E3 2013 Preview: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is bloody, hilarious fun

During the first day of E3 this year, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z had the distinct honor of being the most surprising game I checked out. While I had been following the game ever so slightly, my time seeing it in action, speaking with the devs, and eventually playing it for myself has led me to become stupidly excited for this game. If you dig action games that are just bat sh*t insane, you're going to want to keep a lookout for this fusion of zombies and ninjas. Yes, both of these awesome things are in this game. I believe the phrase you're looking for is, “Aww, yeah!”

The demo opened up with a battle between Yaiba Kamikaze and Ryu Hayabusa. It was literally seconds before things got ridiculously insane, and I witnessed the two characters leap toward each other with blades in hand, causing a freakin' explosion as they clashed. Seriously. An explosion. Holy crap! Of course, the events that followed ultimately led to an explosion of blood. Like, a sword slash actually caused an explosion of blood. Absolute glorious insanity.

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It's not all wacky blood fountains and people explosions, however (even though it kind of is — not that that's a bad thing). Ninja Gaiden Z features a fun art style that consists of cel-shaded graphics. Everything sports bold outlines, and the use of color is quite pleasing. The game not only has a different feel from Ninja Gaiden proper, but it has a new look to back up that style. Additionally, the graphics help to emphasize the fact that this isn't just the latest follow-up in the series, but rather a bold new direction starring another a character.

Combat is fast-paced and intuitive, allowing you to perform weak and strong attacks. At certain times you can perform special moves such as the Meat Slapper, which consists of Yaiba grabbing a zombie and swinging it around to hit other enemies. There's also Ninja Time, a time-slowing effect that allows you to slice away at baddies before they can even react.

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You can equip “zombie weapons” when you successfully pull off a timing-based finisher. These weapons consist of limbs ripped from the bodies of your undead foes. You can dual wield zombie arms and bludgeon other enemy characters to death, or you can do something more extreme like kill a boss named Scorcher, take his head, and use it as a flamethrower. Just like in real life!

While the action parts of Ninja Gaiden Z are overflowing with combat, there are other sequences that require some platforming. If you find yourself at a dead end, all you need to do is observe your surroundings, and you'll quickly find a way to move on. Blood stains are usually seen on walls Yaiba can climb, but there are also ledges for him to jump to and hang from. While the focus is clearly on the zombie-killing, these sequences help to break up the brawling a bit.

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Sometimes moving on to another area means performing an environmental kill. One of these seen in the demo involved tossing a zombie into a truck. The truck began to move, and another zombie started walking in front of the vehicle. The zombie in the driver's seat waved off the “pedestrian” zombie, but the other zombie didn't listen, so he was crushed under the truck, as was a wall obstructing Yaiba's path. Another environmental kill I saw featured a bus soaring off a ramp and landing suggestively in between a structure of two giant female legs. Crass and unnecessary? Maybe. Awesome and hilarious? Absolutely.

While I was certainly interested in seeing what Ninja Gaiden Z had to offer at E3, I wasn't expecting to become so enamored with it. This is the kind of game that isn't meant to be a serious or overbearing zombie title. Instead, it's bloody and raunchy, and it's filled to the brim with nonstop action. Regardless of whether or not you're a fan of the Ninja Gaiden series, this game is one to watch out for if you dig arcade hack-and-slash experiences. Oh, and if you like the idea of using a fire-breathing monster's head as a weapon. That was pretty cool, too.

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