Ninja Blade wasn’t a bad game. I actually started having fun with it after investing a few hours and weapon upgrades. Generally a poor man’s Ninja Gaiden, it wouldn’t be a bad pick up from the bargain bin if money is tight and you’re getting bored.
Yet the game honestly would have been a lot more fun if it didn’t have any Quick Time Events. From Software did their best to “fix what is wrong” with them, but the truth is everything about Quick Time Events is wrong. I’ve typically tried to have an attitude that, sure, some people may like them, but let’s at least improve them. Yet I’ve reached the end of my rope. I cannot allow the concept that these things being bad or good is a matter of opinion continue any longer. It’s like romantic comedies or the line of spoof films such as Disaster Movie or Epic Movie. Yes, there is an audience, but just because people like something doesn’t make it good, regardless of that “opinion” nonsense people spit out to avoid being wrong.
Quick Time Events are a terrible game mechanic. End of story.
I can only imagine their popularity has been born out of three things. The first is the industry’s need to mimic big sellers. “But Shenmue did Quick Time Events right!” I hear from College acquaintances and forums across the Internet. That’s nice. Too bad no one cares about Shenmue. Not even their cult following has been big enough to get a new iteration in. No, the game that got all this garbage going was Resident Evil 4, and later God of War picked it up and made it worse.
Second is everyone complaining in the early aughts (that’s roughly the year 2000 for most of you) that “cut-scenes are boring” and you “play a game to do stuff”. Oh how lovely it was to hear this while working at GameStop or browsing forums. Sure, a lot of games had trash stories anyway, but this gave birth to developers feeling as if they needed to make cut-scenes more interactive somehow.
Finally is the illusion that “Quick Time Events and cut scenes allow you to do things that cannot be done in gameplay”. Which is always great when you’re seeing the opening of Devil May Cry 4 and watching Nero accomplish moves and abilities he will never do again. Why? Because the developers didn’t put them in there.
This is bullshit.
The only limitations in game development are the ingenuity and creativity of the designers. Anything is possible as long as they figure out a way to make it happen and happen well. Yes, you could have allowed players to do that incredibly stupid move of Nero’s where he sticks his sword into cement and rides it around like a…a…crappy Xtreme douchebag ride that hasn’t even been invented yet.
In the case of Ninja Blade, yes, you could have allowed players to ride on a rocket without resorting to Quick Time Events. In fact, just thinking about it gets me all tickled inside. With some creativity and effort, From Software could have allowed the player to surf the air on a missile and feel awesome. Instead, an illusion of interactivity is created by forcing them to press a button at just the right time.
There are also plenty of acrobatics performed by wiring into building structures a la Spider-man or Bionic Commando. Oddly enough, both of those franchises have managed to create this mechanic outside of Quick Time Events, and though most of the Spider-man games are trash, the web-slinging part happens to work well enough. A lot better than waiting for a button press to pop on screen, at least.
The philosophy of Quick Time Events is flawed and foolish. They aren’t really interactive at all as the only potential outcome is success or failure. If you succeed you are still rail-roaded into doing what the game wants. To put it in terms of Dungeons and Dragons, let’s say you and your friends are playing a game where a Dragon suddenly appears. Roll a spot check! Why? It doesn’t matter, just roll it. Oh, you failed? Looks like you take… 47 damage from its claws you couldn’t see coming. What about your Armor Class? Nah, since you failed to see the claws you couldn’t dodge or anything, so you got hit. Anyway, make a jump check. You make it? Ok, you manage to leap onto its back. Now roll seven D20’s and tell me what you get. Hurry up man, you don’t have much time. Oh, sorry, the dragon shook you off and now you’re on the ground. Hey, it’s not my fault you didn’t have seven D20’s ready and needed to scrounge into your dice bag.
Yeah, that’s probably the most terrible game of Dungeons and Dragons that could ever be played, and yet that’s pretty much what it feels like. Sure, there is the potential for the cut-scene to be awesome, but that assumes you automatically succeed at everything.
Which brings us to the delusion that a Quick Time Event’s cut-scene could be enjoyed at all. You’re too busy waiting to press a button, and if you dare miss the press you have to go back and view it all again. Imagine how much you would have hated Star Wars if you had to keep watching the Mos Eisley bar fight where Obi-Wan saves Luke and slices that asshole’s arm off. Whoops! Obi-Wan failed to save Luke in time! Rewind, watch it, WHOOPS! This time Obi-Wan didn’t swing the saber in time and died! Ok, sliced the dude’s arm off. Now we can just get on with it and GOD DAMMIT Greedo shot Han!
A lot of people look at a game like Heavy Rain as being a game built off of Quick Time Events, but I believe this to be untrue. While the game continues to railroad you through predetermined actions, there is an actual level of interactivity present. You have plenty of time to make a choice, you know precisely what this choice is, if you miss it the game keeps going and in the end it helps determine where you go. It’s more in line with a digital choose your own adventure. Will this method work? It may, it may not.
The one thing I know for sure is it at least looks better than what developers pointlessly cling to. If Quick Time Events must exist, then developers should stop trying to “fix” them. Instead, they should wipe the slate clean and figure something else out. My suggestion? Pay attention to games like Bionic Commando that never let control out of the player’s hands and yet manage to be cinematic nonetheless. As lackluster as the game was, it was better than Ninja Blade just because it didn’t have Quick Time Events.