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Sony Doubles Down on Its Upcoming Dark Souls Clone, Nioh

Nioh borrows heavily from the Dark Souls series, but can it rebottle the magic that Miyazaki created?

"Never cover a classic, iconic song" is an unwritten rule that has existed for musical artists since the inception of mass media. If this rule is broken, results often range from a cheap imitation to total disaster. In general, the same rule can (and should) be applied to other media such as film and video games. Could you imagine a modern remake of Citizen Kane, directed by Steven Spielberg? The thought alone is enough to make Orson Welles rise from the grave and write a strongly-worded letter in protest.

Nonetheless, Sony has tossed the rule book out the window with its long-delayed title Nioh, which has taken countless shapes since its original announcement in 2004, finally settling on a blatant imitation of Dark Souls just in time for Nioh's February 2017 release. Evidently, Sony seeks to fill the hole that the Souls series will leave behind after its finale next year -- but can they truly replace this monumental series?

The short answer is "probably not." So far, Nioh gameplay trailers remind me of the disastrous Dark Souls II, which was directed by two FromSoftware no-names in lieu of renowned Souls wizard Hidetaka Miyazaki. The overwhelming sentiment that I felt during Dark Souls II was that it feels like some dude tried to make a Souls game and ultimately failed at rebottling the magic that made the series great in the first place. 

Nioh appears to follow suit, replacing the trademark Souls lore with the Sengoku period of Japanese history, full of demons and samurai. Onimusha, anyone?

To be fair, Nioh developer, Team Ninja -- the same folks responsible for Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive -- seems to have injected their newest title with some of their trademark gameplay. Action is faster and more hectic than any Souls game, including Bloodborne, which some gamers might appreciate.

For others, however, these characteristics could make for a less realistic, undeniably "video gamey" experience. Indeed, this was forgivable with the aging Ninja Gaiden series - but in the age of realistic grit and lifelike environments, Nioh stands out. Whether this is a good or bad thing remains to be seen, but I'm pessimistic.

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but it never creates the highest form of gaming. Unfortunately, Team Ninja didn't get the memo. After watching a few minutes of Nioh gameplay, it's rather shocking how many elements were lifted from FromSoftware's hallmark series. From the in-game menu and "soul" currency to well-timed rolls around formidable enemies, the borrowed qualities seem to outweigh the original ones.

The most tragic aspect of Nioh is that it will always be compared to Dark Souls. Then again, with all of its similarities, it brought the comparison upon itself. Here's hoping that we're all pleasantly surprised in February.

What's your opinion on Nioh and Souls-like games in general? Let us know in the comments! 

Published Nov. 13th 2016

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