A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Nioh 2 is an action role-playing game exclusively for the PlayStation 4. The game puts players in the armor of a customizable (players can choose gender and skin color) 16th century Japanese warrior who's also part demon. The protagonist travels to various areas around the country overrun with yokai demons, fighting them to help others and complete various missions. Combat's bloody, gory, and brutal, involving medieval-style weapons, bows and arrows, firearms, and magic. Bodies are dismembered and heads get lopped off in sprays of crimson, with blood spattering the environment. Parents should also know this is an exceptionally challenging game that could lead to frustration in some players, though those who stick with it are bound to feel the satisfaction and reward of accomplishing difficult feats. Note, too, that some female characters -- including the heroine when in demon form -- appear nearly topless, with nothing but rugged magical growths covering their breasts.
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What's it about?
NIOH 2 stars a customizable 16th-century Japanese warrior who, for reasons revealed later in the game, is part human and part yokai -- a Japanese word meaning ghost, monster, or demon. Upon joining forces with a quirky merchant in search of spirit stones, the protagonist begins travelling around the country, visiting locations infested with and brought to ruin by malicious yokai. Play revolves around frenetic action, with players given access to an enormous variety of weapons, abilities, fighting styles, and usable items, all of which need to be properly understood and exploited to achieve victory. Combat can be exceptionally difficult. Even the weakest enemies can cut down a high level character in seconds if the player makes a mistake, while bosses can take dozens of attempts to defeat. And when the hero dies, players can lose much of their amrita (experience) and soul cores (hard-won demon ability-bestowing items) if they can't make their way back to their grave without dying a second time. Aid comes in the form of various restoratives and slowly unlocked superhuman skills, as well as the ability to call on the help of both human and AI-controlled allies for a limited amount of time. But players should be aware that they're in for a supremely difficult game experience.
Is it any good?
Those easily thwarted by challenge need not bother with this one, but players searching for a skill-based action game that rewards strategy and perseverance might find a little slice of heaven. Nioh 2 is another entry in a genre that's devilishly difficult. This type of action role-playing game punishes players for every little mistake they make and then adds insult to injury by taking away earned experience when players die. Among the hallmarks of these games is they force players to invest time in mastering combat mechanics and analyzing enemy actions, encourage them to learn from their mistakes, and ultimately bestow a deep sense of satisfaction when they finally manage to overcome a particularly challenging boss or obstacle.
All of this is true of Nioh 2, but it amps up the challenge in a couple of ways, beginning with an extraordinarily steep learning curve bound to leave many players flummoxed as early as the second enemy they encounter. (Hint: just run past this monster and come back later -- much later). The second aspect of the experience that some players will struggle with is the complexity of combat and character gear. Players will need to learn how to use a huge variety of weapons, each with their own pros and cons. They also have to master a variety of fighting styles, each with their own combos and abilities, while also switching between low, mid, and high stances depending the situation. Plus, there's the added task learning how to use demon abilities, how to clear pockets of energy-sucking darkness that can severely limit your attack prowess, and how to survive dark realm areas filled with even hardier enemies. All this, and players will also be confronted with a seemingly endless array of usable items the exact purposes of which must be riddled out and tested in order to properly exploit. Thankfully, plenty of tutorials exist to help you learn the game's multifaceted systems, and you can call on help from other players when you're really stuck. And learning to use ranged weapons -- which are surprisingly powerful for this sort of game -- can also prove very useful. Take heart, as well, in the fact that after the frightfully challenging first level, you'll likely begin to progress a bit faster. There's precious little to criticize here for those who like these sorts of games, but make no mistake, Nioh 2 isn't for the faint of heart or those easily discouraged.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in the media. Is the impact of the violence in Nioh 2 affected by the extremely violent and gory play? What purpose does the gore play? Would this sort of game be as effective and enjoyable if the blood was ramped down?
Would you rather have a game with a set character who is multidimensional and an active participant in conversations, or would you trade that for one who doesn't speak at all but whose appearance you can alter however you like?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Sony Interactive Entertainment
- Release date: March 13, 2020
- Genre: Role-Playing
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, History, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Suggestive Themes, Violence
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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