While the combat itself is very fluid and fast moving, the camera is a major hindrance in this game. The camera is focused too closely on Yaiba most of the time when moving around the map, leading to very awkward camera angles and the inability to see ahead of you at times. However, the worst camera work comes in battle segments with a large battle area. It will zoom out way too far to where you can’t hardly tell where you are on the screen, especially when amongst a lot of enemies. This gets worse when fighting enemies like Zombrides that require a strategy to defeat and cannot just hack and slash your way through blindly. This often leads to the bad kind of frustration in gaming that gets old very quickly.
The game does not really feature but one true boss battle, as all of those prior end up reoccurring later in the game, so they seem more like mini-bosses. However, the mini-bosses are a lot of fun, especially when knowing you will likely be acquiring a new ability after. The final boss battle, which really reminded me of Bongo Bongo from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time due to his design, required a lot of strategy to take down by utilizing multiple of the special weapons we have been able to acquire throughout the game.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z provides somewhat of a level-up system through a perks tree. As you level up, you will get 1 upgrade point that can be used anywhere on the map. Some of these can be useful, but a lot of them ended up being superfluous to me after awhile. While they are fine, the main problem I had with them is the fact that I was able to unlock all 24 perks in one playthrough of the game. As a rule, any sort of upgrade system should not be able to be completed in one playthrough, as you want it to keep bringing you back for more after the fact.
Building upon that, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is way too short at only between four and five hours, at most. I played through the game and will admit I died a good number of times on a few stages in very difficult segments and I still completed the game in less than four hours and forty-five minutes. For a full $60 game, this is not a good thing. The multiple difficulty levels may bring you back, but I really did wish the game itself was a lot longer. Due to the linear nature of the game, there isn’t much of anything you can do to prolong the experience, outside of a difficulty boost. There are collectibles you can play through to find again, as well as the retro mode, but the game is still quite short regardless.
With the producer behind the game behind the game being Keiji Inafune, there is no surprise that the character designs are fantastic, specifically with the protagonist Yaiba. The cel-shaded art style is fitting for this more comic-like game, which can be especially seen through the use of comic panels in the end of stage cutscenes. The dark colors seen throughout most of this game come across very well with this art style, especially with the addition of color from fire and bile of certain enemies during the game.
One of the best elements of this game is the inclusion of humor, something that the mainline Ninja Gaiden series mostly lacks. Yaiba has plenty of one liners in the game, mostly when interacting with the one who brought him back to life named Miss Monday. One such interaction was when she was asking Yaiba a question and he quickly responds by saying “Better question. Where is Hayabusa and why isn’t my foot up his ass?” Little moments like this can easily crack you up, but the zombies themselves can be funny too. One such moment came when you are first introduced to the Burning Stiff zombies and another regular zombie standing nearby pulls out a cigarette and tries to get a light off of the flaming zombie.
Overall, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a very fun experience thanks to fluid combat, fantastic art style, and a very high difficulty level. The game feels like Ninja Gaiden at heart, but takes elements of other recent games like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance to enhance the experience. However, the game is hindered by a number of issues, such as an awkward camera, a mostly disappointing perks system, and the fact that it is way too short. As a result, it is hard to recommend this game at full price, but is certainly worth picking up at a cheaper price later or as a rental, especially if you enjoy hack and slash games.
[Editor’s Note:Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z was reviewed on the PlayStation 3. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Review,