Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z blindsided me at E3 this year, but in a good way.
This new game, helmed by Keiji Inafune and developed by Team Ninja, Spark Unlimited, and Inafune’s Comcept team, is a drastically different game in the Ninja Gaiden universe. Gone are the realistic graphics, serious storylines, and extreme difficulty. These staples have been replaced by humor, comic-style artwork, and more arcade-influenced gameplay. Perhaps not everyone will like these changes, but as an arcade rat myself, I really liked the new game.
It’s important to note that Ninja Gaiden Z isn’t a straight sequel for the series. It’s a side story, similar to what we saw in SEGA’s Yakuza: Dead Souls. In fact, just like Dead Souls, zombies are a major part of this game. In fact, Mr. Inafune told me that The Walking Dead was a major influence on Ninja Gaiden Z’s development and design. It also seemed to me that Bulletstorm was another influence, as certain kill types had their own funny names, such as Zombified.
There’s a ton of action here as Yaiba, the main character of Ninja Gaiden and rival of Ryu Hayabusa, is raised from the dead after being dispatched at the hands of the Dragon Ninja. Armed with a broken sword and cybernetic improvements, Yaiba is sent to take on a zombie army using any means necessary, including his own weapons or body parts from other zombies which can be used as weapons as well. The zombie-based weapons degrade with repeated use, however, so Yaiba will have to replace them with other weapons as he goes on. In addition, zombies can also be used to make progress through certain areas by directing their bodies to key spots– such as inside of trucks to make the drive to a certain spot. This is somewhat reminiscent to me of Mortal Kombat: Shaolin Monks, in which corpses were used in certain areas to solve certain environmental puzzles.
As long as it’s understood that Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is meant to be a different game with different development goals for a wider audience, I think that there’s a lot to like about this new adventure. If the yakuza can take down a few zombies, why can’t a cybernetic ninja? Look for this to hit PS3 and Xbox 360 sometime early next year.