Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Review

By Darryl Kaye on April 3, 2014

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z arrives at an interesting time for the Ninja Gaiden franchise. While previous instalments had been critically praised, Ninja Gaiden 3 wasn't afforded the same courtesy and while Razor's Edge helped to smooth things over somewhat, fans have been eager to see how the next instalment could fair. Unfortunately, it doesn't fair very well and in many ways, Yaiba represents a further slip in quality for the franchise.

For the purposes of Ninja Gaiden Z, an entirely new character was created as a rival to the legendary Ryu Hayabusa "“ Yaiba Kamikaze.

There's a lot going on with the story, what with whole zombies thing and weird creatures being farmed for their resources, but the main crux of the story is Yaiba's deep-rooted hatred for Hayabusa and lust for revenge.

This would be perfect had there been some proper context employed. After all, we are constantly reminded of Yaiba's considerable hatred for Hayabusa, but you can't help but feel the reasons for this hatred seem a little petty. Well, perhaps petty isn't the optimum word, but all we know is that Yaiba challenged Hayabusa to a duel and lost "“ supposedly paying with his life until he is brought back to the life through enhancements.

It means that the story falls rather flat. You will get cutscenes and occasional communications with the individuals who brought Yaiba back from the dead, but most of the time it feels like mindless chatter.

Gameplay in Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is quite straight-forward, but it can be very unforgiving sometimes. In most basic scenarios, you have the ability to dodge, perform quick attacks, heavy attacks or use your chain. It's also possible to block incoming attacks and perform counters if your timing is spot-on.

You will be fighting against numerous enemies in the game, but they do get rather repetitive. The standard zombies, in almost any form, provide no real challenge. Even if you are facing huge hordes and they are charged with a status effect, they can be dispatched with relative ease. The challenge comes from the introduction of special enemies.

As you go through the different stages, you will realise that there aren't actually that many and it's a little disappointing. You will also find that they aren't all that difficult to beat on their own, which is why the game goes to ridiculous lengths to make sure there's a continued challenge. Fighting against 3-4 special zombies at the same time can be on the tricky side, but by the later stages of the game you might end up facing 6-7+ special types all at the same time.Some might see this as a really great challenge, but it just feels like a chore. The only new dimension offered is that they just throw more stuff at you. And when you defeat that, they just throw even more at you. The worst part about it? None of the enemies are even original any more at this point. What might start off as a cool boss in an earlier stage quickly becomes a moderately interesting boss scenario when you have to square off against two of them. By the time they're making you face 3, 4 or 5 of them at the same time, it makes all your earlier accomplishments just seem like a waste of time and the enemy loses its sheen.

You will also gain no assistance from the camera of the art style. The game employs a fixed camera in some rather large areas and sometimes you will fight in areas where Yaiba blends into environment pretty well. Neither of these elements help as standing still or making a wrong turn will almost always lead to a sticky situation. There are also annoying instances, which occurred numerous times during our playthrough, where you'd kill all of the enemies and wouldn't be allowed to progress any further as the game just hadn't recognised they were dead. This wouldn't be so bad if you could reset to checkpoints, but you can't. It means you have to reset the stage entirely "“ very annoying.

On the positive side, every time you manage to execute a special enemy, you get access to a special weapon which replaces your whip move. These range from using the arms of a fallen zombie as nunchuks, to a huge great axe and a missile launcher. The only downside is that they have limited usage and in the later stages, when you use these special weapons can have a considerable impact on your odds.

Yaiba's gameplay on the whole feels under-developed. Of course, this isn't helped by the lack of variety in the enemies, but there is no real incentive to explore the game's already limited array of combos. Often when fighting against the harder types, you will actually want to limit your actions right down in order to prevent any backlash from being locked into a chain. It seems a bit counter-productive.

Aside from the scenery choices, Yaiba employs an interesting art style. As this is something of a spin-off, it's clear the developers wanted to establish a new identity for this new universe and it works on the whole. The game's soundtrack also does a solid job, blending different styles depending on the situation you find yourself in.

Yaiba does offer some nice content upon completion, but getting to that point won't take you all that long. There are only 7 stages and the game can be completed in under 4 hours without too much difficulty. It's a bit of a shame, but in some ways it can be seen as a good thing. Given the lack of variety offered within those few hours, it's easy to imagine how boring the game would have become had it been any longer.

Final Thoughts

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z represents another decline in quality for the Ninja Gaiden franchise and it's a shame. There's just no getting over the fact the game lacks the required level of quality in numerous departments. The base combat isn't too bad and the special weapons are fun, but there's a distinct lack of variety offered throughout the experience and while the game is difficult, getting through the later stages doesn't promote any real sense of satisfaction because by that point, very little of the game is even original.

Secondary weapons offer some fun.
Fighting bosses for the first time.
Performing counters.
It's very, very short.
Considering the game's length, the amount of variety offered is very disappointing.
The camera can be rather troublesome.
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