If you’re looking for an action-packed side-scroller to keep you on your toes and maybe feel a few things along the way, then look no further than Within the Blade. Developed and published by Ametist Studio, Within the Blade aptly combines the fast-paced intensity of a 2D platformer with the nuanced stealth tactics of a ninja RPG.
Unlike most traditional side-scrollers, this game sucks you in right away with its mysterious storyline and deceptively detailed Rogue-like combat. You play as Hideaki, a mighty Shinobi warrior trying to save their land from civil war and the corrupt “Steel Claw” clan. The main antagonist, Mamoru Imai, serves as the Steel Claw’s fierce military leader. During the fall of the Shogunate in 1560 AD, he began working with dark magic and, as a result, became possessed by the evil spirit of a deceased samurai warlord. Ultimately, Imai’s strength grew as he teamed up with a legion of other demons to reign supreme over Japan. Now, it’s up to you to defeat the daimyo (military leader) and save your homeland from their demonic clutches.
Powerful Weapons and Enemies
One of the things that stood out to me right away about this game was the vast amount of crafting and upgrade options. Typically, 2D platformers often fall short in providing tons of unique items to craft, but Within the Blade has so many options to choose from. You can craft smoke bombs, various health potions, ninja stars, poison darts, tons of different handheld weapons, and more. I found the multiple bombs to be great for longer-ranged combat, but the smoke bombs also provide a layer of stealth that’s incredibly helpful for battling numerous enemies. It honestly seems like the developers wanted to give you the full array of ninja weapons and stealth equipment. It makes gameplay so much more engaging when you’re actively putting thoughts into your next move rather than just mindlessly slashing away at enemies.
Speaking of which, the enemies’ AI won’t take hits lying down. As you progress throughout the levels, the enemies get more intelligent and often dodge or block your attacks. Thus, it benefits you to get comfortable with surprise sneak attacks. While you can just run up and absolutely obliterate your foes with your katana, it makes sense to utilize all the incredible weapons and items for a sneakier approach. The boss battles are also well thought out and engaging, with ten unique foes to challenge you throughout your gameplay. Ultimately, the choice is up to you on how you prefer to play the game, but I appreciate any game that provides you with options.
Another issue I often have with platformers is that all the environments feel the same. I’ve played side-scrollers where the new levels often feel like recycled versions of old ones, providing very little intrigue to continue exploring the world. However, Within the Blade has knocked their environmental designs out of the park. Not only do new levels feel like unique parts of Japan, but there’s high replay value as there are often hidden areas or enemies that you can miss on your first pass. I often found myself returning to old levels to get more experience points and being stunned at how much I missed the first time through. A game that can keep you surprised during the first playthrough is one thing, but a game that surprises you over and over again is extraordinary.
How Many Options Is Too Many?
Speaking of options, this game’s inventory system is definitely a bit overwhelming at first. There’s really no guidance when it comes to what you should craft and what items go into crafting certain materials, but recipes are unlocked throughout the game that make things a bit more intuitive. Still, you really don’t have a great idea of what all your options are and how certain weapons compare to each other until much later on in your playthrough. Though I respect games that want to provide variety to their players, sometimes too much can feel daunting. I wish they would have streamlined their crafting system and provided a bit more info for newer players to not feel so confused.
With that being said, this game is fantastic overall. It feels like a love note to pixelated and ninja-inspired classics, combining the best elements of platformers with the suspenseful and immersive nature of an RPG. I’m surprised it hasn’t gotten more attention yet from the wider gaming community as it puts many AAA games that I’ve played to shame. So, if you somehow haven’t managed to try out Within the Blade, do yourself a favor and dive into this epic rogue journey.
Developer: Ametist Studio
Publisher: Ametist Studio, Ratalaika Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 5, Xbox One
Release Date: 16th July 2021
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Within The Blade was provided by the publisher.