Reviews 1

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z – Review


Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a character spectacle fighter developed by Spark Unlimited who were responsible for such gems as… Lost Planet 3 and Legendary. Why you would give a series like Ninja Gaiden to this developer was beyond me at first, but let’s jump straight into the gorey details.


You play as Yaiba, a powerful ninja who’s only quest in life is to find Ryu Hayabusa who makes his appearance into the game by slicing out Yaiba’s left arm and eye, almost killing him in the opening cutscene. Yaiba is discovered by a mysterious organization who restores his lost body parts with cyborg-type duplicates. Yaiba learns that a zombie outbreak has begun and that Ryu has been searching for the source of the infection. He decides to work with the organization that resurrected him in order to exact his revenge against Ryu, agreeing to help put a stop to the spread of zombie infection.


The game’s story definitely resembles an in-your-face style “humour” with the main character being a downright ass most of the time. Both his demeanor and dialogue, while slightly in the sexist or arrogant ballpark can sometimes give you a chuckle or two. The game also delivers extra story via collectibles, but the problem with this is you have to navigate the menus and read it yourself. While they can be funny and interesting, it would have been better to have them be read to you while you continued to play the game. I don’t mind a game feeding me exposition but please do it without taking me away from the actual game.


The most obvious thing to note in Yaiba is the art style. When you think Ninja Gaiden, cell shaded splashes of blood and particle effects aren’t really the things that come to mind. Nevertheless it’s a different take on the series and adds a new element of fun to the combat. Developed in the Unreal engine, Yaiba doesn’t have any correlation to the Ninja Gaiden series save for the fact that Ryu Hayabusa is in it and there is some very fast, hack and slashy combat. This is a hack and slashy Yaiba game with ninjas and zombies which means it will be judged as such.


With that being said the combat is a bit of fun. If I had to compare it, I would say it would be like Dark Souls combat if it was sped up to about 300%. This is not a forgiving game when it comes to combat. Long checkpoints with limited health recovery and not much in the way of helping the character learn how to kill things. Yaiba relies heavily on player skill and is greatly rewarded for it. Your three types of attacks (quick blade, arm flail and arm rocket punch) can be chained together in a great variety of ways to suit your needs of slaughter. While in some fights you can attack all day long, in others you have to learn about quickly timed counters and the mini boss strategies.


Another great thing about the Yaiba combat is the variety of enemies that you face. In addition to the standard zombies you have elemental zombies which take on an element of either fire, shock or toxic each with their own attacks and abilities which you execute to regain your health. When you have finished smashing the grunts in each section, you get to fight a great number of minibosses each having different attack patterns and elemental attacks. You will have to learn how to dodge and counter these if you have any chance of surviving. This isn’t a game where you can hack and slash your way to victory. It’s an unforgiving combat system that that revolves around split second decisions and precise countering all while figuring out just how the hell you are going to get out of the next cluster of enemies.


Helping with this is the weapons that you can acquire from the various minibosses you encounter. Each weapon replaces your arm flail for a short period of time and has a different element that can be used on another enemy. Mixing a fire weapon like the Rigormotor and a lightning enemy will get you an area of effect fire and lightning storm, but if you mix lighting and toxic, you crystallise enemies which helps when you are in a tough spot and need a quick breather for multiple executions. These mixing elemental effects also play a part in the game’s puzzle and travel elements.


Between each hack and slash sections, there are few timed jumping puzzles that will lead you to solve an element puzzle to get to the next area. These puzzles will have you thinking about what elements will help and where do I go. While this is the case there is only one solution to each puzzle you encounter and it’s just a matter of how long it will take to figure it out. While it does slow the pace of the game down a bit, it does seem like these sections are there to extended game time. This is also the case in the fighting sequences by way of just throwing more and more mini bosses at you to add “difficulty” and subsequent deaths.


Luckily I was playing on PC and there is a “Wide Mode” camera option which helps a bit when compared to the console version, but it moves to angles that don’t help gameplay. This is also terrible in combat because you will be hit from off screen by exploding projectiles and without a targeting system to lock onto enemies, you have to aim with just the left stick and rely on well timed dodges. This is before mentioning that each mini boss will have their own unskippable zoom cutscene. It’s funny or informative the first time and soul crushingly dreadful by the 100th. Mini in-game cutscenes will also show a new wave of enemies or a new special enemy every time you die or enter a zone without an option for you to skip. It also takes control of your character. Oh you were standing in a pool of fire when you killed the last enemy? Whoops! You’re now dead because we wanted to get a close up of the next 10 zombies you already knew were coming.


The game is also really buggy to the point where I couldn’t actually launch it without it crashing. Searching online gave me no fixes and it left me verifying the Steam game cache over and over until it finally loaded. I killed the next boss and it crashed again, not saving my progress. Another time it deleted my progress almost entirely save for my mission progress which meant I was fighting bosses with half the health, resistances and perks that I was accustomed to having in previous levels.


Don’t get me wrong, I still think the game has worth. It’s something you can kick back with while being engaged in some challenging combat and enjoying a B-grade movie type story. Yaiba had me chuckling at times and the gameplay can be unforgiving if you’re not careful. While I wouldn’t recommend it at full price, it’s definitely a game that I can have fun with when the time is right.


Rating: 6/10