Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a departure from the classic franchise that shares part of the same name, so much so that it is considered by developers Tecmo Koei America and Team NINJA to be separate from the series that stars ninja Ryu Hyabusa.
Indeed, Yaiba is a powerful ninja in his own right, and he is actually introduced as one of Ryu’s greatest foes with a slick opening cinematic showing the two in a duel.
The game’s overall theme and vibe are crass, and immature – and unapologetically so. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and South Park: The Stick of Truth are examples of other recent games that share this type of vulgar humor, both of which received critical acclaim. Set in a zombie-ridden city, Yaiba’s gags and jokes are silly, and most certainly NSFW. But what makes this title so fun to play really have little to do with the writing – it captures a classic style of gameplay and is stunning to look at.
More Than Just Three Main Weapons
As a cyborg ninja, Yaiba brings to the table two crucial attacks in addition to a sword attack. His metal arm allows for devastating punches, and can also be used as a flailing weapon (think: nunchucks). Unlike Ninja Gaiden games, where Ryu could only use one weapon type at any given time, Yaiba can mix up the three different attacks for devastating combos.
You won’t find a variety of weapons to upgrade to, but there are various enemy types that can be mutilated to give Yaiba a short-lived additional weapon type. For instance, you can rip off a fire-breathing priest zombie’s head to be used as a fire launcher, or use the arms of a zombie as nunchucks. These makeshift weapons are quite powerful, but come with limited use or ammunition. Fortunately, there are plenty of zombies to rip off body parts for weapons.
Some of the tougher zombies are element-based, like the aforementioned fire-breather (he actually hocks firebomb lugies at Yaiba as one of his attacks). Yaiba can use elements against each other to wreak havoc on the screen and devastate those zombies that are harder to kill.
In addition, leveling up Yaiba allows you to unlock additional skills and combos.
Platforming and Jumping
The platforming elements of the game combine rails and quick-time-events to move from one area to the next, so going from section to section in a level is more of a minigame than mundane exploration. While the QTE-based platforming does not require much skill, it does require quick reaction and timing.
One of the big changes that Ninja Gaiden fans will be surprised at is Yaiba’s inability to jump on command. There is no button that will make Yaiba jump in combat (there is contextual jumping for the platforming sections however – see above). It is initially off-putting to be restricted with Yaiba’s movement.
That being said, the lack of a jump button becomes a non-issue with Yaiba’s ability to dash, and the fact that Yaiba automatically jumps in combat when executing combos or super attack moves. You start to realize that dashing, blocking, and parrying, in addition to using three different types of attacks to mix up combos are more than enough to slay zombies and avoid taking damage.
Graphics, Sound, and Music
With the Steam version of this game, you have the option to boost the resolution and max out the visual effects. If your PC has the right set of hardware, Yaiba’s visuals jump out of the screen with a gorgeous anime art style and contrasty color palette. My rig was able to pump out this game at 1440p resolution with over 60 frames per second – a true feast for the eyes.
When the screen is filled with geysers of blood, neon lights, and glowing electricity at a silky smooth frame rate, it’s enough to make any Ninja Gaiden fan weep. The PC/Steam version of this title is without a doubt the definitive version of the game (as opposed to the last generation console versions).
The main musical theme, composed by Grant Kirkhope sets the tone (pun intended) for the rest of the score, with a heart-pumping beat, evoking an electronic, razor-sharp vibe.
There are a lot of things to love about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. From the precise gameplay, to the stunning visuals, and even the bonus retro-mode that you can unlock after completing the campaign. The game is not easy, even in “easy” mode, and will present a challenge for even Ninja Gaiden veterans.
If you can get over the cheeky, lowbrow humor, you’ll find a fantastic action game in Yaiba.
Check out the Yaiba: Ninja gaiden Z official website for more details.