Playing as a ninja almost always makes for good times. Thankfully, Shadow Blade: Reload is here to provide even more fast-paced action. When you're ready, unsheathe your blade and let's slice through this adventure.
I must admit, when I first starting playing Shadow Blade: Reload, I wasn't too impressed. I figured it was just your average 2D ninja-themed action platformer. However, about halfway through the campaign, I found myself unable to look away from the relentless action, clever stage design, and satisfying gameplay. It took a while to grow on me but once it did, I was hooked. Anyway, you obviously control a ninja. He has an impressive arsenal of abilities yet the controls remain simple. There are only buttons for dashing, throwing shurikens, jumping, and attacking. It becomes immersive when you start to pull off combinations of these moves such as diving down onto an enemy to stab them in the back, using a kusarigama to pull enemies towards you, and jumping then dashing into a wall to scale it out of harm's way. The array of enemy types is diverse with foes that use blades, guns, homing missiles, and flamethrowers. Learning how to overcome each one is a very enjoyable endeavor. Overall, the action is fluid, responsive, intense, and extremely satisfying.
Shadow Blade: Reload may not be the best looking 2D platformer, but it has its moments. The stage graphics are quite straightforward yet a few standout scenarios help add some eye-candy. For example, you'll sometimes battle enemies in front of moving trains and gorgeous cityscapes. Besides these moments, you'll mainly see colourfully lit hallways surrounded by darkness. If there were some textures in place of the blackness then it would make it look much livelier. Between some stages, you'll see comic book story sequences play yet they feel empty without any voice acting. Otherwise, the audio is implemented perfectly with authentic-sounding Japanese tunes and fantastic sound effects. Whenever you pick up collectibles, you'll hear various notes play from a shamisen to form a little ditty which is just awesome. Although it doesn't have the most appealing graphics, Shadow Blade: Reload sure sounds great.
As you play through the campaign, you'll gather many collectibles and achieve grades according to how well you perform. There are over 40 stages that are all intricately designed to encourage exploration. Every stage also incorporates a diverse selection of segments such as puzzles, tough platforming situations, combat arenas, and bosses. Being able to collect every item and get the best grades will take even the most expert gamers a very long time. If that's not enough, you'll also unlock two additional difficulty settings to put your ninja skills to the test after finishing the story mode. On top of that, there's a list of challenges that you can try to master.
Besides the less than perfect presentation, a couple of issues took away from my ability to fully enjoy Shadow Blade: Reload. First, some segments were a bit too difficult. If you've read a few of my reviews already then you know that I love a challenge. Why else would I complete games like this on a regular basis? However, some platforming scenarios were quite maddening. One part has you jump between walls as a spiky contraption chases you and I just couldn't figure out how to do it. Eventually, I passed it due to pure luck which simply wasn't satisfying. Finally, I find the lack of leaderboards to be a big missed opportunity. I would have loved to see how I ranked against other players in the campaign's stages, but where leaderboards could've benefited most is in the list of challenges. After all, what's the point of completing optional challenges if you have no idea how good you're doing?
Shadow Blade: Reload is a fantastic action-packed 2D platformer that any ninja enthusiast will quickly grow to love. So, what are you waiting for? Sharpen your katana and get ready to slash away in one satisfying quest for revenge.
- + Tight 2D ninja platforming gameplay
- + Masterfully accomplished audio
- + Tons of replay value with a lengthy campaign and a list of extra challenges
- - Presentation could use more pizzazz
- - Some parts can be a bit too frustrating
- - No leaderboards is a missed opportunity, especially when it comes to challenges