nioh 2 tested my patience and dexterity to my breaking point. It took hundreds of deaths and approximately 55 hours to complete the game. The game is packed with content as it has 20 main missions, 53 sub missions, and 8 twilight mini missions. That’s enough to keep anyone busy.
Visually, Nioh 2 is GORGEOUS. Team Ninja have doubled down when it comes to the quality of the graphics. The game has 3 modes: a Performance mode with a preference for 60 FPS and V-Sync; a Cinematic mode that give you a checkerboard 4k 30 FPS; and an Unlocked Cinematic mode which mixes the two.
But the real beauty is in the details- vegetation and flora are in abundance, animations are theatric and pronounced, and the Art design literally feels like it was ripped out of a Yoshitaka Amano sketchbook. Combing all of this with the cinematic direction that is as pulpy as a Frank Miller work- you end up with a cross between Seven Samurai and Sin City.
Overall, Nioh 2 delivered in every department. The story had many unexpected twists and the gameplay kept me hooked to the very end. The game’s custom options were second to none. There’s so much to learn and figure out in Nioh 2 which gives me a reason to keep coming back for just one more trophy. Nioh 2 is a must have – and a great edition to your PS4 library. Bravo Team Ninja – Bravo Playstation!
A Review code was provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Team Ninja / Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: 12/03/2020
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Version Reviewed: PlayStation 4 Pro