Being bad is a hell of a lot of fun. At least that seems to be the driving principal behind upcoming PlayStation 3/Xbox 360 title, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z.
Yaiba has been killed by Ryu Hayabusa, the hero of the Ninja Gaiden series. Two weeks later he is resurrected from the gave and given some spiffy cybernetic enhancements to boot. Now Yaiba will stop at nothing to claim his vengeance against Ryu, even if that means taking on an entire undead army just to get to him.
If that doesn't sound like the build up to a traditional Ninja Gaiden game, that's because the folks at Ninja Theory and Concept set out to make something completely different.
In a room set above the Tecmo Koei booth at E3 2013, I found myself sitting with Concept Producer Shinsaku Ohara, Team Ninja Producer Kohei Shibata and Team Ninja Director Fumihiko Yasuda. Ohara did the talking while Shibata played through Yaiba's demo. According to Ohara, they didn't want to make “just another Ninja Gaiden game.”
“We were going for a very stylized comic book look,” Ohara said. “We decided on that very early on. We wanted this game to be different...Also, this look allows you to get away with a lot more violence and gore. The humor of the game also works very well with it.”
Ohara went on to compare Yaiba to a Quinton Tarantino film, saying that if you go in expecting a Tarantino film, you know exactly what you're going to get. Had they made Yaiba look like other Ninja Gaiden games, the over-the-top nature of the action and the story could have felt out of place.
And boy-howdy did they nail the “over-the-top” part of that equation. I watched (And eventually played) as Yaiba, in all his cell-shaded glory, darted around the screen re-murdering the shambling undead with a series of sword swipes, each one ending with an appropriate fountain of blood. Like a manga come to life, all of the best moves received freeze-frames and special cinematic moments, giving the game a fast and fun edge.
“Hayabusa is calm and logical, and we wanted to make Yaiba the opposite of that,” Ohara explained. “He goes crazy with bloodlust and, again, this art style matches that type of character. It also suits the pace and feeling of the game. We wanted to keep the action tight and do some unexpected things.”
If you count a shower of panties engulfed in flame and a massive two-headed baby zombie then, yeah, they've achieved the “unexpected.”
As a final note, Ohara reiterated the fact that Yaiba was built using Unreal Engine 3, something the team is quite proud of.
“We want people to have fun, and [Unreal Engine 3] allows us to make that type of game,” he said. “Right now we're focused on a very solid single player game. If we can do that, then we'll be happy, and we think the fans will be very happy, too.”
Look for Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z to arrive for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in early 2014.
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