I’m upset, cause I couldn’t talk about NIOH 2 and how I fell in love with it IMMEDIATELY until now. It’s due to how NDA’s work and what-not, BUT I AM STILL UPSET.
For me NIOH came and went you see. I think I ended up disconnecting from the game when I was playing as a white dude in the late Sengoku period of ancient Japan. I WANNA BE AN EASTERN-BORN SAMURAI, NOT SOMEONE WITH WHITE SAVIOUR COMPLEX THANKS.
So NIOH 2 was already off to a better start, with 3 Japanese leads shown off in the trailers. I was excited to become this new samurai, in an alternate-past where yokai were causing trouble…again. Emboldened, and ready to enjoy myself, you can bet I lost my sh*t when a BLOODY CHARACTER CREATOR LOADED.
The protagonist in the trailer doesn’t matter, because you can become whoever you want to be. And when you can become who you want in a game, you can rest assured I’m going to have the time of my life. Case in point:
i'm just saying, if a game has a really COMPREHENSIVE character creation mode, it will make me cry with joy
— Jordan (@Xenojay) February 29, 2020
And boy did I cry. I spent at least an hour creating my heroine who would take on this new adventure. ALSO! Your parents speak of you as you are “born”; Very wild, yet rad. My protagonist ended up looking like a Kabuki who’d seen some sh*t (much like my face after I’d finished creating them); Inadvertent but awesome.
And then the game starts.
Team Ninja have a knack for throwing you into it, but giving you enough to manage. Reflecting on the first level is confusing, as its immediacy felt as though I’d already been playing NIOH 2. I don’t even know if it was the first level any more…maybe it wasn’t? But you just have to deal with it.
For those who don’t know, the actions of NIOH are similar to those of the FROM Software games. Yes, they are Souls-like, but also very Team Ninja. Playing the protagonist, you’re tasked with clearing out yokai, because you’re a yokai too; So you’re the reluctant hero clearing up the trouble who shares their power and burden (cause PLOT!). The Kodama shrines (or bonfires…) from the first game return, with all the options required to build your character. Options progress as you play through NIOH, and will provide moments of retreat and D&D-like character-leveling.
After you finish with your first shrine, you’ll go and fight everything. And everything comes in different shapes and sizes, with the occasional NPC thrown in to confuse you. Revenants are also still around, because what’s more fun than other-player ghosts killing you instead of the standard enemies. And now you get help! I recall the first game only being able to summon other players. In NIOH 2, you can summon their ghosts (A.I!), to assist with the bananas-bullsh*t you’ll run into.
Because you’ll run into it.
And it will look like sub-bosses who can take you to the yokai realm, and main bosses who are more bullsh*t than the ones out in the paddock. BUT FRET NOT MY FRIENDS! Even though you’ll probably cry (again-), these fiends will sometimes poop their souls out, at which point you gain more of their power. It’s kind of like Pokémon but you become the Pokémon too.
The stance system returns from NIOH, and I honestly forgot how many different styles and points there are to progress through in this game. You have character levels, weapon familiarity, armor builds, yokai soul fusions, skill points and more which I don’t even think I’ve seen yet. And yes, similar to the Souls games, it all matters, because it affects everything from speed to power to magic.
With regard to armor builds and weapons, these are not only your odds of surviving, but they make you look SWISH. Yes, you’ll not only have to pay attention to stats, but also to HOW DAMN GOOD YOU LOOK (well at least it matters to me-). These cosmetic changes are also reflected in cut-scenes, and yes you can meme-hard by looking like a character but boy; BOY. I did not expect my character to look SO GOOD during them, and it really compounded the feeling of your choice meaning something.
My time with NIOH 2 has been as unstable as my emotions. From feeling completely satisfied with how I’ve handled a fight, through to feeling completely defeated due to difficulty-curves and one hit shenanigans, NIOH 2 has had it all. Sections which can be handled quickly, are countered quickly by areas which are akin to an infinite grind glitch in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. This is offset by the feeling of success and enough loot to entice you into grinding further thankfully.
Yes, you may get stuck in a zone for an hour or 3, but when you exit bloodied and cold, you’ll be drastically stronger, probably wearing better clothes, and you’ll have a new Yokai-mon for your collection.
With the cute Kodama constantly there to calm you when possible, and a smol cat boi who is now my son, it’s hard for me not to recommend NIOH 2. While hard, I’ve been captivated from the first (second?) level by the games incredible graphics, and keen sense of “fun through hardship and trepidation“.
Looks like you’ve made difficulty fun again, Team Ninja.
XENOJAY.COM was supplied with a media copy of the game for review by Sony, and the above screenshots were captured from and played on the Playstation 4 Pro console.