Every once in a while, spin-offs of existing games come up to liven things up and show a twist to what’s familiar. However, when that includes something that many agree to be overdone and cliche, then maybe it’s best to leave it be. The Yakuza series had Yakuza: Dead Souls, which was not really necessary (and it didn’t help that the 2011 Tohoku earthquake/tsunami delayed its release). That wasn’t the end though as another Japanese franchise has been given the zombie treatment with Yaiba.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a spin-off of the well-known action franchise that doesn’t take much from its predecessors. However, it’s not like any Ninja Gaiden game out there as it doesn’t star Ryu Hayabusa and it has zombies in it. Developed by Team Ninja (how apropos) and published by Tecmo Koei Games, it is a Ninja Gaiden game only by name, but not by deed at all. Instead, it’s a zombie game with clumsy ninjas and crude humor at best. But for what it does try to do though, it does nominally well. It’s like Tecmo Koei is taking on Capcom’s Dead Rising with this game.
While rough around the edges, its presentation does alright for itself, with cel-shaded graphics that give it a comic book look. The voice acting is alright for the most part, but maybe you wouldn’t want to listen to it anyway since it’s just full of perverted one-liners. The visuals, characters, and the flimsy toothpick framework of a plot then follow suit, with one of the first things you get see in the game are cleavages (boobs, gazungas, and pulsating chesticles). It draws comparisons to last year’s Deadpool, with both featuring combo-based combat and low-brow humor.
The combat system, while less refined than in Ninja Gaiden Sigma, is competent at the very least, with counters that make fighting fairly entertaining. It may be hard to keep track of the action though when there are a lot of enemies on the screen, mostly due to the janky in-game camera. In between combat sequences is exploration, which also include puzzle elements to mix things up. There are different types of elemental zombies, which can then be used to manipulate the environment to solve these puzzles, from charging energy stations to blowing up walls and obstacles. For zombies, that is quite a good bit of enemy variety unseen in most other zombie-themed games.
It doesn’t really have that air of dignity that most Ninja Gaiden games exude due to this characterisitc crudeness, but perhaps it’s also what makes up its charm. Yaiba doesn’t pretend to be subtle in any way, but it does pretend to be a Ninja Gaiden game that it’s not. Despite the protagonist’s references to Ryu Hayabusa and how much he wants to kill him, there isn’t much else that you can pin on him as a Ninja Gaiden character. Yaiba is not for those who are looking for high art as it’s fairly entertaining from start to finish. It tries to be this generation’s Duke Nukem, but at a time when Duke would not have been so hot as seen in his latest outing. But if you’re just looking for an action title that lets you kill cannon fodder, then this fits the bill.
The fact that it bears the Ninja Gaiden name, even as subtitle, means that it will be compared to that franchise right from the get-go. Even if we are to see this more as a DmC clone with zombies, it’s fine as weekend rental fare that you can play after work or finishing your homework. It’s crude and may not live past halfway the second playthrough, but at least it’s not completely a mess. But perhaps what makes this game not viable is its price point.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is at $60, which is the same as something like Titanfall. But with what has been said about this game thus far, there is no point in paying that much for this game, so you may want to wait for it to go down if you are actually interested in playing this.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 6/10