We take a look at the rather different Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z on console and determine whether the change of pace and artistic direction is enough to woo fans and anyone else willing to give the game a chance. With developers Spark at the helm, do they do the series justice, or is this game simply too over the top to bear. Take a look at our Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z video review for the full picture.
Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z Review:
Today we’re taking a look at the rather dangerous Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z which released on last gen systems and PC and has been developed by Spark Unlimited with series producer Keiji Inafune at the helm. Players assume the role of Yaiba as he seeks revenge on series veteran Ryu Hayabusa across several themed levels littered with all manner of undead zombies and foul creatures of the night. The game opts to maintain its stylized combat the series is known for, but somehow misses the mark and turns into a rather mundane button masher.
Forgetting the story, because it’s rather uninspiring and merely sets the stage for Yaiba to swear a lot and kill lots of enemies; players jump into the game with three main attack forms which include a sword strike, punches and a flail. These can be seamlessly mixed on the fly and as players level up they can spend points on more combos and charge up moves. Each level is divided into sections where every encounter is introduced with a name, and then scored once all enemies are defeated. There are two main elements to the combat which are actually quite fun and these rest with the game’s execution moves which can be unleashed on stunned enemies and then chained together up to a maximum of 10. The game enters a pseudo cutscene as players time their strikes to continue the combo and showcases a visceral edge to the game. Whilst serving as suitable eye candy, they also provide much needed bonus health which makes executions quite important if one is to stay alive. The second element are chemical mixtures which means fusing two different enemy types together to create new attacks. Certain enemies have elements such as electricity or fire, and combining the two creates a chain reaction which unleashes extra elements in battle which can sometimes turn the tides against tougher enemies. The elementals are also used to good effect across the levels in terms of solving basic navigational puzzles and unlocking hidden power ups which can increase Yaiba’s resistance or health.
On the surface, the game is fairly decent but runs into problems quite early on, namely the awful forced camera angles throughout which are a real pain to deal with often leaving the character behind objects, stuck on invisible walls, or just a tiny spec. In a nutshell, they are horrible and do the game no favours at all. The next issue is with the game’s navigational puzzles which start off fairly tame then degenerate into pointless and utterly ridiculous moments of frustration as Yaiba avoids fire and steam pipes whilst performing runs , grapples and swings. It appears Spark has taken on board that Ninja Gaiden as a series has a reputation for being difficult, but rather than make the player fall foul of their own mistakes where learning is key to progression, provide level design and gameplay which is simply rubbish and ruins the flow of the game. Players will die a lot to the point of cussing at the screen and a desire to throw the game and console out the window. There are many moments where players will often come up against relentless foes as well who all gang up on the character leaving little to no room for error. The game suggests not to forget to block, but then mixes up enemies which perform unblockable attacks making it useless. The countering is also flawed with its skewed window of opportunity turning what should be some accomplished and skillful combat into a mangled mess that’s simply not worth learning.
In terms of looks the game offers a highly stylized animated look which is different to what’s expected from the series and certainly looks the part with its excellent enemy design and bucket-loads of the red stuff gushing from every orifice. However, the levels are a bit dull and delve into standard locales such as a subway and sewer system which just reek of tired game design. That said, aside from the poor camera and uninspiring combat, the game does run smoothly even when the screen is awash with lots of enemies. The only issue players have to worry about is losing sight of Yaiba amongst all the carnage.
The audio is pretty standard fare what with a typical upbeat soundtrack and the grunts and groans of Yaiba interspersed with comical moans and sounds of the zombies. There’s a bit of dialogue in cutscenes between levels and some chatter on the fly, but nothing that stands out as being anything other than functional.
In terms of longevity it’s a tough call because one’s patience is seriously tested to the point of possibly giving up on the game before ever reaching the end after several hours of play. Then there are extra difficulties to play through again and collectibles to find, but you would have to be a glutton for punishment or the biggest Ninja Gaiden fan ever to want to go through the game more than once. There are leaderboards to compare your prowess with other like-minded gamers, which serves as a solid way of learning to improve, but there’s nothing really that screams “replay me again and again because I’m good enough”.
To conclude, Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z is really a throwaway experience simply because the game, by design is marred by some horrible design choices and unnecessary difficulty making the game inaccessible to most people other than loyal devotees who are taken in by the Ninja Gaiden name. This is nothing like the previous games and simply feels like a cheap attempt at cashing in on the name. Whilst it’s commendable that there’s a different look to the game, the end result is simply not good enough and certainly one to wait for a price drop before embarking on its madness. Yes, there’s some colourful design, interesting bosses and some fun to be had when the game works, but the negatives far outweigh the positive aspects leaving a game which eats you up for breakfast without a care. If you like Ninja Gaiden, then avoid unless you really have to, if you like action games, then avoid period, and if you like to punish yourself in a masochistic way then go ahead and knock yourself out.
Score 5/10 – Review by Robert Cram
Review code supplied by Xbox.