Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z PS3 review – You’ll wish there was a harakiri button
They say too many cooks spoil the broth, and when the chefs in question already have a reputation for not taking the whole ‘hand washing after toilet trips’ rule too seriously, you can go ahead and pour that soup away. Such is the case with Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, a collaboration between Team Ninja, Spark Unlimited and Keiji Inafune’s Comcept. Only the latter studio’s rep was unsullied before, but they should all be ashamed after this.
Taking loose inspiration from previous Ninja Gaiden titles and a pinch of Inafune’s Dead Rising, Yaiba asks but one thing of you: kill wave after wave of on-screen enemies, quick sharp. You arrive, mutter something offensive over the radio to your absurdly proportioned female sidekick, then press Triangle, Circle and Square until all the zombies, clowns, robot dogs and electrified undead brides are no more. Sadly, this doesn’t even begin to convey the abject, tongue-biting wretchedness of actually playing the thing.
Effectively you’re in a game-long boss battle with the camera. As enemies pour into your periphery, it zooms out to leave you genuinely guessing your location while framerates plunge into single figures. Mid-boss-fight, it zooms in and forms invisible walls which leave you trapped beneath an imminent attack. While enduring its QTE-driven platforming sequences, it obstructs your vision of the next prompt, leaving you to die.
And trust me, you die a lot. Each area requires that you survive several waves of enemies to progress, and if you’re killed by the last enemy in the final wave, it’s right back to the start of the fight with you. With a decent camera, this would be an incredibly difficult feat thanks to all the horrible teleporting enemies and their frustrating and unblockable attacks. With Yaiba’s camera, it’s absolutely insurmountable.
Eventually, you prevail, or enemies will clip through the scenery and fall off a ledge. “Whatever untold miseries Yaiba has in store”, you tell yourself, “at least I’ve done that b*stard robot dog boss fight.” Then 15 minutes later, two of them show up with a bunch of zombs who hurl bile all over the screen. Yaiba gives no consideration to the certainty you have to play most areas ten times over, merrily repeating the same garbled character dialogue. It holds your time in the absolute highest contempt, and invites the same attitude back at itself.
It holds your time in the absolute
highest contempt, and invites
he same attitude back at itself
There are bizarre flashes of quality: Yaiba’s actual moveset, some of its voice acting and visual design seem to be just visiting from another, better game. But even these wear off on the 20th attempt at the same horrifically designed arena fight, and Yaiba’s staggering failure to create a coherent camera, combat finesse, likeable characters, interesting levels, or even playable platforming sequences is unforgivable. Yaiba is guilty of the most heinous crime: creating difficulty not with precision combat, but with myriad borked design calls and some utterly broken camera work.