Is there anything cooler than being a Ninja? Yes, being a Samurai. Did you all just gasp? Are you still reading? OK, good. Still, what’s cooler than being a Samurai? Being a master-less wandering Ronin, on a quest of vengeance against former allies and trusted confidants. Betrayed by those who you trusted the most, who raised and trained you. Yeah that’s about the right level of cool. What if we gave you a shiny red motor bike and helmet? A sword and a grappling hook? Maybe a hologram generator? Pretty god damn cool huh?
Set in a near future city, Ronin follows the revenge tale of a young girl, Ronin, seeking bloody retribution for the death of her father at the hands of his former associates. It’s a Kill Bill style storyline, slowly hunting down and killing one target at a time over a series of missions, unlocking new skills and equipment as you go.
The game has a very similar visual style to Tom Francis’ excellent Gunpoint, with some saying it’s a little bit of a rip off. Regardless, this is a visually impressive and well presented title. The influence of old cartoons like Samurai Jack are clear from the colour schemes and the buildings themselves to even some of the visual effects. The soundtrack excellently brings all of this together with modern and classical oriental music, setting the whole thing in what feels like a futuristic Japanese city (although this is never confirmed).
Ronin comes complete with a full list of Samurai/Ninja moves, she will cling to walls like Spider-man, swing from webs (ropes) like Spider-man, slash guards with a Katana like… well a Ninja/Samurai. Gameplay is split between free movement as you sneak around a map looking for the best point of ambush, and the turn based combat, where the focus is getting close to guards and cutting them down before another guard shoots you.
I particularly enjoy the way that the turn based combat captures little snippets of action. One moment you get the drop on a guard, only to have the next one spot you. Do you jump in to the air like some kind of kung-fu grasshopper or try and barrel in to them before they can get a shot off, knocking them through a nearby window, which may alert other guards. The enemies vary from your run of the mill stock guard, who will fire single pistol shots at you, to trained Samurai who will cut you in half the first chance they get.
As combat is turn based, and largely focused on jumping around using the analog sticks it has this weird action movie feeling. Your turns never seem to last long and you start to make quick decisions. For me this often lead to my death, but it’s so much fun. This combined with the abilities that are unlocked, such as throwing a sword or dropping a holographic decoy lead to more interesting situations.
Each unlock requires a skill point which you only get by completing a mission and hitting all three objectives, Don’t sound the alarm, kill everyone, but don’t kill civilians. All of which are tricky and there is a real need for those skill points and extra abilities late in the game. It’s a cool, but incredibly frustrating and difficult system.
Ronin is excellent fun with a unique style and combat system that will keep you coming back. It’s one of the first games my wife and I have enjoyed playing together, taking turns trying to beat missions and teasing each other when we mess up. It’s become one of those titles where while I struggle with the challenge, I come back again and again to mess around with it. If you enjoyed Gunpoint this is a cool little indie title that I highly recommend.
You’ll find Ronin on the PlayStation Store and on Steam for £9.99
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