Thursday, 10 April 2014

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

In 1988 Tecmo unleashed Ninja Gaiden upon the world, a side-scrolling action game that placed the player into the shoes of Ryu Hayabusa. As Ryu it was the players mission to exact revenge for his fathers death, though ultimately the story was revealed to be far more complicated, complete with demons and sorcery. Two sequels followed and thus Ninja Gaiden's place in gaming history was cemented. However, after the third entry into the series it took Tecmo 13 years to bring gamers another one, which eventually came to fruition with 2004's Ninja Gaiden. Serving as a prequel/soft-reboot to the franchise, the game once again put its focus on Ryu, and brought the series to a whole new generation. Boasting exceptionally difficult gameplay that absolutely demanded practice, patience, and above all else, skill, this new series spawned three sequels. However, now comes a Ninja Gaiden title with a twist, but sadly it's not exactly a twist that works well at all.


Developed by Spark Unlimited and out now on PC, Xbox 360 and PS3 comes Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, a spin-off that sucks all the fun and challenge out of the Ninja Gaiden franchise. The game itself comes as quite a shock, because after a somewhat sour reaction to Ninja Gaiden 3, Tecmo revamped it with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge. For a company that seemingly listened to its fanbase and understood why Ninja Gaiden 3 didn't quite cut it, for them to allow Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z to even happen is just confusing. The story places you in the role of Yaiba, a new protagonist in the series. However, after coming up against series regular Ryu and losing an eye and arm in the process, Yaiba, now mechanically enhanced by a mysterious organization, must not only seek revenge on Ryu, but also stop an ongoing zombie outbreak that is spreading rapidly. Yeah, that zombie plot does come out of nowhere, but with most things in this game it's best to just accept it and move on.


Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a third-person action adventure, but compared to past Ninja Gaiden titles which focused heavily on a beautifully nuanced combat system, in Yaiba: NGZ it is reduced to a lesson in button bashing. There are three attacks at hand, and while the game does nudge the player into trying out different combos, you'll do just as well simply using one attack throughout the entire game. This leads to any attempt in investing your time into perfecting combos completely and utterly pointless. Furthermore, while some other titles fall under the button bashing category and succeed, Yaiba: NGZ doesn't. Combat, which is 90% of the focus on the entire game, is just boring basically. Combat is only damaged further by the often horrific camera system. It's as if the camera is trying to ruin the game for you, most times never quite staying on the action properly.

The graphics are quite nice though, and its cel-shaded feel is quite similar to the classic PS2 title Killer7, a game that also shares Yaiba: NGZ's dark humour. But while it does indeed look good and is a nice visual divergence from the regular Ninja Gaiden series, it's all handled quite shoddily. From the annoying main character that sounds like he was created by an angry 15-year old boy, to the general feel that Spark Unlimited saw the reboot of Devil May Cry and said “let's do that!”, Yaiba: NGZ feels like an afterthought.


If you're a hardcore fan of the Ninja Gaiden series you may want to stay well away, as this entry is a far cry from the series' more challenging roots. From the basic combat, terribly lazy cut-scenes and the fact that it shamelessly dangles a confrontation with Ryu in front of your nose as the sole reason to keep playing it, Yaiba: NGZ is the Shadow the Hedgehog of the Ninja Gaiden series. It's a bit of fun if you're not looking for an award winning experience, but for this legendary series, that's not good enough.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z sulks in the shadows and gets a 2/5, [★★☆☆☆]

Denis Murphy


Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z at CeX



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