Ninja Gaiden’s Future Rests with the Letter Z

If you fancy yourself an avid lover and robust enthusiast for action titles, you likely need no introduction to the likes of Ninja Gaiden. Casting a shadow of difficulty that was only matched by deconstructing a battle tank bare-handed, Ninja Gaiden presented beautiful visuals, deep gameplay elements and satisfying violence the industry didn’t know it loved. Before Demon’s Souls, this was the game you played if you wanted a challenge, reminding the world that being innately hard doesn’t detract from pure quality. We’ve come a long way since 2004 and the Ninja Gaiden franchise has unquestionably lost its way. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z offers to present an even more obscure route for the series to take, but it appears that this time it could be Ninja Gaiden’s true salvation.

There’s no questioning the genius of the 2004’s resurrection of Ninja Gaiden. Employing fighting game style mechanics into a twitch-based action romp, that design alone helped signify where these types of games stood and needed to turn. Ninja Gaiden: Black took those philosophies, augmented them with more options, enemies and environments and became the paradigm (next to the original God of War) of how the action genre is done. Years later, Ninja Gaiden II took to store shelves and, while still a brilliant title, it paled in comparison to its precursor. From there Tomonobu Itagaki, head of Team Ninja, resigned from Tecmo and Ninja Gaiden’s fate was unknowingly sealed.

Ninja Gaiden 3 isn’t a good game. As a matter of fact, it’s a bastardization of almost everything Ninja Gaiden wholly stands for. If you haven’t had a chance to play it and you fully enjoyed the first two games, do yourself a minor disservice and experience how a game can go so horribly wrong. Tecmo Koei has since released the Razor’s Edge version of the game, adding in what fans complained was missing, but it was too little and much too late. Depressing as it is when talking about the series since Ninja Gaiden 3 seemingly put the sword into its own back, that feeling has just recently shifted. Strangely enough, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z has materialized before us, and while it isn’t close to the same experience fans have been longing for, it could very well sate other forms of hunger.

It's safe to say that children still don't have a Ninja Gaiden game they can play.

It’s safe to say that children still don’t have a Ninja Gaiden game they can play.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is a collaboration between Team Ninja, Spark Unlimited (currently working on Lost Planet 3) and Comcept, which is Keiji Inafune’s new studio. For the uninitiated, Inafune was a long time employee under Capcom and who created Mega Man. Inafune is also most known for his strong opinions, citing that Japanese game design is a stagnating market. While Spark Unlimited doesn’t exactly have a stellar track record, it appears Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is what this series needs.

We don’t know a whole lot about the new game yet, but what we do know is that you’re going to play a former ninja who was slain by established series protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa. Seminal as it sounds, it gets better. Rising from the grave, this new protagonist of sorts will sport cybernetics on his arm and eye that will directly affect gameplay. It should also be mentioned that there’s a widespread zombie outbreak, so you’ll need to eviscerate other undead in order to get to your killer. Fancy.

Say what you will about the visuals, but they look rather nice.

Say what you will about the visuals, but they look rather nice.

Ridiculous as it all sounds, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is the perfect example of how someone like Inafune can come in and shake up the entire formula in a grand way. The truth we have to face is that Ninja Gaiden will never be what it was, but if we can get a fast-paced action oriented title with a seminal, interesting storyline, that is a game I’ll take over Ninja Gaiden 4 any day. Some might have a problem with the game’s insane direction and style of humor, but it’s a direction that could use some exploration. Sure, there might be some silly situations where you attach a couple zombie arms to make some form of nunchuk, but it’s already been promised that along with the exaggeration, the game will have a serious tone.

If there’s one thing that’s certain out of all of this, it’s that Inafune surely knows what he’s doing. He’s not the kind of developer whose style is to stick with what he knows. We’re going to get a radically different Ninja Gaiden for sure, but wouldn’t you rather have something that’s fun and worthwhile than derivative and safe?

Excuse me, ladies. Does this dark, foreboding outfit make me look fat?

Excuse me, ladies. Does this dark, foreboding outfit make me look fat?

How excited are you for Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z? Do you think it’s a good idea or worse idea than a Ninja Gaiden tactical card game? Let us know in the comments below!