Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Review: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (Ps3)

"Zombies Ate My Ninjas" 

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is the collective brain child between Team Ninja, Com-Cept & Spark Unlimited, A spin off game set in the the universe of Ninja Gaiden/Dead Or Alive. With alot of people already saying the series has died since the original director Itagaki has left, we will find out if that is the truth and this is just it's shuffling corpse.

First & foremost I have to stress the fact that this IS NOT A NINJA GAIDEN GAME!, as mentioned several times by core staff on the project, Team Ninja & Tecmo Koei several times this is a game set in the NG universe but isn't strictly a NG game. 

Yaiba is a Ninja Slayer who has set his eyes on the honorable & righteous Ryu Hayabusa, the problem with this is as shown in the intro Yaiba is good, but not that good!. Ryu kills Yaiba with relative ease and continues on his Path Of The Ninja, unbeknownst to him that a mysterious organisation has revived Yaiba & given him several "upgrades". Yaiba is then unleashed into a zombie infested city where Ryu is currently trying to stop the infestation & he only has 1 thing on his mind, Kill Ryu Hayabusa. 

Straight away the story comes off a little wacky & in your face more so than any Gaiden game in the last decade. For all intents and purposes the story is little more than just a slight explanation as to why you are running around slashing zombies & hunting down the iconic Hack & Slash hero. It reeks of B Movie & I for one personally love that, I was a huge fan of HOTD:OVERKILL & Lollipop Chainsaw both had a similar feel to the story & both included Zombies!.

Yaiba himself is a salty language, self centered, quick to anger douchebag, a far cry from the usual heroic justice dispenser you usually are. Honestly within the main game there is very little character progression & anything to really define Yaiba barring an action later on in the game. In my opinion Yaiba is just the very embodiment of B Movie anti hero, the only thing is he never has a heroic thought. 

The rest of the cast are just as 2D, the flirtatious albeit sadistic Miss Monday, the mysterious and greasy Del Gonzo, female Ninpo expert Momji & the ever heroic Ryu Hayabusa. 

Graphically Yaiba is for the most part an impressive looking Cel shaded experience. Unfortunately the camera occasionally isn't too kind to Yaiba and it shows his character model at times looks a little off. 
The models are all well animated, from Ryu's defensive stance to an infected puss spewing Zombie they all act and move exactly as you would imagine them to.

The settings are a mixed bag, starting off with the Neon based city slowly work your way through roof tops and graveyards on your way the the root of the problem.
The issue here is apart from a few set places the scenery is very drab, quite basic and very cliched. It's not a terrible thing it's just a common element with action games and it would of been nice for them to really open up in regards to areas for the game.

Combat is naturally a big part of any Hack & Slash game, mainly the make or break section for this particular genre. In Yaiba it's a very mixed bag of brilliant and downright frustrating at times!.
Combos are very simple and easy to execute which fits in with the "old school" feeling of the game, very reminiscent of titles such as PsOne title Legend "Knights of Carnage" or many of the PS2 generation brawler games. The downside is you'll be seeing the same moves often, this is something alot of people will find issues with due to the expansive move list previous "Gaiden" games had. Personally it never really effected me during gameplay but it does help I am a fan of the 2D/3D brawling game genre & a huge Musou fan.

The major issue with the combat is the lack of feedback when hitting the various foes that await Yaiba. Unless you finish a Square combo, Hit with the Heavy punch or finish a Circle combo you won't knock any foe back, also the only time any of your moves has the slight chance of interrupting an assault by a foe. It's usually better to either dodge or block a combo as you can't interrupt without taking damage & counterattacking is a mixed bag of occasionally usable to downright annoying to attempt!.
When fighting the standard mix of Zombies this isn't really too much of an issue it's only when you come to fighting the special zombies, from clowns & heavy thugs to brides and puss filled women. You'll be fighting these frequently & towards later in the game in large numbers.
It took a good chunk of the game before i felt confident enough to actually stand toe to toe with more than one special zombie, it doesn't help you have standard fodder in most battles as well. The standard zombies are technically the only way to regain health in these battles as performing a Takedown will see you regain some health.
Special Zombies hit hard and fast & all have different patterns and little ways in which it's best to approach them, as previously mentioned towards the latter part of the game I was versed enough about them to take multiple on at once but in the beginning they can & will be a harsh harsh difficulty spike!.
When you use a takedown on a Special Zombie you are given a "Zombie Weapon" this is usually quite high powered but has limited uses, often very helpful in dealing with any remaining Special Zombies.
Another thing to note is the blood-lust mode, kill a certain amount of "Stiffs" (the game term for zombie!) & you can send Yaiba into a fit of rage!. It deals insane amounts of damage and renders you untouchable until it runs out. It's handy and has helped me out of a few situations where I felt overwhelmed, the only downside is that you cannot activate any Takedowns & health doesn't regenerate.

Around the middle section of the game it throws an interesting concept at you that never quite sees it's full potential in the shape of elements reacting to each other. For example should you use a fire weapon (or zombie!) against an electrical foe it creates a most devastating storm which is an area cleaner & adds to the carnage.
Situations where this is viable are few and far between apart from the last level where it's almost imperative that you work with these to gain success.
I would of LOVED to see this more throughout the game as when it works it felt and looked brilliant and is certainly one of the more unique features of Yaiba.

The boss fights are all pretty good & well thought out, it's just a shame there wasn't more of them & that it starts to repeat them towards the end of the game. The worst boss I found was the final boss, I won't go into it due to spoilers but it did feel slightly anti-climatic. Taking of bosses there is one where it faces a HUGE difficulty spike which nearly caused me to rage quit, naturally it was the Ryu Hayabusa fight. This is one fight you don't want to underestimate, I understand why he was made as tough as old boots but there are different ways that could of been done rather than his damage output leveling your health bar!.

Overall Yaiba clocks in at around the 6-8 hour mark which is standard for Hack & Slash, there are a few difficulty modes to run through & a selection of collectibles to find. The story for the most part is just a way of explaining why Yaiba is in a certain area & any backstory is done via the hidden story collectibles, don't go in expecting a groundbreaking story & you'll never quite fall in love with Yaiba like you would the likes of say Travis Touchdown from No More Heroes or Jack from Madworld/Anarchy Reigns.
Once you complete the game you unlock the arcade mode titles "Ninja Gaiden Z" it has a fixed camera to make it look like a 2D brawler, features chip tunes, pixelated and poorly translated story sections & has continues and game overs in an ode to the original Ninja Gaiden series and various classic brawling games.
This works well but has it's issues as it's doesn't have the takedowns & zombie weapons thus making the special zombies even more hard work!. It's a nice welcome addition & adds to the mileage you'll get out of this title.

Who Should Buy This?

  • Fans of the Brawling Genre I.E Streets Of Rage, Golden Axe, Legend & Final Fight 
  • People who enjoy B Movie & Grind-house 
  • Zombies! Ninjas! Lewd Behavior! Cel Shaded Graphics! 

Who Should Avoid This?

  • People wanting Ninja Gaiden 4
  • Someone wanting an easy ride or lengthy campaign 
  • After a serious hack & slash? yeah you would do well to look else where!

I really enjoyed Yaiba for what it was, I didn't go in expecting a new Gaiden but a spin off with a B Movie look & sound, that is exactly what I got. The game won't be for everybody but in my honest opinion the slating it has been getting isn't justified. I will happily replay this game down the road at some point & if i'm brutally honest I personally enjoyed this title more than Ninja Gaiden 3 & Razors Edge!. With everything I have said taken into consideration I award Yaiba with


"Flawed niche brilliance. Yaiba didn't win my heart, he ripped it out of my chest, kicked it at my face, insulted me before mooning me upon leaving. I want more!" 

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