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Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Review

almartinet By:
GENRE Action 
DEVELOPER Team Ninja, Spark Unlimited 
M Contains Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language

What do these ratings mean?

World War: Yaiba or AYEYAIAI.

I wanted to enjoy Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, I really did, but it didn’t let me. For a series that has been M.I.A. since 2008 that was founded on providing killer combat, Yaiba’s gameplay boils down to simplified hack-and-slash gameplay that is unbalanced against the player. The Team NINJA and Keiji Inafune coloration has its high points with the cel-shaded art style, adding a wrinkle of charm that I didn’t expect to work, but it can’t mask all of its design flaws.
You play as a robotic cyborg samurai who is trying to find and kill Ryu Hayabusa during a zombie apocalypse set in Russia. Yaiba doesn’t take any time to set the stage for what’s to come through a mindless prologue that details the protagonist's backstory in less than three minutes. The narrative is used primarily to transition from vista to vista to continue the action. I recommend not taking the story seriously and enjoy the quick-tme vignettes in between the action featuring the cel-shaded artstyle. The storyline plays a lot like comic book with each level unfolding like a new monthly issue with Yaiba spilling gallons of blood with every turn of the page. It sets up the game nicely for the gameplay to take over, which is where the entire product drops the ball on.

Ninja Gaiden Z's combat operates at a slower speed, focusing on defeating swarms of foes at once. Many of its combat mechanics like grabbing and executions are useless, serving only as visual entertainment. Over the course of the game you can increase your stats using the skill tree, but it doesn’t accommodate enough to turn the tide against higher-end enemies. There are three forms of attack: a strong bionic arm, a slicing sword, and a wide area chain attack. While this does persuade you to try multiple methods of attack, you can very easily button-mash your way to victory with a safe degree of success. Yaiba is designed to be simplified so everyone can jump in and play, but it quickly becomes repetitive due to its lack of depth, which ends up being the product's downfall.

Weak enemies take only a second to dispense, with every attack packing a punch. Everything will be going fine up until the point you’re battling against the design of the game. Mini-bosses will appear that change the pace with unfair stat increases, creating a temporary brick wall for the player to eventually break through. High-level enemies deliver unblockable attacks that will send you packing in three hits or less.

You’re of course a ninja who can out-evade and counter attacks, but mini-bosses tend to have high HP, and for some reason Yaiba's attack power is significantly lower during these fights. Unlike other Ninja Gaiden games, there isn’t an in-game store to find alternative weapons or health items to aid you in the fight. It's like the developers intentionally wanted to highjack the experience in order to keep players from having a good time.

Yaiba is not technically stainless steel (get it?), as I experienced a number of glitches during my playthrough. Far too often the camera would zoom in way too far when I was in combat, allowing me to see only a small percentage of the battlefield. Framerate issues can occur when there are too many enemies on the screen as well.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z does some decent things right like the cel-shaded comic book narrative… and well, that’s about it. I wouldn’t suggest this for a fan of the Ninja Gaiden franchise or for someone who enjoys speedy action platformers. Gameplay is key, and it's a completely maddening experience that I don’t see any reason to return after taking six hours (most of it in frustration) to complete with most Trophies/Achievements claimed in a single playthrough. Yaiba is luckily just a spin-off and shouldn’t be compared to other games in the series. When Ryu Hayabusa returns to his former role, I hope whoever develops it looks back on why this series became a popular series in the first place.
Copy provided by publisher. Review based on PS3 version. Also available on Xbox 360 and PC.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
  • Cel-shaded art style
  • It's a neat idea for a spin-off
  • Combat is unbalanced, mindless, and lacks depth
  • Close-up camera
  • No reason to revisit after completion
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Also known as: Ninja Gaiden Z

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