Yaiba: Ninaj Gaiden Z is a third-person action game set in the Ninja Gaiden universe. It is actually a spin-off, done in great looking cel-shade comic book style, starring the titular protagonist; a rogue ninja who goes on a rampage, slaughtering his fellow clan members before coming face to face with Ninja Gaiden series mainstay, Ryu Hayabusa. Despite his skill and prowess Yaiba Kamikaze was no match for the wielder of the dragon sword and fell in combat.
The murderous ninja doesn’t stay dead for long though, thanks to the mysterious Forge industries who replaces his lost left eye and arm with cybernetic enhancements. It seems there was a deadly outbreak and its spreading fast, turning people into zombies. Yaiba is tasked by the organization’s leader with finding a cure and putting a stop to the infection. Kamikaze wants nothing to do with any of it of course but the promise of being able to have his revenge on Hayabusa causes the ninja to reluctantly agrees and he sets out on his mission.
I went into Ninja Gaiden Z with low expectations of its story and sadly I wasn’t wrong. It’s a typical revenge tale bogged down with asinine dialogue, countless failed attempts at humor and a protagonist that isn’t all the interesting. Sure Yaiba is a bada**, there is no disputing that but he is also pretty crude and lacks any charisma to make up for it. Simply put, I played through the game never caring if Yaiba would actually get exact his revenge or not. The supporting characters; Miss Monday, Yaiba’s guide and her boss Del Gonzo are nothing to write home about either. Speaking of crude; the game itself is a pretty nasty affair that goes beyond its violence. I myself wasn’t offended but if the sight of two female zombies making out or suggested necrophilia ruffles your feathers, then you certainly will be.
Shoryuke… wait, wrong game.
While I didn’t have high hopes for the game’s plot, I expected it to at least be fun to play. Good news is NGZ does feature better gameplay than plot, the bad news is that’s not saying much. Yaiba can perform light attacks with his blade, heavy attacks using his mechanical arm and area clearing attacks with its built-in flail. Mixing these different attacks together allows Yaiba to pull of some pretty cool combos, and the action moves along at a bloody fast and furious pace. Successfully countering an enemy’s attack will activate ‘Ninja Time’ which slows everything down for a brief moment, allowing him the land several counter attacks unchallenged. Once he has killed enough zombies, Yaiba can activate ‘Blood Lust’ mode, which makes him temporarily invincible while increasing his speed and attack power. It’s a great feature to use to quickly defeat a large group of enemies and it looks cool as well. Executing zombies will allow the ninja to replenish his health.
Killing zombies earns Yaiba experience points, allowing him to level up and earn ‘perk points’. These points are used to purchase a range of new abilities; from new combo moves to increased ‘Blood Lust’ and more. The zombies themselves come in all shapes and sizes and some even have elemental powers such as fire and lightning. These special zombie types up the level of challenge within the game; take too much fire damage for instance and Yaiba will start to burn, while too much electrical damage means his mechanical arm overloads and becomes useless for a brief period of time.
Button mashing won’t get you very far when these zombies come into play, as they definitely require more skill in order to defeat them. Executing them results in Yaiba taking a body part and using it as an additional, albeit temporary weapon (Using a clown zombie’s arms as nunchucks). One of the cool things about the elemental zombies is combining them to create chemical chain reactions to take out larger groups. Through a fire zombie into a lightning one and watch as a storm of fire and lightning rains down upon them. The game features online leaderboards as it scores you based on your performance in each mission; how long it took to finish, your max combo chain, if died and how many collectibles you found. It’s great for those who love competition but do not care for multiplayer.
Yaiba slices n dices.
It is unfortunate then, that the game’s combat quickly becomes repetitive about halfway through; thanks to a very limited moveset. It continues to suffer due to annoyingly difficult enemy encounters. Nothing says fun quite like fighting a huge group of zombie grunts while being bombarded by multiple elemental zombies’ ranged attacks, only to finally defeat them all and be met with another similar wave seconds after…. on multiple occasions. The special zombie types are actually more challenging than the game’s bosses, which is somewhat mind boggling. To make matters worse, players will be fighting the game’s camera just as much they will the undead.
The camera stays fixed on Yaiba but it is often at an angle that makes it difficult to keep track of the anti-hero when the action picks up considerably. It will also obscure your view on enemies which results in Yaiba getting hit from an attack off screen, which can sometimes end in an unfair death. You can’t directly control the camera which makes it worse and while their is an option to set it to close view (It is set to wide shot by default), that honestly makes it worse as it gets too close and you will have to deal with off screen attacks more frequently.
The game features some puzzles and platforming elements to break up the action but they aren’t that exciting either. The puzzles are pretty easy and require the player to utilize the zombies around them, but they aren’t all that clever or fun. In fact they are down right boring despite the attempts at making them humorous. The platforming segments are more fun as Yaiba runs along walls and other structures in true ninja fashion while using his arm to swing around like Spider-man. Unfortunately the developers felt the need to have the game hold your hand the entire time by highlighting where you need to jump and letting you know when you have to swing. There are some obstacles Yaiba will run into while platforming but at the end of the day the segments are still too easy and not as fun as they could have been.
Once you beaten the game (and the ridiculously boring final Boss), you’ll unlock the 2D arcade mode. This mode pays homage to the retro 2D games of old, such as the original Ninja Gaiden, complete with pixelated cutscenes and badly translated dialogue. Yaiba will face off against the same zombies as in the regular story mode but this time there is only one difficulty and it a tough one. There really isn’t any reason to play this mode after you’ve already suffered through the main game.
Final Verdict: Ninja Gaiden Z started off strong but quickly lost its luster thanks to its problematic camera, repetitive combat and annoying difficulty. Its main protagonist is painfully lame and its story predictably bad but at least it looks good and has decent platforming elements. Thing is that is not nearly enough to justify its $60 price tag, or anything over $10. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a mediocre experience that deserves to be missed.
Overall Score: 5.5/10
RGN Rating: Below Bronze
Developer: Team Ninja | Spark Unlimited | Comcept
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Available On: Xbox 360 | PS3 | PC
Played On: Sony PS3
Review Copy Info: A digital copy of this game was provided to RealGamerNewz for the purpose of this review.
Editor’s Note: RealGamerNewZ has moved web servers, some older posts can no longer be commented on and have been preserved without their images. Thank you for your understanding in this matter. This article was written by Jermain Jackson on 20140417 and was last modified on 20140418 .