It has been days since I had finished this complete and utter train wreck of a game. There are things to be appreciated about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z for sure. It has a cool artstyle, an entertaining premise and an awful lot of blood.
But when I was actually playing Yaiba, none of these perceived good things were apparent anymore. I can't even get too angry at the absymal script because act of actually playing the game was that painful. After dying over 100 times, trying to finish Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, I can happily say that I don't have to ever play it again. Ninja Gaiden 3 might have sent the series into a place of irrelevance but Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z has sent it six feet under.
Like I mentioned, I actually do like the premise of Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. As you might have guessed, you don't play as Ryu Hayabusa anymore, you play as a pissed off bumhole named Yaiba, who battles Ryu at the start of the game... and fails miserably. However, Yaiba is brought back to life to help thwart a zombie horde but while he is at it, he seeks to get revenge over Mr Hayabusa himself. There is something enjoyable about this ridiculous set up and I have always liked the idea of playing as the bad guy in a game.
However, the story doesn't really go anywhere interesting after the first cutscene. All of the backstory is told through Hidden Text Logs, which do a brilliant job of highlighting how purile the writing throughout is. Games these days tend to use naughty words regularly, which can be problematic in its own right, but Yaiba takes things just too far. I won't get too specific but let's just say there are several instances of characters describing women in a way which is just appalling. The spoken dialogue isn't much better and it doesn't help that Yaiba is easily one of the unlikable main characters in a game. Outside of the first cutscene, the story is a disgrace.
Unfortunately, the gameplay doesn't fair much better. It seems decent enough at first, you have three main attacks, each of which corresponds with a specific weapon. So you use the X button to use your sword, the Y button to do a robot punch and the B button to use your flail, when playing the Xbox 360 version of course! You can combine all of these weapons together to create combos, which is fair enough but it makes Yaiba a very mashy game, as far as the combat is concerned. I liked that the previous Ninja Gaiden games had a serious amount of depth to them and you could tell that those games were made by people who were also very proficient at creating fighting games. But now, a lot of the time you are just mashing the buttons and hoping for the best. There are specific combos in the game that do much more damage but when in the thick of battle, it can be difficult keeping track of these. There is a countering system, and when you successfully counter an enemy, the game enters a slow motion mode for a short amount of time, which is a good idea but countering is so difficult, you will end up just dashing away from attacks instead.
What really ruins Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z for me are the enemies. First of all, there are plenty of zombies and these guys are easy peasy. They are slow, don't do much damage and it doesn't take much effort to take these guys out. Simple. There are also different variants of the zombies such as fire, electric and explosive zombies. These guys are fine too. However, the rest of the enemies in Yaiba are much tougher, and feel more like mini bosses. You will be battling clowns, electric brides, big fat fire guys and so on. However, the problem is that these guys take so much damage before going down and none of these guys have health bars, making these battles a real slog. All of these enemies deal out a lot of damage too andthe only way you can recover lost health is by doing executions. These can only be performed when the enemies is just about to die, which is a decent mechanic of its own but this game desperately needs either consumable health items or just health pick ups throughout the environment.
Playing through the normal difficulty of this game is just torturous. I get that the previous Ninja Gaiden games were hard too but at least they felt fair. Here, they just pile in a load of hard enemies and wish you all the best. It also doesn't help that the game has terrible fixed camera and somewhat stingy checkpoints, making everything that bit worse. At least there are a few mechanics in there to help you out, here and there.
There is a rage mode, which slowly builds up as you kill foes and when it is full, you can unleash it to do massive damage and you are also invulnerable in this mode. However, it takes ages to fill this rage meter so you can't rely on this useful mechanic often. Also, after executing the tougher enemies, you will get to use a new weapon. Depending on which type of enemy you execute, you might get a set of nun-chuckles (hilarious) or a nice shoulder blade (even more hilarious) which are handy but these weapons are very temporary and you will be forced to use your crappy default attacks over again.
There is a system in place where certain enemies are susceptible to certain types of damage. For example, when an electric enemy is hit with goo, they crystalise making them a sitting duck. Once again, this is a solid (sorry) idea but due to the temporary nature of the execution weapons, this mechanic isn't used very often.
As you eliminate monsters, you do gain experience and skill points. However, the game has a horrible skill tree, in that most of the skills really aren't that useful. It would be lovely to be able to make yourself have more health or do more damage but those aren't options here. Instead, you are probably going to go for the upgrades which allow you to cause the temporary weapons to last longer, but the rest of skills mostly give you additional moves that aren't very helpful. You can extend your health bar and decrease your susceptibility to certain elemental attacks by finding collectibles but these are pretty well hidden, often off camera, forcing you to go in strange directions to find them.
The combat throughout the game is terrible and it does make up for most of the game. Occasionally, you will do some platforming but these are very simple parts of the game where you just have to hit certain buttons at certain times to progress. It might as well be a quick-time-event. You might also need to solve a puzzle to move on but these generally involve throwing a zombie into a thing. Bad.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is not a particularly long game on paper. There are only 7 levels but most of which took me at least an hour to complete so it is of a reasonable length. For me though, because I am horrible at videogames, I spent over 2 hours trying to defeat the final boss on normal with no luck. In the end, I did have to switch to easy to finish the game. I was supposed to unlock an additional Arcade Mode but because of the way I switched difficulties at the end, I screwed myself out of trying that out and there is no way I am playing through this game again just to see it for myself!
If there is one thing about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z that is actually good are the graphics. The game has a great artstyle that is vivid and unique. The animation used for Yaiba is great and all of the enemies can get ripped open in some entertaining ways. The game moves well too with the framerate remaining locked at 30 frames at all times. The sound is perfectly good too, with exception of the horrible voice acting but to be fair, they are working with some awful material here.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z certainly had potential. The artstyle is there, the core idea is there and when you look at the game at a glance, it really doesn't look that bad. However, when you actually play the game yourself, you realise how poorly made this game is. The combat could have been fun, even in a dumb Dynasty Warriors sort of way, but it's just an absolute slog to get through.
I have never been happier to see credits in a game.
ONE OUT OF FIVE
(A terrible game whose positives aspects are practically nonexistent.)