If you grew up in the NES era, Ninja Gaiden is an easily recognizable gaming brand name. In fact, in my not so subtle attempts once every other post to my make Plug-In readers and myself feel old, 2014 is the 25th Anniversary of the original’s release. Yes, let that sink in for a moment before I move on to mention how memorable those games were, and how unmemorable some of the latest games have been. My opinion of course – I thought Ninja Gaiden II for the XBox 360/PS3 wasn’t the greatest, though the XBox-era rebirth before it was pretty good.
Release Date: March 18th 2014
Overall Rating: M for Mature
Now, our friends at Tecmo return with the last addition to the Ninja Gaiden Family. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a graphically intense, colorful run through the vantage point of Yaiba Kamikaze, a ninja bent on helping stop spread the world’s zombie infection in Eastern Europe, along with exacting revenge on original series hero Ryu Hayabusa, for whom he looks to exact revenge following a gory challenge he previously lost. Yaiba nearly came to his death at the hands of Ryu, and has a cyborg-esque arm, and red robotic eye (not unlike Kano from Mortal Kombat.)
Wait – Zombies you say? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that zombies continue to be the “it” thing so much that it’s now the focal point of a Ninja Gaiden game too. I thought the Zombie fad would be like 8-track tapes, the WWF Attitude Era or Kris Kross, but it’s had some good staying power, and it seems like every game series wants to take on their spin.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z has the same basic play mechanics you’ve come to expect from the series. It’s going to be really hard, and there’s going to be a lot of non-stop melee action. This is something series fans have come to love, and this should be no exception either. There’s a lot of button mashing, combo-creating goodness, as Yaiba is set up from the vantage point of a ¾ arcade-style view. Add a somewhat over the top comedic storyline, and a really dark storyline (both psychologically and visually) and that rounds out the basics here. Think of it similarly to something like EA’s underrated and underappreciated title Shadows of the Damned in that regard.
This seems to be a title skewed very heavily toward melee combat fans that don’t necessarily need strategy, complicated power-up systems or dozens of weapon choices to have a good time. If you scale back to those simple times when titles like Double Dragon and Final Fight were our combat game best friends, you only needed your fists, strategy, an occasional powerup weapon and somebody’s discarded chicken leg on the ground for a health boost (along with immediately ignoring the 5 second rule.) This is basically going to be one of those games with a 21st century kick. Some games have just needlessly over-complicated themselves, adding dozens of different side quests or side objectives in addition to the linear storyline itself. This doesn’t do any of that. It’s just a story-driven, gory, Point-A-to-Point-B kind of killfest. Sometimes, all you need after a hard day at the office or after looking after the kids is to pop a title in your system and just sit back and play without worrying about complicated combat systems.
Before you jump into the game, however, it’s best to get all of the back story (since you’re otherwise going to have to piece everything together from fragments throughout the game) via Dark Horse and their digital comic, which can be accessed here
Otherwise, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is now available for the Playstation 3 and XBox 360. If you’re a series fan and only have the Nintendo systems, the original trilogy is available for Virtual Console, and the original was just released for the Wii U earlier last month. Happy gaming!