I first played Nioh 2 at Sony’s booth when I was at the Tokyo Game Show last year. Then played it in private, at a Sony press event later that day. Two different playthroughs led me to really look forward to Nioh 2.

…but it’s definitely not for the reason you’d think.

I fell in love with the kitty Yokai, Scampuss.

Now that Nioh 2 is finally out, is it a good game…and more importantly, is Scampuss still the cutest Yokai around?

Hint: The answer starts with a ‘Y’.

What is Nioh 2?

Nioh 2 is an action RPG in the vein of Dark Souls (which means punishing difficulty, deliberate combat and lots and lots of dying), set during the Sengoku (Japan’s Warring States) era.

It’s developed by Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden and Nioh developers Team Ninja, who are a part of Koei Tecmo. In Japan, the game’s published by Koei Tecmo, though Sony handles that duty everywhere else in the world. It’s currently exclusive to the PS4, with no news on whether it’ll make it to the PC, like the original did.

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Nioh 2’s a prequel to the original, which means you playing as a totally new character this time, one you can create from scratch in the intro. Like the original, Nioh 2 is mainly a single player experience, though you can call upon support from other players (and AI this time) to gang up on foes if you’re inclined to.

The story this time around involves your character and his/her (you can choose your gender during creation) relationship with Tokichiro (also known more famously as Hideyoshi Hashiba/ Toyotomi).

The plot calls to mind another similar samurai series with Hideyoshi in it; Capcom’s Onimusha…or to be precise, its fourth entry, Dawn of Dreams.

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In fact, there may be even a reference to that game in the form of one of the game’s trophies, which is called Dawn of a Dream. It triggers when you meet Hideyoshi (as Tokichiro) for the first time. Whether the homage is real or I’m just projecting, it’s still a pretty good coincidence nonetheless.

In Nioh 2 however, you meet Hideyoshi before he joins up with the Nobunaga. In fact, you’ll be alongside him when he does, taking part in famous battles that Hideyoshi was in, including Okehazama.

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The game is pretty much an expanded version of the original Nioh; everything will be intensely familiar to returning players, though there are enough new elements to warrant its sequel moniker.

Nioh 2’s new mechanics!

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Bloody Graves return once more in Nioh 2. These are mostly only available online and show where other players have died. You can summon AI copies of the deceased to fight and get Ochoko cups and equipment in return.

While this was a great way to gain new gear in the original, the sequel ups the Bloody Graves’ usefulness by their ability to random drop Ochoko cups, which are used on the new Benevolent Grave.

These blue graves are the opposite of the red Bloody Graves. Instead of summoning an AI enemy, these summons AI companions (also based on other players) to aid you. They’ll only die when their live runs out but don’t really deal a lot of damage. That’s ok though…as you’ll only want them to serve as distraction to your enemies while you carve them up from behind.

In that sense, Nioh 2 is much, much easier than the original. Whereas you had to depend on humans players to give you a hand in the first game, now even anti-social gamers can have a partner.

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Of course, if AI allies aren’t your style, you can summon up to two other human allies if you need backup.

Another one of these new elements in Nioh 2 is the Yokai Shift, which allows your character to morph into a Yokai (three different types to choose from) and crush your enemies. The transformation lasts only for a handful of seconds, but you’re invulnerable during that time and you gain massively destructive attacks as well.

Another new mechanic’s called Yokai Abilities. Nearly every enemy in the game will drop a Soul Core (think of it as their essence) which you can purify at shrines. Once purified, you can then use the signature move of that enemy in combat (provided your Anima gauge has enough charge).

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There are a ton of Soul Cores to get, with skills that vary from being incredibly useful, to useless. The fun part of course, is getting them.

Apart from set Soul Core drops (usually from bosses or difficult enemies), the Soul Core drop rate is completely random. So if you’re interested in seeing EVERY Soul Core, you’re going to need to massacre a whole lot of Yokai.

I actually love this new mechanic (irritating as it can be at times), because it gives you much flexibility on how you perform in combat. Plus, Soul Cores can be upgraded and made stronger, which means you’re always on the lookout for more Cores, even if you’ve already obtained a Yokai’s Soul Core before.

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Finally, there’s addition of a new move called the Burst Counter, which is meant to be used to interrupt enemies’ Burst attack. These incredibly damaging moves are clearly telegraphed but are uninterruptible unless you use a Burst Counter. It’s a bit awkward to use at first (since it’s mapped to R2 + O) but you’ll get used to it as you play.

Despite the new additions to the game, at its core, Nioh 2 is still pretty much in the same mold as the original. You’ll venture to various semi-open stages, killing Yokai and growing stronger with better gear and weapons.

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All of the weapon types from the original are back (with new moves) and they’re also accompanied by three new weapon types; the tonfa, hatchet and switchglaive. I’ve played with them for a bit and think they’re decent (especially the hatchet’s projectile attack) but I’m still sticking with my axes for Nioh 2.

In fact, I’m rather surprised the axe hasn’t been nerfed. Its High Stance Strong Attack (Triangle) is still ungodly good; destroying stamina if blocked, doing massive damage if it connects fully. I’d say it makes the game a bit easier than it should be, especially with an AI helper along for the ride.

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Versus Bloody Grave revenants, I can usually kill those that are near my level with just three or four hits; two to drain the enemy’s stamina gauge (if they’re blocking), one to knock them to the ground and another or two to finish them off. If I get lucky and they don’t block, it’s usually over with just a single Strong Attack.

I’m a tad disappointed in the ranged options, as they’re still lacking. Bows, and handcannons aren’t enough sadly. How about slingshots, kunai, caltrops or even shuriken? I know some of them are Ninjitsu skills, I want them as Ranged Weapon equips, because I never build my character up around the Ninjitsu skill. Perhaps for the upcoming DLC, eh Team Ninja?

Change the voice language ASAP!

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So far, it seems like everything’s fine and dandy right? Wrong! There’s one aspect of Nioh 2 that I really hate; the voices. Holy crap do I hate the voices.

The English (both the language AND the accent) voiceovers irks me to no end. Seeing samurai and other characters dressed up in traditional Japanese garb and spewing out English accents is pure bollocks!

It’s horrible and destroys any immersion. I can’t stress here how essential it is to switch over to Japanese voices before you start the game. Even if you hate reading subtitles, it’s still much better than the alternative.

The rest of the audio (from the music to the sound effects) are fine so there’s no need to worry about them.

Nioh 2 makes my PS4 Pro sound like a plane.

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I have one of the earlier PS4 Pro models and it sounds like a plane gearing up for take off everytime I play Nioh2. I’ve learned to ignore it (especially easy when you’re trying not to die in the game) but readily apparent that Nioh 2 taxes the console.

Like the original, Nioh 2 gives you multiple choices on how you experience the game; favouring resolution or going for a buttery framerate. As always, I suggest the framerate option, as smoother experience makes for a damn better experience.

On 4K, the visuals are already pretty impressive even without opting for the resolution mode. I’ve not noticed much paring down and the textures and character models all look incredible.

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Though the locales are reminiscent of the original, I still enjoy Nioh 2’s take on haunted villages, abandoned battlefields and decrepit graveyards. It honestly feels like a full on Fatal Frame game, but done with today’s visuals.

There’s nothing here that’s impressively original, but the visuals and art direction are still impressive nonetheless, especially if you’re into the Sengoku period.

The bottom line.

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Nioh 2 might seem like an incremental update to Nioh on paper, but it’s entirely worth your cash. Nioh’s gameplay’s been enhanced and polished to a shine with the sequel, truly showing what the game’s capable off.

It’s a shame the English voices are so disruptive, but at least the original Japanese voice overs are included, so you can just change to that.

I have high hopes for the upcoming DLCs for the game. If they are anything like the ones released for the original game (which had tons of content, plus introduced the Odachi), it’ll definitely be worth the wait!

TLDR:

Great sequel to Nioh! Just don’t go in expecting a vastly different game.

The Good.

  • New, expanded gameplay mechanics.
  • AI helpers.
  • Visuals.
  • Scampuss!

The Bad.

  • Pretty similar to the original.
  • English voices.
  • Not enough Scampuss!
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Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.

Sal's been in the industry since the early 2000s. He's written for a ton of gaming and tech publications including Playworks, Hardwarezone, HWM and GameAxis. A geek and hardcore gamer, Sal will play everything, on any platform.