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Preview: Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z or, how is this not a Suda 51 game?

Ninja Gaiden Screenshot - Yaiba

“F%@k.”

With one expletive and a fountain of blood, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z immediately sets itself apart from previous Ninja Gaiden games.

Yaiba is, stylistically, the jolt the Ninja Gaiden series needed. I adore the Ninja Gaiden games released over the last decade or so, but the storytelling and setting was some of the most lifeless, idiotic nonsense I’ve ever endured for fun gameplay. Yaiba might trade substance for style, but what it loses in combat depth it makes up for ten-fold in spectacle.

The demo opens with a battle between a belligerent Yaiba and the quiet Ryu Hayabusa, star of the previous Ninja Gaiden games. Yaiba loses spectacularly, lets out the previously mentioned F-bomb, and explodes into a fountain of blood. From there, the game fast forwards to sometime in the future, where Yaiba is half-robot and still looking to get back at Ryu. Oh, and there are zombies.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

The gameplay is a similar hack and slash style to older Ninja Gaiden games, but everything I fought in the demo was little more than mindless cannon fodder. Within minutes, I was nailing 50+ hit combos in ridiculously flashy bloodbaths. As I eviscerated zombies, their limbs turned into weapons I could pick up and use, like nunchuk limbs.

Between a giant zombie baby, an explosion that causes a rain of panties from the sky, and a busty lady giving you direction over a radio, Yaiba feels a whole lot like a Suda 51 game. It isn’t, but that’s still a compliment. Sure, on their own those things all sound a bit dumb, but it’s the difference between presenting these things in a joking way, or a sad, pandering way like the previous Ninja Gaiden games did. I imagine if there are any shiny, giant-breasted ladies in dominatrix outfits running around Yaiba’s world, the game will at least poke fun at it.

Suda 51 might not be on board, but that doesn’t mean the game lacks talent behind it. Team Ninja has brought in Keiji Inafune’s as a producer on the game. Between his work at Capcom and his latest games like Soul Sacrifice and the upcoming Mighty No. 9, Inafune continues to be one of my all-time favorite game developers, so this is some pretty exciting news for Yaiba.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

My main concern with Yaiba at this point is that the combat might be a bit too simplistic. Of course, the demo is meant for a general audience so it may have been toned down, but I hope that the game at least offers something with some bite for Ninja Gaiden fans. Even if it means cranking the game up to the highest difficulty, I hope it provides a good challenge to compliment its great style.

Beyond the jokes and zombies, Yaiba is also a stunning-looking game. It uses a cel-shaded style with a ton of detail and color. The demo I played had some framerate issues, but hopefully those will be ironed out before release. Even better would be to see these visuals running on PS4 and Xbox One, but so far it’s only coming to 360, PS3, and PC (PC will probably be the version to get).

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

After Ninja Gaiden 3’s ridiculous attempt at morality and that series’ painfully self-serious storytelling, it’s great to see Yaiba having more fun with the concept. Losing the in-depth gameplay along with it is a tough sacrifice, but based on what I’ve played so far, I have high hopes that Inafune and Team Ninja will bring something special next year.

Enjoy random thoughts about the latest games, the Sega Saturn, or the occasional movie review? Follow me @JoeDonuts!

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Joe Donato Video games became an amazing, artful, interactive story-driven medium for me right around when I played Panzer Dragoon Saga on Sega Saturn. Ever since then, I've wanted to be a part of this industry. Somewhere along the line I, possibly foolishly, decided I'd rather write about them than actually make them. So here I am.
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