Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Preview
If you were to look at the available media for Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, you’d probably only have one pressing question, phrased as follows: “What the hell is this?” And we wouldn’t blame you for being simultaneously confused and intrigued. Developers Team Ninja, Spark Unlimited and Comcept have come together to deliver what some are calling a franchise reboot, and others are calling a ridiculously visceral, over-the-top spinoff. Whatever you call it, this one could totally blow your mind come the end of January.
Yaiba is the anti-Ryu, the anti-hero, perhaps even the anti-Ninja Gaiden. At the start of the game, we learn that long-time protagonist Ryu and the mysterious, often drunken Yaiba were once at odds with each other. In a bloody confrontation, Ryu slices off Yaiba’s arm and the latter instantly swears revenge. He replaces his lost human arm with a sci-fi bionic one, and he’s off to slay anyone who’s unfortunate enough to cross his path. As you might expect, the bold, in-your-face color palette and fantastically demonic design make for a remarkably singular presentation. The combination of that presentation and the stirring gameplay will spur this game to success.
Well, ideally. Fans of the iconic franchise in question will wonder if this trio of developers addressed the longstanding issues that have plagued the Ninja Gaiden IP. For instance, will we still have to struggle with a problematic camera? The answer is a resounding “no,” just because they’ve opted to implement a fixed camera that zeroes in on the best possible angle for any given confrontation. They’ve also enhanced the expected dash mechanic, which will be used for both offensive and defensive purposes. If things are getting a little too hot, simply dash to another – perhaps more strategically advantageous – position. However, you’ll also want to focus on your attacks to keep the hit meter rising.
If you love stringing together bad-ass combos, that hit meter will instantly become your best friend. In addition to Yaiba’s diverse, powerful bionic arm, he also has a sword and a highly damaging chain weapon, which may be best used against annoying groups of enemies. Perhaps most intriguing is Yaiba’s ability to actually steal pieces of a foe’s body and use them as weapons. Yes, you read that correctly; we know of a certain zombie clown boss that might just lose his arms to Yaiba’s brutal assault. If that happens, the resourceful main character will actually turn those arms into a pair f nunchaku. As it turns out, making weapons out of enemy body parts will be common. Take advantage of the carnage!
And that’s precisely the sort of thing that will set this game apart. For the old-school fans, there’s an additional treat— the designers have implemented a nostalgic Arcade Mode, which turns the adventure into a side-scrolling action extravaganza. You’ll get the same visuals and gameplay, only you’ll experience it all from the old-fashioned perspective. All in all, it might be inaccurate to say that Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is the “anti-Ninja Gaiden,” as it retains much of the franchise’s core and spirit. It’ll still be plenty challenging, you’ll still block, dodge, parry and execute a series of complex combo attacks. It’s just the surroundings and story that are significantly different.
If you’re a veteran follower of the series, you might be intrigued by the fresh artistic direction, and you won’t have to worry about the gameplay. It’ll challenge your abilities to the max and at the same time, you’ll enjoy experimenting with multiple ridiculous weapons and skills. Yaiba may be one-track-minded but what he’s leaving in his wake is just plain…startling.
1/6/2014 Ben Dutka