Stealthy ninjas in video games are some of my favourite characters, especially when given the opportunity to play as one of them. Aragami 2 puts you in the shoes, or should I say Tabi boots, of a ninja who belongs to a clan of shadow assassins that are capable of moving around their environments in shadow form to catch their prey unawares. Unlike regular ninjas, players control an Aragami, a being of shadows with inhuman abilities that give them an advantage over their enemies.
A Beautiful Japanese-Inspired World
Rashomon Valley is your home, and the Akatsuchi Empire are your enemy. The overall premise of the game is to keep Rashomon Valley and your home base of Kakurega Village safe from the Akatsuchi. As an Aragami ninja, you will be able to easily traverse gorgeous landscapes, including the likes of temples surrounded by cherry blossom trees and carefully designed villages that have been overtaken by the Akatsuchi. Several locations look nice enough during the day, but at when night falls, the world looks breathtaking thanks to the designers from Lince Works using carefully placed lighting effects that bring Aragami 2 to life. The creative designs of Aragami 2‘s world-building are complemented by our very own protagonist, who can unlock new attire and outfits when progressing through the story. These outfits don’t offer any advantages to the gameplay, but as cosmetics they look absolutely fantastic. Cosmetics are bought using in-game currency, and to my knowledge, there are no microtransactions as gold can be discovered in mission areas. The protagonist is able to switch between different designs and mix and match to make themselves look unique and stand out in the world. For example, cosmetics are available for the body, arms and legs of our ninja, plus a few cool designs for the sword as well, which don’t seem to offer any combat benefits either.
A Bird’s Eye View…
Aragami 2 offers a few ways in which to handle enemy encounters. Personally, I used the full advantages of stealth, which were provided to me generously during my playthroughs. Ninjas work best in the shadows, so I would take my time scanning a level and planning my attack in order to gain the best result at the end of each mission. Stealth approaches in Aragami 2 are supported with different mechanics, such as Whisper, which draws enemies to a location, ready to be defeated one-by-one. Parkour in Aragami 2 is complemented with the Shadow Leap, a traversal move that allows the player to effectively teleport onto ledges, balconies and rooftops simply by pointing the camera in the desired direction. Players can also dash to close gaps on enemies, and the animation is heavily similar to the Shadow Leap, allowing the player to transform into a quick-moving shadow-like being, handy for escaping dangerous encounters. Aragami 2 has a combat system that offers fairly basic mechanics, such as a parry, block, etc. I barely used this simply because I preferred stealth but also because there can be so many enemies in one mission, and fighting more than one at a time isn’t recommended as you can only take so many hits before death.
Time for a Break…
After a hard day’s work of brutal slaughter, our assassin retires to their home of Kakurega Village for a well-needed respite. Here we can interact with other members of the community; unfortunately, these interactions are lacking in any real dialogue choices, but it’s great to see a village designed with the intent to feel lived in and vibrant. The player can learn new skills and purchase cosmetics from certain vendors in the village, and the hub has its own array of buildings and architecture that the player can practice their parkour skills on. Stay long enough in the hub, and soothing music accompanied by a soft, female voice will begin playing, reassuring the player that they are inside a sanctuary of safety and away from the dangers of the outside world. Skills can be learned within the dojo, depending on how much the player has levelled up whilst on missions. Skills can also be upgraded, making them more effective in combat, e.g.: Whisper would previously attract all enemies in a certain radius, but once upgraded, it will only attract a single enemy once the player has locked-on to them.
Even Ninjas Have Their Flaws
Aragami 2‘s astounding level design, fluid stealth animations and gorgeous customisation options cannot hide away some of its drawbacks. I expected the kill animations to be much gorier than presented in-game, particularly for a game made for mature audiences. A sharp sword for hacking away at enemies seems unable to dismember limbs or show any real wound effects. The weapon of the Aragami will push hard against an enemy’s neck, with the end result simply being an agonising final breath and paint-like blood splatter. Enemy designs are quite lacklustre, looking like clones of each other rather than being represented as individual soldiers sworn to fight and die for a growing empire. Mission variety is also a big letdown, consisting of simple contract killings, rescue missions, etc.
Aragami 2 seems to understand Japanese culture brilliantly, and the designers have crafted a beautiful world with passion. However, the game has let itself down with repetitive missions, clunky combat and a gore system that had the potential to be gruesomely satisfying. Aragami 2 is still a solid title that is most definitely a good stealth game but fails to really bring any wow factor with any other separate gameplay mechanics.
Developer: Lince Works
Publisher: Lince Works, Yooreka Studio
Platforms: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, PS5, Steam
Release Date: 17th September 2021