If Nioh was Team Ninja rediscovering its mojo, then the imminent sequel sees the prolific Shinjuku studio further refine its beloved art. This isn’t a radical reinvention, nor a drastic evolution; rather it’s a subtle retooling that presents a more aggressive, fantastical and diverse playground of miscreants to scythe through. It’s a mean, purposeful mutation of Nioh’s original formula.
“When we worked on Nioh, we discussed a lot about what we do best as Team Ninja, and what are we best at,” says Team Ninja head Yosuke Hayashi. “All that amazing feedback confirmed our identity, what we’re good at – that’s the biggest compliment we received, and we just want to carry on doing what we do best.”
What is it that Team Ninja does best? Hayashi has it down as an extension of Koei Tecmo’s exploration of historical eras, as well as its mastery of combat. I’d whittle it down further still, and say Team Ninja’s strong hand has typically been its hard-edged action that feels exquisite, a taut elasticity to protagonists that boast incredible depth in their movesets. Nioh 2 takes all that and strengthens it, all while expanding your moveset. After an hour playing through a short section pulled through the middle of the game, it’s probably the most satisfying Team Ninja title I’ve played since Ninja Gaiden Black.