Many gamers think that Tecmo Koei Europe’s strategy this generation revolved around their three core franchises, wheeling out endless sequels and revisions. While it’s true that the Warriors, Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden branding has fallen upon dozens of titles there has been startling amounts of innovation and attempts to redefine genre within and around. From the underappreciated Warriors: Legends of Troy and Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll to the criminally ignored Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War and Undead Knights, there have been moments which deserved far greater recognition than they received. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is destined to become another misunderstood title, with many attributing the tagline to it being ‘another Ninja Gaiden’ and not truly giving it the opportunity to stand on its own two feet.
This is most certainly a shame, as Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z does look set to be worthy of your fullest attention. Similarities will be drawn to the core Ninja Gaiden titles – it does work within the same genre after all – but to dismiss it as a lesser spin-off is to be ignorant of the talent behind it. The legendary creator of Onimusha and Dead Rising, Keiji Inafune, is working with Team NINJA and Spark Unlimited to create Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. That last name may trigger inherent fear as Spark Unlimited is a studio that is becoming synonymous with missed opportunities, but even from Electronic Theatre’s short time with the videogame it was obvious that someone has the right idea about just what Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z should be.
This is an action videogame through-and-through. Playing as the titular r cyborg ninja your job is to defeat near endless streams of zombies. Punch, kick, jump, flip, slash, throw, shoot and explode them as you see fit, just get the job done. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z’s combat system is flexible enough that even newcomers to the genre will be able to button bash and pull-off a few moves that make them look like pros. Don’t let the Ninja Gaiden branding fool you: this is a videogame made to be played and enjoyed, not made to punish the player’s mistakes.
Part of this enjoyment will come from the madcap way in which Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z’s action sequences are presented. It’s far from the po-faced giant demons and mechanical boss fights of the Ninja Gaiden titles and instead closer to Shaun of the Dead: a tongue-in-cheek interpretation of zombie brawling. During Electronic Theatre’s short time with the videogame it was possible to remove undead limbs and beat zombies with them, plant explosive charges on their heads and at one point throw a zombie into a steamroller and have him crush a dozen of his comrades. This was rounded off by throwing an explosively charged zombie-driven truck in between a pair of stocking clad legs atop the roof of an adult entertainment shop. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a videogame that isn’t meant to be taken seriously.
That’s not to say the combat system isn’t deep, it’s certainly proved to offer plentiful arsenal during Electronic Theatre’s time with the videogame and the enemies demand a great variety in tactical execution. However Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is most certainly designed for thrills rather than painstaking commitment. This is evidenced by the videogame’s visual style also. While most might call it cel-shaded and leave it at that, to do so is to do the videogame in injustice: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z’s art style is remarkably impressive, presented a grizzled, ultra-violent comic book come to life as opposed to leaning on a Disney motion-picture in the same way as The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. This is a videogame designed for a mature audience, and it will surely take a certain level of maturity to appreciate just why Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z’s immaturity is what makes it unique.