Ever since I saw the enigmatic, cyborg ninja Grey Fox from Hideo Kojima's 1998 PlayStation classic, Metal Gear Solid, I've held an admiration towards ninjas in video games. Titles such as Metal Gear Rising, Sekiro, Ninja Gaiden, and many more have allowed us to experience the romanticized yet brutal ninja fantasy. The same goes for Aragami, and now a sequel has landed, on track to launch on Sept. 17 for console and PC.
When Lince Works' first Aragami debuted in 2016, it received critical acclaim for its polished stealth gameplay, striking visuals, and a simple but compelling narrative. We've now played through its sequel, getting a grasp on whether Aragami 2 will make the killing blow, or linger forever in its predecessor's shadow.
Bottom line: Aragami 2 is a fun stealth-action game armed with an abundant variety of ninja killing skills and tools which are sure to please fans of the genre, especially in co-op. However, the monotonous missions, low-production quality cutscenes, and slightly clunky combat system may cause a modicum of annoyance for some.
- Fast-paced stealth gameplay
- Tons of fun options to dispatch your targets
- Hidden collectibles that incentivize repeat playthroughs
- Customize your character with cool armor sets and edit color schemes
- Three-player co-op
- Clunky combat system which leaves some room for improvement
- Low-budget animations break immersion during cutscenes
- The main campaign is full of repetitive missions
Argami 2 The good stuff
|Single, three-player co-op
For newcomers unfamiliar with the original, Aragami 2 takes place over a century after its predecessor and requires no knowledge of the original to understand what's going on. It tells the story of a group of cursed individuals named the Aragami, suffering a terrible curse slowly and painfully robbing them of their humanity, called Shadow Essence. To make matters worse, the Aragami are being enslaved by the oppressive Akatsuchi Empire to do their bidding.
You play as an Aragami ninja (whose name you can decide at the starting menu) who has gained relative control over their curse. As one of the few Aragami capable of using Shadow Essence to their advantage, it is up to you to fight off the Akatsuchi Empire, free your cursed brothers and sisters, and find a cure for Shadow Essence before it consumes your body, mind, and soul.
The gameplay structure of Aragami 2 is a linear, mission-based format where you take up contracts to protect Rashomon Valley from the Akatsuchi Empire. These missions include assassinating high-profile targets, stealing food or information, rescuing prisoners, and many more spoiler-filled objectives. These missions occur in open areas such as villages, outposts, castles, and even large sprawling cities.
There are multiple ways to go about completing your mission: You could try to sneak past the guards and knock out bad guys, or you could murder everyone to ensure a safe escape route. Once a mission is complete, you will be rewarded with experience points and money based on your performance and blueprints which unlock support items, cosmetic armor pieces, and Runes that grant passive stat bonuses. You can also find extra blueprints as well other collectibles hidden away in each of the levels.
When you return to your home base of Kakurega Village, you can use your earnings to upgrade your abilities and buy tools that will assist you in future missions. Hence forming the gameplay loop of Aragami 2.
Truth be told, I'm not the most proficient when it comes to stealth games. They usually require a very slow and methodical playstyle, carefully planning and taking down enemies one-by-one. In many cases, it's easy to get impatient, and eventually, make mistakes that get me spotted.
However, Aragami 2 speeds pacing considerably through its mechanics, whilst maintaining that methodical mindset. For starters, your Shadow Essence powers offer tons of options for dispatching enemies and sneaking back into your hiding spots. These abilities include anything from dashing across large gaps, blinding enemies, or summoning a shadow clone of yourself to backstab multiple foes at once, to name but a few. You can also learn passive abilities that augment your Shadow Essence's strengths to grant swifter deaths for your enemies.
Complimenting your Shadow Essence powers are the support items you buy from shops. These tools could save your life in a pinch if you end up in combat. You can heal yourself with health potions, pressure enemies with flying shuriken stars, blind a group of thugs with smoke bombs, or use a variety of poison needles to knock out your foes.
By the end of my playthrough, I created an Aragami equipped with stamina reduction Runes, allowing me to use the Shadow Dash ability as often as possible and practically fly across the map. I could use my Shadow Abilities and smoke bombs to dazzle my enemies for quick kills or getaways but decreased my armor stats in the process. Figuring out how to effectively use my Shadow Essence powers in combination with my tools and Runes was really rewarding and inspired me to improve my skillset. If I had this much fun playing Aragami 2 solo, I'm very intrigued to see how it stacks up with friends.
Argami 2 The not so good stuff
As fun as the core gameplay is, there are some hiccups that could put a damper on your enjoyment of Aragami 2.
In the original Aragami, your character had no way of defending themselves, meaning they would die instantly if they got spotted. Aragami 2 sought to rectify this by allowing you to block, dodge and parry enemy attacks, finishing them off if you deplete their stamina gauge. But you can't go swinging your blade wildly, with every action consuming a massive portion of your stamina.
It's generally not an issue, since Aragami 2 is a stealth game where you could die quickly, and combat is a last resort. However, problems emerge with the lack of a quick-select function for powers and items. When fighting an Akatsuchi soldier, trying to select my items and powers via the radial menu, I would often select the wrong item due to its compact design. The issue could be easily fixed if I could assign my favorite powers and tools to the d-pad for quicker access, and prevent unnecessary deaths.
I also found the oversized hitboxes, the space surrounding players that registers enemy attacks, frustrating. When jumping to evade an attack, I would still get hit after jumping 20 feet in the air. It doesn't happen too frequently but can still break the flow of combat. These blemishes on an otherwise decent combat system aren't deal-breakers, but it's hard to deny these issues add artificial difficulty to encounters.
My second grievance about Aragami 2, and probably my biggest, surrounds its repetition. The main campaign drags on, and without getting into spoilers, the campaign's second act repeats the same missions as the first act did. It causes the story to grind to a dull halt, and it's not until the final act where new gameplay missions and enemy types are introduced. The volume of content could likely be sliced, without missing important plot points, and would greatly assist the pacing of the game's story.
A few emotional moments in Aragami 2's story also fall flat for me due to a lack of expressive facial animations with some characters. This critique doesn't apply to the mask-wearing Aragami, but rather those with no mask at all. This results in some jarring cutscenes and strains my belief in the characters' authenticity, taking me out of the story. While not on the scale of any gameplay complaints, it can be distracting when it happens.
Argami 2 Should you buy it?
Overall, despite its flaws, I still enjoyed my time with Aragami 2. The title delivers a fun ride and provides plenty of satisfying moments where I truly felt like a ninja, dispatching entire armies without being spotted. It's just a shame that this game's unpolished cutscenes, repetitive missions, and clunkiness during combat stop it from being one of the best games on Xbox.
However, if you can look past its rough edges, you will find a fun game that lets you live out your ninja power fantasy alongside your friends. It may have fallen short of becoming one of the best games on Xbox Game Pass, but I believe it is a worthwhile addition that I recommend to fans of ninjas and stealth-action games to check out.
Aragrami 2 emerges from the shadows to continue its legacy on September 17, 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PC (Steam), and PlayStation consoles. Aragami 2 will also be joining the extensive library of Xbox Game Pass on the same day as the Xbox versions launch.
Free the Aragami
Bottom line: Aragami 2 may have a repetitive and emotionally dissonant campaign at times, but it balances it out with satisfying and visceral gameplay that you can play with your friends. If you're a fan of stealth-action games or ninjas, I believe you will enjoy this adventure if you can look past its shortcomings.
Alexander Cope is a gaming veteran of 30-plus years, primarily covering PC and Xbox games here on Windows Central. Gaming since the 8-bit era, Alexander's expertise revolves around gaming guides and news, with a particular focus on Japanese titles from the likes of Elden Ring to Final Fantasy. Alexander is always on deck to help our readers conquer the industry's most difficult games — when he can pry himself away from Monster Hunter that is!