Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z took over this past weekend’s New York Comic Con in spectacular fashion. Not only did the PR team participate in a Zombie Crawl in Times Square but they also provided a hands-on opportunity with the game at various events throughout the weekend.
The demo is preceded by an opening cinematic taking place 2 years prior to the start of the game. It shows the ninja Yaiba crossing swords with Ninja Gaiden’s main hero Ryu Hyabusa in a bamboo grove. The battle between the two is fast and furious but the end result leaves Yaiba nearly decapitated and missing one arm. When he reappears at the start of the game he is now a cyborg with a mechanical arm and glowing red eye. The demo does not give any explanation for the horde of zombies he then encounters but thus far the story seems intriguing nonetheless.
The most notable departure from Ninja Gaiden is the cel-shaded visuals. These games have always been a blood bath but the more stylized graphics and undead enemies take the gore to artistic new heights.
Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z is meant to be easier and more accessible than the notoriously difficult series it is spun off of. The hack and slash controls are similar to those of the Ninja Gaiden series, except that Yaiba is not able to jump. Instead, the X button causes him to dash forward. The lack of jumping removes the platforming elements from previous games but Yaiba still gets vertical at times to traverse through levels. Using the L1 button you can switch on his cybernetic vision allowing him to lock on to enemies and a special wall mount he can leap on to. These navigation segments are usually strung together by a series of button prompts that result in Yaiba smashing through a wall of some sort.
Using the circle button you can grab hold of zombies. At that point you can either use said zombie as a weapon to strike others zombies or hurl it as a projectile. Certain enemies will display the circle button over their heads before you defeat them, prompting a finishing move of some sort. When this happens you have to follow the onscreen circle timer to press the button at just the right time. One finisher resulted in Yaiba ripping a zombie’s arm off then stringing them together as “numb-chucks” which he used against his remaining foes. On two occasions I had to pick up a zombie and throw it into a truck so it could drive the vehicle into a wall. The game displays a quirky sense of humor by having Yaiba revel in delight as panties rain down on him from the clothing store he just blew up.
Bigger and stronger zombies occasionally show up to provide more of a challenge than the repetitive zombie grunts. These bulkier enemies usually required evasive techniques or blocks. If timed correctly a well executed block will lead to an opportunity where time slows down, allowing you to slice through the enemy unimpeded.
Towards the end of the demo I encountered a flaming zombie that could only be attacked from a distance. After throwing zombie after zombie at the boss the flame eventually went out, allowing me to go in for the kill. Once this foe and the remaining horde were put down, a giant two-headed baby-like zombie entered the fray, at which point the demo came to a sudden end.
Overall, it was a short but sweet taste of this more stylized entry in the Ninja Gaiden series. The developers (a collaboration between Team Ninja and Comcept’s Keiji Inafune) and publishers seem quite confident that the addition of zombies and a simplified play style will attract new fans to the series. Also announced at the show was a Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z digital comic, produced in collaboration with Dark Horse Comics. Yaiba Ninja Gaiden Z is coming to the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Steam sometime in early 2014.
As an added bonus here is a picture of your favorite zombified videogame journalist: