By Mayia Moore
Nioh 2, the sequel to the best-selling 2017 samurai game, is a story-filled adventure set in the year 1555 that’s beautiful, frightening – and really hard. Nioh 2 involves monsters and various angry demons in an unfamiliar world of a hero and his destiny. The opening animation has a crazy red moon that intrigued me, setting the mood for the overall experience, giving you an idea of what to expect. As I moved through, the sounds could be relaxing, too, like the birds chirping as I died made dying a little easier. It wasn’t just sound. The game had a way of letting me know what was coming next with music: fast, slow, classical, high tempo. Even while I was creating my character, I heard the soothing voice of a woman narrating like she was my mother and she had a guiding spirit full of honesty and faith. As I played a Yokai hunter, I found beating the demons within the game was difficult for a teen like me. I died a lot, and I had to be strategic about everything. But I still found it fun because I was looking forward to eventually finding more about my character’s story.
I liked the way you’re allowed to design your character. That’s vital to any game because it feels like you’re playing as you and not somebody’s version of you. I liked how the game makers offered you a seemingly unlimited amount of creation categories you could choose from because it leaves room for imagination, creativity and diversity.
In the very first cutscene you could guess the mood of the game in general, superstitious, ghostly and ominous. There were the dark trees and the heavy winds and the characters running through their challenges in the moonlight. Showing examples of the creatures, what they look like and how they seem during combat, also sets a tone for the game. You’re made aware of the game’s goal; you’re the hero hunting powerful ghosts. But there’s an imbalance because of the fear within the hero. They seem unsure, so I’m the protagonist in an underdog way. The cutscene shows the character helping out a petrified man as she saves him. He becomes scared as a sign of “gratitude.” This scene might be present to teach us that fear is an unreasonable emotion that leaves us in the dark and separates us from logic. Or is it that fear has its own uses?
The game gives you tutorials that are almost endless compared to most games that I’ve played in 15 years on the planet. You have to guess or plan the right attack moves to deal with your enemy; there were advantages to this – when you were able remember the attacks. In the games I’ve played, the tutorial will let you learn combat step by step but this one lets you train. I found this helpful and also a pain because I got easily caught up trying to fight and, at the same time, remembering the attack moves that would’ve been helpful to me winning. But I made my way through by practicing the moves one at a time.
Once I arrived at the first level, I thought everything would be easier because of my training. I was dead wrong. After beating the first monster I thought the next obstacle would be a piece of cake. But instead it was a monster I hadn’t prepared for, relentless and gigantic compared to the other one. It’s odd that they’d place the easiest monster first and a super hard monster immediately after. He was gigantic, more than twice my size and looked like a mutated breed of zoo animal. He had a huge weapon that slayed me after three hits compared to me having to relentlessly hit him. Also, the Gaki, a smaller character that seemed like he was level one, was surprisingly strong too. Once, I got him angry enough, he attacked me with some sort of ultra power that was really unexpected.
During my time playing the game I tried the most ways I could think of to beat the monster. But I failed unconditionally and I was close to giving up. After fighting the first monster, I sprinted towards the bigger one and no matter how strategic I had been or how many hits I’d gotten in, he didn’t die. I even accidentally drowned myself trying to convince myself that a monster that big that early in the game hadn’t been my task. So I played a couple more times just to see what angles I could work around. And I found myself going past him, without fighting him: I snuck around the monster. What was so surprising was that the first monster, the big-bellied, skeleton faced Gaki would follow if I snuck away. But this one was completely oblivious. I started wondering, is that a glitch or maybe a lesson that you can sometimes overcome obstacles without violence?
I played this game back for two hours at a time and it was definitely challenging. I had to keep reminding myself that I can win but it was tough slow going. This game simulates teaching what it takes to be a hero and that you can’t back out of something that’s destiny or fate. People aren’t born heroes; people are born with some resilience and the right amount of tolerance for difficult situations. Playing this game has taught me you have to have an overwhelming amount of both of those things in order to win against enemies and really conquer the toughest monsters. In other words, be strong enough to have battles. But do it with enough properly placed fear in order to save yourself and others whether it’s in a game or real life.
Mayia Moore is part of the Lower East Side Videogame Critics Circle.