Am I the only one who looks at a game on the shelf and thinks that it just needs to go? It’s an eyesore, and is bothering my multiple copies of GolGol 13: Top Secret Episode. This sucks too, because I am a huge fan of the series. I love Ninja Gaiden, but the games were beginning to go downhill anyway, and though this one had Team Ninja and Keiji Inafune watching over it, the majority of the development was handled by Spark Unlimited, which has yet to really hit a title out of the park. The trailers for the game didn’t impress me, but the art style and concept was enough for me to pick it up on the cheap. What if one of Ryu Hyabusa’s enemies came back pissed off and with cyborg parts with a story that was a little more tongue and cheek instead of mystical? I like it! But then I played Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z and quickly realized the horrible mistake I made.
I have no clue where to start here…
Yaiba somehow manages to be annoying and utterly boring.
Not everything is bad. The game starts off being kind of fun, but that is short lived. There is an awesome opening cutscene that shows Yaiba’s death at Ryu’s hands and sets an excellent tone. The game is done in cel-shaded animation that looks good and some of the grindhouse style introductions honestly work, but there is just not much else I can say that about.
So to be fair, a lot of the negative things I am about to say concerning this game can be said about the previous Ninja Gaiden games as well, but they handle it better. Those titles make up for their flaws with strong gameplay, environment, and tone, which Yaiba has no clue how to do. Ryu Hyabusa is not the most interesting protagonist in video game history for sure, but Yaiba somehow manages to be annoying and utterly boring. Honestly, had my copy not come with a brief graphic novel to explain his history, I would care nothing about him. The same goes for the story, except it didn’t have any literature to lean on. The plot is all over the place and does not feel like a story set in the series’ universe, but rather like bad Ninja Gaiden fan-fiction. I consider this particular game non-cannon, because if I don’t the erotica version will surely happen next.
One of the aspects the marketing geniuses tried to push through the trailers was the humor; better described as excessive shock and gore that culminates in tasteless vulgarity These humorous moments they go for come closer to being goofy or just insulting the players intellect. When Duke Nukem Forever almost did the style of humor better, it is time to hire an actual comedy writer or give up on that dream. The story parts also try too hard to make Yaiba feel like this violent badass who is Ryu’s equal, but that does not come across at all, nor is it backed up by the actual gameplay.
Combat is the center focus of the game and it is bad. The player has three main attacks—sword, mechanical arm, and flail—which each have their own dedicated buttons, a fact that I thought was cool at first until I realized how limited the combo system was. There is a dash to evade and create distance as well as a counterattack that is hard to do because of the presentation. There is so much happening on the screen at once that it’s difficult to time. The camera, as with all of the previous games in the series of that generation, is horrible and tough to deal with, even after messing with the options. It may be at an all time bad here with Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z because of the animations and fixed angles though, causing players to miss counters, executions, and getting lost in the sea of enemies. The enemies themselves are part of the problem. They may seem creative at first with the different types of zombies, but get used to seeing them, because there will be waves upon waves at every turn. Each enemy has an elemental gimmick and usually comes up as a mini-boss before being mixed into the general population. The issue is that the game increases its difficulty in later levels simply by throwing in more and more enemies and making the health bonuses and elemental resistance pieces hard to find. This is more like fake difficulty and not creative in the slightest. It all feels sloppy, but the biggest offense is how repetitive and painfully boring it becomes. Add to that the lack of response to the controls, making Yaiba feel sluggish, the over simplified platforming, and irritating quick time events, and the gameplay feels like a joke.
The game is a neutered version of its predecessors with an extremely limited upgrade system where everything sounds useless, linear paths that took out the exploration, and cheap deaths. There is nothing to learn from failing, just a frustration of not being able to button mash the way the developers wanted, constantly hammering the square peg into a round hole.
Yaiba left a horrible taste in my mouth.
It all culminates in package that feels more like an interactive headache than a game. The title is relatively short but feels much longer because of all the frustration. It was about the time I fought the multiple giant toxin spewing babies that I placed the controller down and questioned my life decisions, but I had only paid about $8 for the game new. I was more accurately just punishing myself and feeding my masochistic nature. I am amazed I beat the game, but felt absolutely no satisfaction when it ended, as I do with many others. The mini game players unlock by beating the story mode is certainly more fun than the full experience itself, and not just because of the retro side-scrolling style and nostalgic music it uses.
I wanted to get rid of Yaiba because it left a horrible taste in my mouth. I know I will never touch it again and that the sight of it will only bring back bad memories, but the box looks nice on the shelf with my other PS3 titles, at least to those who don’t know the suffering it causes. For anyone who does not believe me though, sealed copies of the game are quite cheap for obvious reasons. It will remain in the Wilds Collection until it catches my ire once again, but I cannot recommend anyone else waste their time on it.