by April 21, 2014 @ 11:37 am
There are some misconceptions surrounding Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. First and foremost, people seem to think it’s vastly similar to something you’d see coming from the mind of Suda51. Hell, I was one of those people. Well, it’s not. It’s also not as accessible as you might think it is. Last, this isn’t exactly your typical Ninja Gaiden game, even though it is brutally difficult at times. Those three points serve as both benefits and detriments to Ninja Gaiden Z, and they create a truly polarizing game that you’re bound to like, detest, or both.
The game starts out in quite a badass manner, with the game’s titular character Yaiba Kamikaze getting sliced down the middle by series protagonist Ryu Hayabusa. There’s an explosion, foul language, and a fountain of blood. It’s exactly the type of setup that would make you think about Suda51′s personal brand of crazy. It doesn’t take long for things to go in a decidedly different direction, though, and Ninja Gaiden Z ends up being vulgar just for the sake of being vulgar, with absolutely no wittiness to be found even despite some genuinely funny moments.
Yaiba is brought back from the dead, and like any vengeful warrior, he decides to go after Ryu. Along the way he has to deal with a zombie epidemic across a ravaged urban wasteland. It’s a decent setting, though it isn’t terribly unique. Aiding you on your quest to kill Ryu are Alarico del Gonzo and Miss Monday, who share details about the zombie outbreak and clues as to where to find Ryu. Neither character is all that interesting. Del Gonzo’s awfully predictable, while Monday is just a typical “sexy” video game character with no real personality.
That lack of personality translates over to the game’s enemies. The majority of what you do in Ninja Gaiden Z is slice up waves and waves of undead baddies. Hey, it’s a hack-and-slash game, so that aspect is to be expected. It’s just really disappointing that there isn’t more variety. The bosses tend to look the best, but even they’re not particularly special. In addition, the fact that you can employ the same basic tactics for pretty much every enemy means you won’t be doing anything overtly engaging. Once you find a combo that works, you’ll likely spam it to death.
Oh, and if you’re one of those types who fancy changing things up with different combos, think again. While you can definitely utilize multiple attacks while facing the lowly grunt enemies, stronger zombies can be so criminally frustrating that you’re better off just using the same combo repeatedly. It’s not that these enemies are especially tough on their own — the problem is that Ninja Gaiden Z likes to throw a bunch of them at you all at once. This causes difficulty spikes that just feel annoyingly cheap rather than satisfyingly challenging.
Thankfully, those same annoying zombies drop some nifty disposable weapons. These include different types of nunchucks and elemental projectiles that you can use to make battling the tougher bad guys a bit more doable. Yaiba’s also got a skill tree that boasts some neat attacks and weapon upgrades. It’s nothing fancy, and by the end of the game you’ll have every skill unlocked, but it helps to add at least a paper thin layer of depth to the otherwise mindless combat.
Funnily enough, even though I wasn’t a big fan of the combat, I still found a tiny bit of enjoyment with it. It’s not profound or far-reaching in any way, but it’s still pretty cool to rack up ludicrously high combos. It’s also rad slicing your way through hundreds of zombies. Well, when you’re not being forced to take down the stronger and more obnoxious undead enemies at the same time.
My favorite moments in Ninja Gaiden Z were actually those completely devoid of enemy encounters. Certain areas of the game require you to perform timed button presses to traverse through sewer systems, scale up pipes, and leap across deadly hazards. These parkour sequences are flashy and fun, and though getting the timing right on a jump can sometimes lead to frustration, they’re entertaining more often than not.
Ninja Gaiden Z sports a solid comic book aesthetic that fits perfectly with the world. It’s almost a shame that there isn’t more variety, because this visual style would most certainly shine even brighter if the game offered more to see in terms of environments and enemies. Still, for what it’s worth, the game looks good and offers something different from the main Ninja Gaiden games.
I wouldn’t call Ninja Gaiden Z a bad game. Its heart is in the right place, but its execution leaves a lot to be desired. Sometimes it gives you what you want — if what you want is a lingerie store being blown up and Yaiba getting showered in frilly panties. It’s dumb — hell, it’s plain stupid — but it’s a lighthearted kind of stupid that gets your initial attention. It’s just disappointing that Ninja Gaiden Z doesn’t deliver a more well-rounded experience. It’s not worth the price of admission, but when you inevitably spot it in the bargain gin, give this game a go.
Follow this author on Twitter.