When Nioh was released in 2017, it was often referred to as “that samurai Souls game,” and while it shared many elements with the Souls games, its innovations to the Souls formula helped it stand out as one of the greats amongst a sea of Souls-likes. As we’ve previously covered in anticipation of Nioh 2’s release, Nioh is a great Souls-like game that you should play if you missed it the first time around. And if you’ve already played Nioh and you’re planning to get a copy of Nioh 2, here are some of the new details and features you can look forward to in Nioh’s bigger and better prequel.
The title Nioh is a romanization of the word “仁王”, which means “benevolent king.” In the first game, you play as William Adams as you aid Tokugawa Ieyasu in his attempt to unify Japan. The first game’s title of benevolent king refers to both Adams and Tokugawa, as the unification of Japan was brought about (in-game) through the efforts of the two. While Tokugawa remains the public face of the benevolent king, the first game implies that William Adams is a hidden aid and advisor, and as such can also be referred to as a benevolent king.
Nioh 2 is a prequel, and its plot focuses on the story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the second of Japan’s three unifiers during the Warring States Period (the first being Oda Nobunaga, and the third being Tokugawa). Hideyoshi is Nioh 2’s benevolent king, but his story in the game differs from his real-life history.
You play as a half-yokai warrior named Hide, who meets a spirit stone vendor named Kinoshita Tokichiro. Throughout the game’s events, Hide and Tokichiro become known as a single person named “Hideyoshi,” with Tokichiro later becoming the real-life Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the player-character Hide becoming Hideyoshi’s hidden aid (in-game), much like the first game’s team of Tokugawa and Adams.
Nioh 2 tells the story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi through Tokichiro and Hide, and because Tokichiro is the one who eventually becomes the real-life Hideyoshi, Hide is neither based on a real historical figure nor does he (or she) have a set appearance. This means that in Nioh 2, you can customize Hide’s appearance to your liking, and Hide can also be female.
The character creator in Nioh 2 is surprisingly deep, as you can adjust even the wrinkles and dimples on Hide’s face. You can also customize Hide’s appearance when he transforms into his three yokai forms: Brute, Feral, and Phantom. It’s an awesome customization option for people who always wished they could customize the Devil Trigger’s appearance in the Devil May Cry games.
The combat in Nioh 2 contains a lot of the same features as the first game. Each weapon can still be wielded in three different stances, and you can still switch weapons on the fly. The stamina or ki meter still works the same way and mastering the use of the ki pulse is still a challenge that’s well worth the payoff. The biggest difference in Nioh 2 is that Hide is a half-yokai, or a “Shiftling,” which means that during combat you can transform into a yokai in order to deliver some devastating damage to any samurai or yokai blocking your path.
In Nioh 2, your yokai transformation has three main forms: Brute, Feral, and Phantom, with each form providing various distinct buffs that’ll prove useful to Hide in certain combat situations. You can also obtain items called Soul Cores from slain yokai. Soul Cores allow you to summon the power of the yokai you’ve slain, either as allies or as a momentary transformation. Mastering the use of Soul Cores alongside your Brute, Feral, and Phantom forms will be key to defeating some of the game’s tougher bosses.
While most of Nioh 2’s hype is attributed to its new yokai forms and fleshed out character creator, a lot of what makes it such an improvement from the first Nioh can be found in its basic gameplay. Combat feels smoother with attack animations feeling less janky than in the first game. You can tell that Team Ninja has learned a few tricks from fellow samurai Souls game Sekiro, as weapon combat in Nioh 2 places a lot of importance on timing and learning the rhythm of your enemies as well as your own attacks.
One of the new techniques that you’ll be using in every fight in Nioh 2 is the Burst Counter. It is essentially a parry similar to the ever-useful and all-powerful parry in Sekiro, except it includes a short yokai transformation animation. If you execute it at the right time, it’ll provide you with an opening to attack, but its timing and execution are hard to master. Just like the parry in Sekiro, you might start playing Nioh 2 thinking the Burst Counter is just another technique that you can opt not to use, but you’ll soon find that it’s one of the best skills you can use in the game and one that you ought to start trying to master as soon as you can.
Aside from combat improvements, Nioh 2 also addresses the first game’s lack of enemy variety. In the first Nioh, combat can feel repetitive as many of the lower-tier enemies will appear repeatedly throughout the game’s several missions. Some of the yokai soldiers you encounter in the first few hours of the game, you’ll still continue to encounter much later on. In Nioh 2, there are new enemies to be found in every mission, and it adds so much complexity to the game as each enemy has its own timing and attack rhythm. For a game that relies on somewhat rhythm-based weapon combat, enemy variety is crucial, and Nioh 2 absolutely delivers.
So those were some of the new features and improvements you can look forward to in Nioh 2, a title with which Team Ninja have distinguished themselves as being just as good as FromSoftware when it comes to developing action-adventure RPGs. I think we can finally stop calling the Nioh games “Souls-likes” because they’ve earned themselves the distinction of being their own games. I definitely wouldn’t mind if indie studios started pumping out Nioh-likes.
Note: Nioh 2 was released last March 13, and those who’ve wanted to play it might not have been able to buy a copy as lockdowns and quarantines have been put into practice. If you can’t wait to play Nioh 2, I recommend that you purchase it digitally on the PlayStation store if you have that option. Otherwise, please wait just a little longer and refrain from going outside as most game stores will also be closed. Playing a fresh new video game is great, but it’ll never be as important as your health. Take care, and remember to wash your hands!
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