I grew up loving games like Shinobi and Ninja Gaiden, so it’s only natural to be interested in platform titles that put us in the shoes of a ninja. Even so, whether because of the sheer amount of releases, or because it just didn’t make much noise when it came to PC, back in 2019, the fact is that I had never heard of Within the Blade.
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Developed by Ametist studio, the game was born as Pixel Shinobi: Nine Demons of Mamoru and was later renamed, probably to distance it from one of Sega’s most fantastic franchises — and one that has long been ignored by the company. But if this could just mean an attempt not to be confused, it actually indicates that Within the Blade has a style quite different from the adventure starring Joe Musashi.
Unlike the titles I liked in the 80s and 90s, this one has a greater focus on stealth, with the player being able to use the hero’s ability called Hideaki to hide in the scenarios and thus eliminate his enemies without much effort. When doing this we will see an animation of the character tearing up opponents and even if it is a game made with pixelated graphics, the level of detail is impressive.
However, what should be the highlight of Within the Blade soon proves to be a missed opportunity. The problem is that by making the pace of the game too frantic, the developers made it very difficult for us to go forward undetected and that doesn’t happen because of a high difficulty level. During the phases it is easy to notice the conflict present in the gameplay, with it encouraging us to act quickly, but also trying to convince us that we can be “invisible”.
In addition to this difficulty in defining a style, the gameplay is also bombarded by a large amount of items that we can use to our advantage. There are shurikens, bombs, mines and all kinds of weapons that a ninja would use, with them being found throughout the stages, bought from merchants who live in a village that serves as a hub or even produced, as long as we have the necessary resources.
By the way, Within the Blade can be considered a platform RPG, as it will also gain experience and unlock upgrades to a skill tree. All of this helps add a level of complexity that is not common to see in games with lateral progression, but it can also annoy those just looking for more ninja-style action of yesteryear.
The interesting thing is that as scary as this gameplay may seem at first, with so much to learn, as we go through the campaign we realize that repetition will be a great ally, with muscle memory making us instinctively make decisions and feel like real ninja . I mean, except for the damn wall run, as I’ll never understand why the studio decided to make Hideaki jump himself in the opposite direction after the climb.
Once this steep learning curve has been overcome, what’s in store for Within the Blade is a good level of difficulty, something we haven’t seen much of lately and which will serve to give us some satisfaction when we complete a mission.
I lost count of the times I found myself having to repeat sectors of a phase to understand the movement of enemies or realize that a sneaky approach would make my life much easier. This can be frustrating, but it also motivates you to keep trying.
But while the game strives to deliver some variety by adopting diverse RPG elements, the same can’t be said for the scenarios. The impression is that we are always walking through the same places, with the decoration of the rooms being uninspired and quite bland. The curious thing is that pixelart was well-crafted, with the characters having a good level of detail, but the repetition of the phases throws out much of the artists’ effort.
However, even with its problems, Within the Blade is fun and can kill those who are looking for an action game with gameplay in two dimensions. Maybe my mistake was hoping it was a new Shinobi — something even Sega doesn’t seem willing to do — and as long as you’re prepared to take on Ametist studio’s creation with a different expectation than mine, you can find an adventure here. very interesting.