Ninja Gaiden Z: "Character Is More Important Than Combat"

With Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, a beloved series swerves in an entirely new and potentially troubling direction.

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"LIKE A BOSS."

"Yuck. Totally scuzzy."

"I can't help it when you go all ninja and f*** everything up."

Colorful comic book panels featuring dialogue like this flipped past on a computer screen again and again at this week's Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z presentation at GDC in San Francisco. As this limited amount of art endlessly repeated itself, Team Ninja's Yosuke Hayashi and Comcept's Keiji Inafune walked a roomful of games press through their plans for this Ninja Gaiden spin-off. And those plans involve graphic violence presented in a comic book style, and painted with broad humorous strokes that hark back to Inafune's Dead Rising games.

"We think that's really cool" said Inafune via a translator, and indeed, there's something striking about the way Ninja Gaiden Z looks. He stated that the panels were created from in-game assets, even though they had a vibrant hand-drawn style, the shadows and blood splatters looking as if they were brushed onto a page rather than rendered by a computer. If nothing else, Ninja Gaiden Z looks attractive when displayed in still images, though its artistic flair is in no way reminiscent of any other game in the series. Nor, for that matter, is any other element of the game.

"The character is more important than the combat system." These words from Inafune made it clear that whatever hope you may have had that Ninja Gaiden Z would signal a return to the series' challenging, combo-driven roots should be reserved for later, if not downright abandoned. The character in question is the titular Yaiba, the game's star. Yaiba is rival to series mainstay Ryu Hyabusa and is, in Hayashi's words, "crazy" and "not typical Japanese." The game has been created to fit the character, whose name means "blade"--and who sports a mechanical arm and a cybernetic eye. And his main adversaries aren't powerful ninjas, but rather, zombies--thus the "Z" in "Ninja Gaiden Z."

Just what that arm and that eye will bring to the gameplay isn't yet clear, though the team described Ninja Gaiden Z as a hack-and-slash game with cybernetic abilities. What is clear, however, is that Hayashi and company are approaching the game with tongues planted firmly in cheeks. In Inafune's words, "I think that zombie games need that sort of [comical] atmosphere." The gameplay will reflect the humorous bent by allowing you to (for example) yank limbs off of zombies and use them as nunchuks.

Presumably, then, dialogue like "My name's Yaiba, and I'm having a bad day" is meant to be campy, but it's so far removed from what we've come to expect from Ninja Gaiden that it's hard not to question the series' direction. Ninja Gaiden 3 felt like Team Ninja's meek attempt to make an action game with broad appeal, and Ninja Gaiden Z seems no different. Team Ninja and Comcept have enlisted the help of American developer Spark Unlimited, the developer leading the charge on the upcoming Lost Planet 3--and the developer that brought us less-than-stellar games like Legendary and Turning Point: Liberty. Why enlist the assistance of an American developer at all? Says Inafune, "If we really wanted a genuine ninja game, this would be a fully Japanese game." But he thinks that while the Japanese know their ninjas, Americans "get" zombies better, and so the collaboration was sensible.

And from these ideas has been spawned a campy, cel-shaded game that prioritizes character over combat, and features a lead character expressing his glee with lines like "No such thing as half ninja, baby." It may be a spin-off, but aside from Ryu's presence, and ninjas in general, it’s unclear what else, if anything, ties Ninja Gaiden Z to the rest of the series.

Most of this information was communicated through Inafune and Hayashi's presentation, with the assistance of the onscreen comic and concept art that was passed around the room. The event concluded with a gameplay sizzle reel that showed a flurry of cel-shaded action, including side-scrolling sequences suggestive of the series' NES days. In motion, the game didn't look as impressive as it did in still shots: animations looked awkward, and the gameplay choppy. In fact, given the comic art style, uneven animations, its use of limbs as weapons, and side-scrolling cutaways, Ninja Gaiden Z seemed remarkably similar to 2010's Splatterhouse--not a comparison that works in this game's favor.

Team Ninja will provide more information about the game--as well as its protagonist and his relationship with Ryu--at this year's E3. It's hard to say at this stage what Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is; it's easier to say what it isn't. And this spin-off isn't anything at all like the Ninja Gaiden you used to know.

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Discussion

58 comments
ShadowOfKratos
ShadowOfKratos

Question...

Why do people like excessive blood so much?

Now I'm not saying some blood shouldn't be in games or that I'm disgusted by it, but people make it look like a mental disorder.

LionBeast
LionBeast

I want to see first if this can handle action shooters. :D

Stardust7
Stardust7

I played Ninja Gaiden III:Razor's Edge and I didnt like it ,gameplay is way inferior than Ninja Gaiden 2 ( xbox 360 ) .Ninja Gaiden 2 violence and dismembering are way more fluid and detailed than NGIII:RE too..I thought it could to be better than NGIII because they add dismembering, but I was frustrated.

thereal-15-cent
thereal-15-cent

This isn't Ninja Gaiden 4, so people shouldn't panic. It probably isn't the direction the series is going in. In Ninja Gaiden III:Razor's Edge, they made the game much tougher than the regular NG III, so they obviously noticed fan feedback. I don't think this game will greatly affect Ninja Gaiden 4. It's only a spin-off.

GeminiEntity
GeminiEntity

A few facts for the people here, as there seems to be a lot of confusion.

1. This is a spinoff, not a reboot, not a prequel, not a sequel.

2. This game is being developed by Team Ninja, Spark Unlimited, and Comcept.

3. The director for this game is Keiji Inafune who is from Comcept.

4. The title of this game is Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, not Ninja Gaiden Z: Yaiba.

Knowing these facts at this point in time, all you should be expecting is a new game with minor story ties to the Ninja Gaiden series, nothing more, nothing less.

evil-zodiark
evil-zodiark

it's gonna be shit, this is exactly why DmC crap....

but DmC even failed in creating a good character....

FireEmblem_Man
FireEmblem_Man

They seem to still not get why Ninja Gaiden III sucked, and are continuing on making the same mistakes.

InvadingKnight
InvadingKnight

This seems to a bad ass game but getting bore with those Hack/Slash shits!!!  Please make it more rewarding and harder like the first Ninja gaiden that came out from Super Nintendo.  Tenchu Z is a dam good plot but we need a new upgrade game or game play and more maps online pvp - Also add a better story line...

kratospete
kratospete

nope...the important thing in a game is GAMEPLAY!!! then is characters adn stuff

SoreThumbsBill
SoreThumbsBill

I never bought a NG game because of the story. I bought it for the gory combat were you fight and dismember challenging enemies using awesome ninja weapons and skill. I never cared to understand what the story was all about.

merkhava
merkhava

I HATE Hayashi....he seriously needs to stop f****** up Ninja Gaiden.

tushwacker
tushwacker

frick.. so much for hoping that they would return to the amazing action of the first 2 games... "The character is more important than the combat system.".... worst sentence I've read all week..

mateyman
mateyman

I like the art style. Something new at least.

UFO2012
UFO2012

Looks interesting...

saifssj6
saifssj6

wow dumped bfore even being released....sigh..ninja games should be made wiath full japanese themes..if not almost.the bst ninja game in existence was ninja gaiden 1 it had pure japanese theme.and is still one of the best hack and slash game ever created..some games should not be westerized..i mean made by..western devs..ugh..u knw what i mean..too bad what ever hopes i had for this game has been drained

skullomania2
skullomania2

So they turned ninja gaiden into the walking dead?

Kyrylo
Kyrylo

gimme, gimme, gimme. My second HnS i can't wait for after HnS let down this year. The only good one was MGR.

OHGFawx
OHGFawx

NG3 really chapped my ass so I'm curious to see if Team Ninja can redeem themselves in my eyes. The teaser does look very interesting, but I also have to say that for me, the whole zombie thing is really feeling overdone.

megakick
megakick

Now we are stealing from Metal Gear: Rising Vengence and Lollipop Chainsaw. Zombies and Cyborgs very original :/

BradBurns
BradBurns

I LOVE AGE OF WUSHU!!

It doesn't yell at me or belittle me like my wife..


And it understands that I'm only human and I can't answer the phone EVERY time it calls..  which is nice.

naryanrobinson
naryanrobinson

Unlike with DmC, the previous Gaiden game was terrible, so a reboot isn't such a strange and frustrating idea.

mastertien123
mastertien123

Nope ! Gameplay (aka combat in NG) come first . NG1 and NG2 have the most boring story and characters ever but they're great game . How can anything can be more important than gameplay in a game ?

tsunami2311
tsunami2311

i like anima/comic look if any as brutal first 3 them it will be pleasure and torturous game to have

BloodyAura
BloodyAura

I guess I'm one of the few people who think's this sound's awesome; by the way, glad to see GS finaly talking about this, since it's reveal awhile ago. It's seem's promising, and it is funny how most NG player's complain how boring Hayabusa is, then they change it around, they still complain. Well, I think it'll be good for the series,and it IS no doubt a spin off-no one is REPLACING Mr.'Ultimate Ninja';in this game, he'll just be the  enemy, and that is pretty sweet.

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

Spark Unlimited?  I don't know... they don't have the best track record.

x-2tha-z
x-2tha-z

I had a feeling things would go bad when Itagaki left. I didn't think for a second that it would be as bad as this.

GeminiEntity
GeminiEntity

Considering this is a spinoff and only has what appears to be thin ties to the NG series, I really don't see why people are/were expecting it to be like NG in any real regard.

Mattyrock
Mattyrock

I find this all very interesting and hope it turns out good but getting help from the US developers who did Legacy and Turning Point? That sounds like a bad idea.

gamefreak197
gamefreak197

I won't be making major judgements until I see more footage and story, but I will say that I question some of these decisions. The zombie idea, for example, is incredibly stale at this point. I would much prefer variations on the usual mooks we fought in previous NGs (and as long as Yaiba has the cybernetic gimmick, why not have him fight cyborgs as well?). As for the dialog in question, it does seem ill-fitting for this kind of character. I'm all for having the game be a total cheese-fest, but I would personally prefer Yaiba play everything totally straight and just have the madness unfold around him. I am digging the comic book aesthetics, though (and I personally enjoyed the 2010 Splatterhouse game and its aesthetics).

In any case, I would like to see where this goes and hope for something at least decent.

Chaos_Dante_456
Chaos_Dante_456

Interesting, although I can never say I have ever given a shit about the characters in Ninja Gaiden. 

vihazur
vihazur

geez wasn't ninja gaiden 3 horrible enough? :(

Darkmoone1
Darkmoone1

Ehh i'm so sick of zombies. And putting gameplay under character? Very risky thing to do.

cjimrun
cjimrun

I feel that Team Ninja made steps to redeem themselves with Dead or Alive 5 and I also have faith in Inafune so I'm gonna stay positive about this one. 

g1rldraco7
g1rldraco7

Cool they are taking the series in a new direction, hope it pays for them.

theperm
theperm

Cause I cared so much when Jaqueero launched Irene off a cliff in Ninja Gaiden 2.  I almost cried.

Syrlink
Syrlink

This looks horrible...they obviously don't know what they're doing over there any more.

AiGeeEn1
AiGeeEn1

Considering your complaining. I gota love your "GOD OF WAResque" NAME.  Don't you love IRONY in your LIFE?

GeminiEntity
GeminiEntity

@ShadowOfKratos 

Why do people like horror movies? Why do people like anything for that matter? The reason is the same, it stimulates their brain in some way, everyone is different thus why we have opinions and preferences.

Personally speaking, blood in general is just realistic and makes an enemy being defeated all the more satisfying. With that said, I do prefer it when the blood amount fits the attack, and not just some random amount for any attack.

megakick
megakick

@CivilizedPsycho Oh that guy who hasn't gotten anything released  and sexualize games ohya Tecmo needs him back...

GeminiEntity
GeminiEntity

@Stardust7 

I wouldn't worry about it being like any of the NG games, as it's being directed by a different person. Even the game itself is not being fully developed by Team Ninja alone. Chances are the game is going to do it's own thing, thus whether it is good or not depends on the game itself and not previous NG titles.

bannermanner
bannermanner

@Kyrylo I get the feeling you're going out of your way to express your disappointment with DmC.  If so, by that logic, Yaiba is probably going to be the worst game ever for you.

Arab_Spring
Arab_Spring

@BradBurns 

i love age of wushu 

it is better than heroin, it gives me the same rush as heroin, and i dont even have to go to rehab after, no ugly track marks on my arm, no being caught and thrown in jail were i get raped.

dont do drugs, do age of wushsu

BradBurns
BradBurns

@ghuiaai  

Oh, really..

Age of Wushu  is it?  I never would have guessed..

tushwacker
tushwacker

@GeminiEntity um... because it's called "Ninja Gaiden"? If you want it to be totally different, why use the name?

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

@Mattyrock Wow, took the words right out of my mouth!  And I was excited about those two games before they actually came out too.

Kyrylo
Kyrylo

@bannermanner @Kyrylo nope it won't . And DmC wasn't the only bad HnS that year. GoW was let down and it would be better if I say nothing about NG3...I hope NG3RE at least a little better.

GeminiEntity
GeminiEntity

@tushwacker  

What part of "spinoff" don't you understand?

Btw, it's called Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. Notice how Yaiba comes first and not Ninja Gaiden Z...

Mattyrock
Mattyrock

@arc_salvo I was the same with Turning Point but then I played the demo and saw the reviews...Eww.