The launch of the PlayStation 5 could have gone better in terms of stock and general availability, but one thing that most people will agree on is the fact that regardless of scarcity, the PlayStation 5 had one of the better launch lineups for a console.
For me and probably many others, Bluepoint Game’s Demons Soul’s remake made the launch of Sony’s latest console worth it. Flash forward a few months after launch and several playthroughs under my belt, I needed a new game to satisfy that itch left by From Software’s reimagined classic. Thankfully The Nioh Collection on the PlayStation 5 is a great addition to the still burgeoning console for both newcomers and veterans alike.
For the uninitiated, Both Nioh 1 and 2, in essence, are games that heavily borrow from the tried and tested soulsborne formula while flourishing them with a distinct Koei Techmo inspired approach to game design. In particular, Nioh 1 Remastered will feel the most familiar to Souls fans, with the game mostly sticking to its established design philosophies, such as as reliance on a stamina bar and a currency system that replaces souls with amrita, complete with the risk and rewards associated with them.
The original Nioh follows the exploits of one William Adams, an Irish man who basically looks like the Anime version of Geralt of Rivia ala the Witcher series. Willam, tasked in collecting legendary stones known as Amrita by Queen Elizabeth I, during the Sengoku period, also happens to be one of the only foreign samurai powers present in the fictitious dark fantasy world of the original release.
The story is mostly non-sensical anime trite that borrows elements of real-world history with that distinct and over the top feel reminiscent of Koei Tecmo titles of the past. Like its original release, Nioh Remastered truly shines when it comes to its gameplay. As mentioned earlier, the game feels similar to the works of Fromsoftware, with its hard but rewarding approach to action game design.
Nioh does differentiate itself from its contemporaries by having a stronger focus on medieval Japanese mythologies that bring with it a host of fun and familiar demons and images evocative of games such as Ninja Gaiden and Fromsoftware’s Sekiro, which released shortly after Nioh’s original release.
Another distinguishing feature present in both of the Nioh games that help give it its own identity is the inclusion of the Guardian Spirit system or the Living Weapon mechanic that allows the player to summon powerful yokai that conform to different playstyles that allow the player to pull off devasting special attacks. These special moves lean in and reward players who can amass amrita points while not succumbing to the ever-increasing challenge similar to the soul system found in Fromsoft titles.
Nioh 2 takes this mechanic and improves it by including special yokai cores that can be earned by defeating stronger enemies which in turn must then be brought to a shrine (think Dark Souls‘ bonfire) to be purified, which then can augment the player’s Guardian Spirit. Finally, both Nioh titles employ the use of different stances that allow the player to quickly shift between different fighting styles that cater to both offensive and defensive play styles, similar to the system found in the recently released Ghost of Tsushima PlayStation exclusive.
Dualsense features are subtle but welcome, with range weapons such as bows and guns feeling appropriately weighty with just the right amount of tension thanks to the adaptive triggers. Paired with the crisp and punchy audio bits emanating from the controller, the overall experience feels accentuated in both games in a way that is almost reminiscent of playing games on the Nintendo Wii or the Switch’s HD rumble feature.
In terms of improvements over their last-gen incarnations, the Nioh Collection features a wide gamut of performance modes, something that was present in their original releases on both base PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro releases. However, thanks to the added overhead of the PlayStation 5, the various performance modes are better than ever, particularly the 120FPS mode present in both remastered titles within the Nioh Collection.
Previous versions of both Nioh games featured a checkerboarded approach to 4K rendering where the PlayStation 5 versions seem to offer a native (or at the very least, closer to) 4k option, with Nioh 2 also including an HDR option for those with a capable display. Conversely, Team Ninja has made sure to include a standard PlayStation 5 mode which seems to lower the resolution while maintaining a solid 60FPS.
My favourite way to play both titles within the Nioh Collection would have to be the 120FPS mode which in use feels the closest in capturing the PC experience and feel of the games. Regardless of the mode you play, the Nioh Collection on the PlayStation 5 manages to deliver a smooth experience that feels as polished as Team Ninja’s older releases such as the stellar Ninja Gaiden Black back on the original Xbox.
Like Demon Soul’s on the PlayStation 5, the NVME SSD benefits are clear, with both games in the Nioh Collection loading in around a second, making the punishing difficulty more than bearable while aligning it closer to games like the very first Ninja Gaiden on the original Nintendo Entertainment System or Famicom.
The jump from Nioh to Nioh 2 is a welcome one, with the first game feeling safer out of the two, closely following the formula laid out by the soulsborne genre, where Nioh 2 introduces 3-player co-op, a wider-range of weapons that feel more inspired by Ryu Hayabusa’s arsenal, complete with ninpo ninja arts and over the top demon transformations that cement Nioh 2 as its own beast entirely.
The Nioh Collection on PlayStation 5 collects two excellent and instant classics together in one well polished and tough experience that will give new console owners something to sink their teeth into for the foreseeable future, while bringing with it, technical improvements that take advantage of the more capable hardware.