Enter the Ninja!
Meet Yaiba, an angry half-cyborg half-human raging through endless swarms of fire breathing, acid spitting living dead, seeking his revenge.
Revenge for what, you may ask? Well we only get to know that Yaiba encounters Ryu Hayabusa, the celebrated Ninja Gaiden hero, at the beginning of the game and is eventually killed by him. Later on, Yaiba is resurrected as an android with only one goal for him to accomplish: Kill Ryu Hayabusa and seek justice.
It’s a forgettable, cliche story that you will soon set aside the moment you start the game. But story is not why you would want to play games like Yaiba, is it?
Yaiba’s real beauty lies in the infinite amount of fun it offers players with fast thumbs to unleash insane combos and devastating finishing moves as they clear areas from enemies, utilizing three main attack buttons: light sword slash, heavy slash and a secondary weapon attack button. You start with only one weapon at your disposal, your Katana blade, and a flail as a secondary weapon, but will soon acquire temporary but powerful secondary weapons upon defeating a mini bosses (Rigor Mortar, anyone ?).
As in most hack and slash games, blocking and dodging are crucial to avoid critical damage from strong attacks and avoid becoming over swarmed with endless enemies on screen, you also have a counter attack button that allows you to send unwanted gifts back to their sender. Blend all these tactics under your command and unleash them in a furious tornado that will consume everything in front of you!
The mechanics in Yaiba are simple: Mash up the buttons in a gazillion possible ways to unleash devastating combos that gain you experience points to use in a tree-design level up system where you can learn new moves or upgrade current moves. You can even use an enemy to beat up other enemies, taking control of a fire enemy to burn an entire army of undead, for example, or even toss that same enemy at a volatile environment to create an explosion that will take down everyone in sight. Your game, your call.
Being an android, Yaiba of course has a mechanical arm which can be used a-la Bionic Commando to swing from platforms and climb walls or descend to lower levels. It can also be charged up to deliver a knockout punch that will send tons of enemies in your path to oblivion. As a cherry on top, the more you kill stiffs (living dead), the more your rage meter increases, and once it is full, you can unleash your full potential in one go as you pull off a slashing feast and become powerful and invincible for a period of time. With enemies ranging from fire breathing corpses to acid spitters, to electrocuting brides, addorned with some weird creations ranging from human rocket launchers to a huge mech, the devastation can be satisfying.
In addition to the blood bath you leave behind in your path of destruction as you progress in the game, Yaiba has some environmental puzzles which require you to apply your skills and other elements on to solve in order to move to the next area. The game may feel repetitive at some points, but the fast pace and the crazy combos and moves put you in an endless loop of infinite fun ignoring everything else around you.
Though the graphics are cel shaded and look like a water-color painting, the locations are too similar and forgettable. There are no major graphical glitches, but I did encounter a few frame drops at times where there were a lot of enemies on screen, specially when Yaiba was on rage mode. This was a bit annoying and interrupted the flow of the fight.
With an average play through of 5 to 6 hours, players have plenty to go through before reaching the final showdown. In spite of its forgettable level design and pointless audio tunes here and there, the flood of fun Yaiba unleashes upon you makes you forget all that and blend in the tons of madness that begins when you press that start button and ends with the credit roll.
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is available on PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, PC. A review code was made available to us via Pluto Games.