A lot of franchises have recently been
going through some changes. Maybe it’s a change-up in the overall game design
or an entire facelift. Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. It really
does depend on who you ask. Ninja Gaiden,
along with Tomb Raider, felt like the
right candidate to get these changes made. Let’s focus on Ninja Gaiden for this review since this will be all about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. I definitely
thought Ninja Gaiden needed some
drastic changes to the franchise. It didn’t help that Ninja Gaiden 3, even with the updated version, was not a well-loved
game. It had some cool elements, but a majority of its gameplay felt stale to
me. It doesn’t help that, in my opinion, the 3D games had a lot of flaws in
terms of design and gameplay. It also hurts that we have seen much better
action games than the 3D Ninja Gaiden
games. Luckily, it was nice to see that the next game was going to be a little
different. It had a new main character, it was going to have more colorful
graphics, and it looked like it was going to take its over-the-top nature and
increase it tenfold. How does the end product hold up? Well, let’s find out.

You play as Yaiba,
the Ninja Slayer, voiced by Ian Gary. After getting into a fight with Ryu Hayabusa,
voiced by Troy Baker, Yaiba ends up dead. I mean, you are going against Ryu
Hayabusa, so I think you would be screwed. Anyway, Yaiba is then brought back
to life as a cyborg ninja by Forge Industry. He is then put under the care of
Miss Monday, voiced by Anastasia Baranova and her boss, Alarico del Gonzo,
voiced by Tony Alvarez. They agree to help Yaiba take down Ryu Hayabusa. Yaiba
is sent off to track down Yaiba and finish him off. Oh yeah, there is also this
toxic chemical and a zombie outbreak because, you know, why not?

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is of course, an
action game. You will be plowing your way through zombies of a couple of different
varieties. Your main weapons will be your sword, your fist, and a chain-like
item. Your sword attacks are your normal mode of offense, your punching attacks
help break through guard-happy enemies, and the chain attack will hit a multitude
of enemies, but won’t deal a whole lot of damage. The main gimmick to this
game’s combat system is the elemental attacks you acquire as you play through
the game. You will encounter enemies who use different elements or are a bit
tougher. If you can pull off execution moves on them, you gain an additional
attack. These additional attacks include an electric chain, nunchucks, a flame
thrower, a rocket launcher, an acid attack, and a huge axe-like weapon made out
of a shoulder blade and arm bone.

The tougher enemies will have different
elemental weaknesses. You can hurt fire-wielding enemies with electricity
(don’t ask me how that works) and acid-covered enemies will burn faster after
getting hit with fire. If you pull off enough execution moves, you can unleash
a berserker mode where you are invincible for a short amount of time, and can
hack your way through the hordes of zombies you will encounter. Other than
that, you have unlockable abilities, like new moves or stronger attacks for
your elemental moves. Outside of the combat, you will find collectables to
increase your resistance towards elemental damage and more health. When you beat
the game, you get an arcade-style beat ‘em up mini-game. This is very cool if
you love retro arcade beat ‘em ups. You will get about five or so hours out of
the game with very little replay value. There are unlockable costumes, but the
other costumes you could get from preorders might come at a later date.

The best thing
about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is the
graphical presentation. It’s bright, colorful, very comic book-esque, and the
game has some personality. Yaiba, while not the most well-made anti-hero
around, has a good line here and there. The best story moments are some of the
cutscenes, like when you get introduced to new enemies and when you solve
certain puzzles. Some of my favorite cutscenes include when you throw a zombie
into a steam roller and the zombie driving it tries to tell a zombie in front
of it to move out of the way, or when a fire-breathing zombie burns to death
and another zombie asks for someone to light his cigarette, or when you are
introduced to the electrified female zombie bride and she gets mad that you
killed all of her zombie guests. I love this since it gives the game
personality, which more games could use if they are going to survive the
market.

However, even with
all the pretty graphics and personality within the game, everything else just
falls flat. The game doesn’t just fall flat, it falls flat on the ground and
breaks every bone in its face. Like I said, Yaiba is not a fantastic character.
He has a great line here and there, but he is, for the most part, just boring and
forgettable. The same goes with Ryu who is just there because who cares! Ryu
only has like, three lines in the game, and Troy Baker sounds tired and bored
with the character. Again, why didn’t you bring back Josh Keaton for this role?
It doesn’t help that the overall story is a mess. It starts out as a revenge
story, but that plot element gets thrown out the window for something even more
generic. The main villain in this game is so bland, so clichéd, and so
forgettable that I am surprised the person who created the character didn’t get
fired for cheap simplistic writing. This character is obviously the worst
villain I have seen this year. I ended up not caring for anyone in the story.

Man, I just realized that 2014 is filled with games that had stories and
characters that I don’t care about. It doesn’t help either that the gameplay
gets stale and boring. Instead of keeping said elemental abilities with you,
you have to pick and choose which ability you want or else you are going to
have to wait until you platform your way through to another fight. I feel like
they wanted the combat to be strategic with what elemental ability you bring
with you, but more than half the time, it doesn’t matter. Enemies become dull
and repetitive as you go through the game; this is the same problem the last
couple of games had. There is just nothing deep or complex about its combat
system. There are barely any bosses, since enemies you encounter that are
“boss-like” end up being mini-bosses later on. Even the big bad final boss is
tedious. It obviously overstays its welcome. It seems like this game squanders
every good idea it has. I mean, three freaking developers worked on this game. The
three developers are Comcept, Spark Unlimited, and Tecmo Koei. You’re telling
me that the almighty Keiji Inafune and his company that is also making the
highly anticipated Mighty No. 9, were
involved with this game? It feels like Inafune and his company were brought in
for name value. Spark Unlimited is known for their work on one of my least disappointing
games of last year, Lost Planet 3,
and it seems like they were more focused on Lost
Planet 3
than on this game. What about the music? I haven’t even talked
about the music. That is because the music is forgettable and awful. You know
what the worst part of the music is? It is composed by Grant Kirkhope. Yeah, the extremely talented composer known for
many amazing soundtracks made the soundtrack to this game. He must have given
terrible music to work with or something, because I am finding it hard to believe
that he helped make such a lackluster soundtrack.

Final Verdict: Just download Mark of the Ninja

Unfortunately, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is not the change
that the series needed. Sure, it might have a few good things about the overall
design and experience, but to me, this is the first big disappointment of 2014.
Even with the unlockable arcade mode when you beat the main game, it isn’t
worth going through a monotonous single player campaign. There are so many
flaws with this game that it boggles the mind that the game was released like
this. I even consider this game to be this year’s Deadpool game.

At least with last year’s Deadpool, you had Nolan North’s fantastic portrayal of the
character and a lot of funny writing to keep you going, whereas Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z has none. If you
haven’t checked this game out already, I would only recommend renting it or
waiting for a price drop to $15 or less. Maybe we need to either give Ninja Gaiden a few years to chill since
the games have gotten worse after each release, or just seal the IP away and
work on something new. I really wanted to like this game, but I feel like too
many people worked on it. I think if you either let Tecmo Koei, Spark Unlimited
or Comcept do the entire thing and not split it between them, we wouldn’t have
this mess of a game. If you are looking for a great ninja game, just get Klei’s
Mark of the Ninja. Check out Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z if you are a fan
of the series, but if you aren’t, you can easily skip this game until a later
date.

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Our Verdict
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
Colorful graphics, funny cutscenes, platforming can be solid, and combat has its moments.
Boring story, forgettable main character, terrible main villain, Ryu is a bore, and sloppy execution in combat and boss fights.