Ninja Gaiden is back – but it may not be for the best.
Ever since the original Ninja Gaiden came out for the NES back in 1991, the series has continued on strong, with only a short gap of no games between 1996 and 2003. The most recent installment, out for the PS3, 360 and PC, continues on the series. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z introduces us to Yaiba Kamikaze, a young Ninja freshly off his most recent adventure of killing everyone he has ever known. Series long runner Ryu Hayabusa comes in to stop his quest to be the best ninja ever, but loses a good chunk of his body in the process.
Left for dead, some of his new pals come in, replace all his currently missing parts with robotic replacements and let him know that zombies are suddenly now appearing an he needs to kill them. Seeing that Ryu might be responsible, Yaiba decides to team up with the “Of course we are not evil, wink, wink” organization that saved him to not only stop the zombies but to also kill Ryu for making him into the awesome Barry Dillon-esque cyborg he is today.
Game play is a pretty big issue. While being a ninja robot fighting zombies sounds awesome, when you actually start controlling Yaiba, then things get wonky. Every single time Raiku seemed to be responding a bit slow. Things that should have been easily blocked were not responded in on time. Attacks that should have hit were stopped by Yaiba finding an enemy violently beating him. I thought it might be helped by switching the camera angle, but that turned out to be not an option at all. Where previous Ninja Gaiden games offered more intelligent combat, a larger area to roam and better camera angles, Ninja Gaiden Z has a sluggish combat system of only a few attacks, small arenas to fight in and one camera angle to help four murderous Robot ninja friend out.
Visually it should have been way more. The cel-shaded graphics of Borderlands or even Okami on the old PS2 were stunning, and the box art and trailers offered so much for Ninja Gaiden, but it just did not deliver. The first few minutes were promising and looked like a living comic book, but it soon turned into a living comic book on acid. Colors became blotted with all the reds used seemingly blending together at points. The action moved so fast that sometimes colors from the characters suddenly switched for a second from their original color to the color of what they had just swung around (like a sword or chain), making lag even more noticeable. Even graphics like main characters seemed boxy, with some objects even looking like they had early PS2 levels of pixelation. Audio worked though quite well, and even though the noises were very few in variety, you couldn't even notice due to the fast pace.
Build quality was OK in the large picture as action moved forward at a good pace, but with the tiny detailed graphics being thrown off. Graphics like blood from a ripped arm lagging for a few minutes in the same place, even if the arm had moved on. The same thing happened with elemental attacks, as the attack that struck the zombie would stay suspended in the air for a second, even though it should have dissipated as soon as it struck them. Again, it was just the little things that lagged. Attacks, besides being slow to use, worked.
As for glitches, there was almost none. On one swing of a chain when I had to take out many zombies, the blueish whitish “swish” motion I used stayed suspended in the air. Even when I went out of view and back it stayed in the air, as if a reminder to all other zombies in the area that this could happen to them. Besides that, the game did chug along.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is not the best game in the series and might be one of the worst installments. With poor response time to controls, graphics that are Dennis Hopper levels of trippy when they don't mean to be and down right PS2-ish at most times, little variety in terms of attack and the use of zombies as an enemy like pretty much every other game is doing, this is probably not worth a play. An OK story line is hampered by the tired use of zombies as the baddies. If you are a fan of the series, I'd say its worth a play if for nothing else than the story with Ryu. If you ever wanted to play as a robotic ninja, this might also be worth it. But for everyone else, it might be better to wait for the next Ninja Gaiden.
Rating: 4 out of 10