Playing the role of Yaiba instead of Ninja Gaiden regular Ryu Hayabusa seems like an interesting design choice, especially when turning Ryu into the antagonist, but the story is shallow and devoid of interesting motifs or characters. Yaiba acts as the playable character, seeking vengeance after Ryu bests him in combat and chops off his arm in a bold presentation to throw you into the action straight away, but the tradeoff being that we cannot connect or understand Yaiba outside of his singular motive. Which all comes to nothing, as Yaiba may be 2014’s most despicable and disinteresting protagonist.
Topping off the tragic excuse of a story is the game’s blatant sexism and pathetic excuse of ‘comedy’. The humour is juvenile and utterly disgusting. It’s one thing to have black/dark humour, another to just thrust sex and gore onto the screen and practically grabbing the player and telling them to laugh. The sexism is so childish and immature that to get angry about it isn’t even worth the effort, and hell, at least all of this follows a pattern so you could hardly accuse Yaiba of acting inconsistently. One must feel sorry for the pathetic skills of the writer/s that were hired to write this drivel, or applaud the dozen monkeys that were trained to write SOMETHING that was coherent, if barely.
Yaiba briefly comes alive with some sleek looking animations and a cel-shaded look that manages to be a little interesting to look at. Unfortunately as I will explain later on, it’s these two things that will directly contradict the gameplay and actually makes the game worse to play.
The colour scheme works fine, but when you throw in hundreds of enemies, a huge hit counter, an intrusive HUD and a fixed camera that does not work, it’s a complete and utter mess, and makes what should be a unique looking game look forgettable and terrible. The collision detection is completely off and the constant pop-ups that completely intrude the combat (something that pissed off many Far Cry 3 players until they patched it out) is such a detriment to the game. But hey, as long as the game plays good, who cares about graphics, right?
The crux of the Ninja Gaiden series has always been its tightly refined combat, tough mechanics and punishing difficulty (ignoring the third instalment seeing as that was a complete disgrace). What made Ninja Gaiden Black/NG2/ ? so good was how tough the enemies were, how they would smartly counter your attacks forcing you to adapt on the spot with ultra fast combos, mixing it up with different weapons and magical powers that would help turn the tide of the battle. Yes, Ninja Gaiden had a near perfect combat system (second only to that of Bayonetta or Devil May Cry 3), so naturally, the next step was to add zombies. To add mindless shambling crowds of zombies that holds none of these qualities of previous games’ enemies, no semblance of smart and fast combat, Ninja Gaiden has truly jumped the shark here.
Yaiba is a complete mess gameplay wise, and a further betrayal to the Ninja Gaiden name that was so cruelly spat on already by the third instalment. What was once a tightly wound and finely tuned combat system has now been reduced to a button mashing mindless mess, a shamble of spamming buttons and mindless repetitive asinine gameplay that is so dull and unengaging that it’s an utter disgrace to have the words ‘Ninja’ or ‘Gaiden’ in front of it. Despite cyborg ninja Yaiba’s apparent talent with the sword (sadly limited to cutscenes), he is a complete brick to control. Buttons are unresponsive, dodging is completely useless, and the fight system is so terrible; old NG games let you interrupt and cancel your combo whenever you wanted to block or dodge (which was a necessity to survive), therefore shaving precious milliseconds off animations in order to USE said milliseconds to do something of worth. Unfortunately in Yaiba, when you press an attack button, you have to wait for the entire animation to complete its cycle before you can even think of blocking or dodging, leaving you open to attacks. The screen is so full of useless things that it makes it very, VERY hard to tell what is going on. Throw in some horribly implemented QTE’s and you certainly have a mixture of a terrible game.
Let’s not even mention the incredibly unfair difficulty. Ninja Gaiden has always been about tough but fair (for the most part) difficulty. NG2 may have gone overboard with the off-screen projectile spam but even that was a cakewalk compared to Yaiba. Fighting off hundreds of zombies is so easy that you could do it blindfolded, but then they throw in such a huge difficulty jump in the form of bosses that it’s completely unfair. Having to slice up zombies is all well and good, but to go from that to chipping away at slivers of health with bosses that can take out all your health in 2-3 hits is complete bullshit. The options to use potions is gone here, forcing you to “absorb” lesser foes in order to revive your health. It’s a decent premise, but here it’s an utter failure. Because of the mess of graphics and HUD and blood and explosions, it’s impossible to tell when you are able to grab an enemy to absorb their health, and during a boss fight if all enemies are dead, well then you are just completely and utterly fucked, forced to restart from the start and try your luck again.
The gameplay is much like the new theme of Ninja Gaiden; a zombie. A mindless, shambling, pathetic, and utterly disgraceful shadow of its former self. Yaiba should be a once in a lifetime level of bad, but Spark Unlimited have already proven just how pathetically low they can sink. The Uwe Boll of video games, Spark continue their trend of ruining decent premises. Yaiba will make you question why you play games, as it certainly made me question it.