Up Up Down Down: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z
What happens when you get former Mega Man designer Keiji Inafune and his company Comcept and team them up with Team Ninja? Apparently, you get a delightfully wacky zombie game set in the Ninja Gaiden universe. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is heavy on the hack-and-slash action, dripping with (entertainingly) asinine adult humor, and filled with ridiculous moments. Unfortunately, a number of imperfections rear their ugly heads all too often. Even then, Ninja Gaiden Z is good, goofy fun.
Let's take a look at everything that makes this joint venture between Comcept's Inafune and Team Ninja's Yosuke Hayashi worth playing, as well as the missteps it suffers from along the way.
Up Up: Deliciously deranged action
Ninja Gaiden Z has drawn comparisons to Suda51's line of stylistically nonsensical action games. While you can certainly classify this particular hack-and-slash title as a “crazy Japanese game,” I personally didn't find it all that similar to games like Lollipop Chainsaw, No More Heroes, or Killer Is Dead. Still, like those games, Ninja Gaiden Z proudly embraces its silliness, and it's filled with countless moments where you take zombies apart and beat them up with their own body parts. The arcade action is undeniably satisfying, and taking down hordes of the undead in pleasantly gruesome ways is a blast.
Down Down: Lacks depth
It's not often that we see arcadey action games sporting some massively deep gameplay mechanics, and Ninja Gaiden Z is no different. Defeating enemies grants you experience that you can use to level up and assign new moves to the titular Yaiba. But despite this customization feature, nothing in the game screams depth. Levels are fairly straightforward, enemies repeat way too often, and the same strategies can be employed over and over during boss fights. Ninja Gaiden Z is fun, but it's in no way a profound experience.
Up Up: Snazzy comic book visual style
Comcept and Team Ninja did a good job of creating something that both looks and feels like a true spin-off. While there's a slight Ninja Gaiden-ness to the game, the graphical style is largely unique from past entries. The whole thing looks like a wild zombie comic book set in a disastrous post-apocalyptic urban wasteland. It's not a graphical powerhouse, but Ninja Gaiden Z boasts an appropriately gritty look that's pretty badass.
Down Down: Ludicrously short
For better or for worse, you can easily get through this game in one sitting. Because Ninja Gaiden Z isn't deep, that may not be too much of a problem. At the same time, however, there's a complete lack of lasting value, which makes the $60 price tag a bit steep. Even despite some collectibles, multiple difficulty settings, and an unlockable mode, don't expect to spend loads of time playing.
Up Up: Hilariously crass at times
The sexual themes and foul mouthed nature of Ninja Gaiden Z may be a bit much for some, but if you dig joyously stupid moments, you'll be glad to know that there are more than a handful here. The best example I can think of is when Yaiba sends a bus crashing down between a pair of wide open mechanical legs. You have to love a good suggestive theme!
Down Down: Cheap difficulty spikes
As fun and hilarious as Ninja Gaiden Z can be at times, it can be totally frustrating, too. Taking on waves of zombies isn't too bad, but more often than not, you'll encounter stronger enemy types that relentlessly gang up on you. The Ninja Gaiden series is known for its high difficulty, but this spin-off feels kind of cheap at times. It's strange and off-putting when the moments leading up to a boss are more frustratingly difficult than the boss battle itself.
Left Right Left Right: Ninja Gaiden Z is a solid spin-off
It's hard to say what audience Ninja Gaiden Z is for. Longtime series fans may not find it as rewarding or dig the more comedic direction, or they may actually love it because it's so different. Action game fans are bound to find some enjoyment in this title, but it may get a tad frustrating. Then there's the short campaign, which makes the price point kind of unreasonable. Either way, if it's an entertaining Ninja Gaiden spin-off you're after, Ninja Gaiden Z is still worthwhile due to its laugh-out-loud moments, blatant goofiness, and purely brutal action.
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