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Spark Unlimited

Closure photo
Closure

Spark Unlimited's ironically lost its spark and shut down


I kinda liked Legendary
May 05
// Joe Parlock
Developer of Legendary, Lost Planet 3, and Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Spark Unlimited has closed up shop and laid off all of its staff after 13 years of game development. As reported by Polygon, the company’s assets were fou...
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z photo
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Very Quick Tips: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z


There will be blood
Mar 18
// Chris Carter
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z doesn't really offer up a deep combat system, but depending on what enemies you're fighting, it can get pretty intense -- especially on higher difficulty levels. Here are a few quick tips to help you on your quest to destroy the undead horde.

Review: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Mar 18 // Chris Carter
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PC, PS3, Xbox 360 [reviewed])Developer: Comcept, Spark Unlimited, Team NinjaPublisher: Tecmo KoeiRelease: March 18, 2014Price: $59.99 In case you're wondering, Yaiba is the name of the titular protagonist, who's actually "evil," depending on how you view the series hero Ryu Hayabusa. Yaiba Kamikaze is a self proclaimed "ninja slayer," and while he would have liked to have claimed Hayabusa as his latest victim, Ryu had other plans and sliced Yaiba open instead. From here, it gets a little weird and decidedly non-cannon. Yaiba is "resurrected" by a shadowy organization, who replaces his severed arm and sliced out eye with robotic replacements. Now as a cyborg ninja, he has to stop a zombie outbreak in addition to getting his revenge on Hayabusa. This is all told through a tongue in cheek grindhouse presentation, complete with tons of comic book text and lots of blood. The entire visual style is weird, but somewhat interesting as it presents itself through a dark, yet cartoony lens. It tries to be edgy with your typical display of sex jokes and violence-oriented humor, but it never really goes that far and actually ends up fairly tame in the end. In fact, not every joke is over-the-top -- for example, at one point it tries its best impression of the slow steamroller death scene from various films -- and often times it's more goofy than offensive. While the constant absurd plot twists and elongated enemy presentation cutscenes are jarring, I ended up putting up with them because the vast majority of the game looks great -- especially when you're ripping through droves of zombies. [embed]272040:53005:0[/embed] In terms of combat, I wouldn't expect a typical Ninja Gaiden experience. What I mean by that is that the fighting system is not technical, and is more akin to a hack and slash game. Yaiba starts off his quest with the power to use his well-rounded sword, his strong yet slow iron fist, and a weak flail attack that hits a large number of enemies at once. There's also a very rudimentary "elemental" system, involving fire, electricity, and poison (called "bile") -- with the ability to "counter" in a triangle-like setup. Along with your limited three weapon arsenal and a "Rage of the Gods" ability, that's basically all you're going to be using the entire game as it unfolds over a series of arena battles. Yaiba technically has a "level up" system with a small circular upgrade tree, but almost all of the powers are nominal in nature and not really required to complete the game. In addition to the limited upgrade system, don't expect to roam around a lot. While there are a few opportunities to find secrets hidden in walls and the like (especially when you use Yaiba's Detective Vision-like laser eye), for the most part the game is extremely linear. Rather than the comfortable mix of combat and exploration in the core Ninja Gaiden series, Yaiba is content just delivering arena battles one after another, placing an emphasis on score attack gameplay. There is a contextual jump ability that lets you run on walls and swing around on hooks to get around, but it's also very linear and very scripted. It's fun for sure, just underwhelming for the most part. Because you only wield a select few abilities, fights are about as fun as the enemies that are thrown at you, which is a generally a mixed bag. Sometimes you'll battle a wide variety of stronger foes that test your ability to use all three elements to the best of your ability, and in other arenas, you're just fighting wave after wave of a zombie horde that you can easily flail to death. An arena game is only as good as the arenas themselves, and a lot more effort could have been put into them in general. Where the game really shines are the tougher encounters, especially on higher difficulty levels where you actually have to think before you slash, lest you electrocute or burn yourself. "Elite" class enemies also present the opportunity to execute them, offering up their signature weapon to use as a limited consumable -- similar to an old school beat 'em up. There aren't many major bosses, but the ones that are present are very fun, especially the encounters with Hayabusa himself. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z reminds me of last year's Deadpool game. It's a very limited hack and slash that enthusiasts will enjoy on a rainy weekend, but it fails to really ascend beyond that status. Yaiba isn't a bad game per se, it's just shallow.
Yaiba reviewed photo
Shambling along
I really didn't know what to expect from Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. On one hand, it has the Ninja Gaiden name (which, admittedly, doesn't have much sway these days) and Keiji Inafune attached. But on the other, you have...


Lost Planet 3 photo
Lost Planet 3

Mechs, bugs, and more snow in this Lost Planet 3 trailer


Did I mention there's a giant mech?
Jun 20
// Wesley Ruscher
Hey check it out, it's new gameplay footage for Lost Planet 3! Or is it upcoming DLC for Dead Space 3? I don't know anymore... it's all starting to look the same. All joking aside, I'm not sure what to think of Lost Planet 3...

I met Keiji Inafune! We discussed Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z!

Jun 18 // Tony Ponce
After leaving Capcom, Keiji Inafune formed Comcept in order to work on original titles, such as the superhero president game J.J. Rockets on mobile devices and the action-RPG Soul Sacrifice on PlayStation Vita. However, he wouldn't be completely against working on a licensed property if he had a strong attachment to it. One such game series that he really respects is Ninja Gaiden, and he had been playing around with the idea of a new Ninja Gaiden that incorporated zombies. He proposed this idea to Team Ninja, which coincidentally had been thinking about developing a zombie game of its own but lacked any personnel with experience in the genre. Thanks to his notable history with Dead Rising, Inafune was seen as the prime candidate for such a project. But Inafune was quick to remind me that the comparisons with Dead Rising end there. Speaking through a translator, he explained, "Yaiba is not purposefully trying to be influenced from Dead Rising. They are both [my] games, so the zombies made for Dead Rising and the zombies that are here will of course have some similarities... but you can't just cut zombies down and leave it at that. That's not going to be a fun game. You have to think, okay, ninjas and zombies, put those together and see how do we make that fun. What kind of chemical reaction comes from that combination?" The reaction is Ninja Gaiden Z, a game far apart from what we've come to expect from the series. Most notably, we are not playing as longstanding protagonist Ryu Hayabusa but rather Yaiba Kamikaze, a rival shinobi cut down by Ryu and resurrected as a cyborg. Yaiba is about as un-ninja as can get -- he's loud, foul-mouthed, lecherous, and driven by an insatiable bloodlust. Despite Yaiba's harder edge and a world populated by zombies who are surprisingly not the pushovers we've grown accustomed to, Ninja Gaiden Z is significantly toned down from the series' trademark level of difficulty. "It should have a Ninja Gaiden feel to the combat, the kind of responsiveness of a Ninja Gaiden game," Inafune stated, "but this is not a main Ninja Gaiden game. Yaiba is its own thing, and we need to make it accessible to people who maybe come in for the zombie aspects. They like zombie games and they're not used to the technical aspects of Ninja Gaiden. We need to be as open to those players as well so they don't quit in two seconds. Once we have that, we can think about how to make a deeper combat system and offer those sort of technical challenges for people who want that as well." Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is being developed for PS3 and Xbox 360 with the assistance of Spark Unlimited, the California-based studio currently working on Lost Planet 3. Inafune has been an extremely vocal proponent of Western developers, so it comes as no surprise that he would look outside Japan for aid. Still, Spark's history isn't that extensive, so why was it brought on board? "You can't just look at the past experience of a developer to judge them on what they can do moving forward. People leave developers, staff changes, so you can't always judge them by their past experience. You have to think of the management that is going to be constantly there and their vision for their studio." Inafune felt a connection with Spark's management and knew they could build a good relationship. And for added assistance, they even brought in Toby Gard, one of the designers of the original Tomb Raider! "No Japanese developer could come up with this art style," Inafune noted in regards to the game's striking cel shading. "You could give them all the direction in the world and they still wouldn't come up with this. Also, the kinds of things that you can do with zombies, the ways that you can play with the zombies, you maybe get half of the ideas from a Japanese developer that you get from the West. And even then, those ideas won't be up to the same fun quality." Zombies in Yaiba are not just cannon fodder. You can rip off their arms and use them as nunchuks, or you can toss them into heavy machinery and watch them operate it out of instinct. I'm surprised by how much humanity they've retained -- behind the wheel of a steamroller, one zombie gestures to his undead compatriot to get out of his path lest he get squashed, for example. I don't know how much of this humor simply couldn't be replicated by a Japanese studio, but I'm digging it. It's not traditional Ninja Gaiden, but any game where the hero will crash a truck into a lingerie store and start dancing as panties rain from the sky is okay in my book. Before I left the interview, I had to ask Inafune one final question regarding the elephant in the room. You think I'd spend 20 minutes with Mega Man's caretaker for roughly two decades without asking about the Blue Bomber? I asked, how do you feel about Mega Man in Super Smash Bros.? "I'm really happy for that! It's great! And hopefully they'll put Yaiba in it in the future!" First we need Yaiba on Wii U! "Yeah, no, not right now." Ha ha ha ha! Okay, I'm not even mad at the response! Well played!
Inafune and Yaiba photo
OHMYGODYOUGUYS!!!
Guys. I met Keiji Inafune at E3. I interviewed Keiji Inafune at E3. I've achieved everything I've wanted to accomplish in my relatively short career as a games journalist. There is literally nothing else for me to do except p...

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z photo
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is your new horror action comedy


Cheap thrills and bloody kills
Jun 16
// Jonathan Holmes
Under Itagaki's watch, the Ninja Gaiden series was about big production values, precise action, and serious-face gameplay. Those days are over. With Inafune at the helm of this new Ninja Gaiden spin-off, the tone has gone th...
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z photo
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z trailer takes a page from MadWorld


"Honor and death go together like hot sauce and my balls!"
Jun 07
// Tony Ponce
GameTrailers has the exclusive debut trailer of Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, the zombie-infested Ninja Gaiden spin-off being handled by the trinity of Team Ninja, Spark Unlimited, and Keiji Inafune's new studio Comcept. Damn, does...

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z: A cyborg ninja zombie killer

Mar 27 // Dale North
First off, the name: Yaiba is the name of the main character of this title, and its character means "blade" in Japanese. Pretty fitting for a ninja, right? As for his backstory, details were light in this early look. We do know that he's Ninja Gaiden protagonist Ryu Hayabusa's arch-enemy, and that the two will meet in this game, though it's not clear if they'll fight or not (we hope so). Inafune says that Yaiba is "very out there" and "crazy sometimes," and that he contrasts nicely to the cool and deadly Ryu. Interestingly enough, both Inafune and Hayashi liken the relationship between these two ninjas to Vegeta and Goku of the popular manga Dragon Ball. Inafune says that Yaiba is like Vegeta in that he thinks he can take on the ultimate weapon, but always loses. Obviously, they're putting Ryu and Goku in the same category. The two ninjas have had conflicts in the past, but Hayashi said that we'll have to wait until E3 to learn more details on their past. Yaiba isn't your typical ninja. He has a cybernetic arm and eye, replacing a limb and an eye that were cut off/out by Ryu. Inafune didn't go into details, but did say that Yaiba will use cybernetic abilities in this game.  We know from the "Z" in the name that zombies play a big role in Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. Inafune draws on his zombie game experience gained in making the Dead Rising games to pull in some of the challenge that they provide. Expect to mow down waves of undead in sometimes funny situations. Inafune also said that he intends to work in some of the comical, fun elements from zombie culture into Yaiba, giving us some funny moments to break up the grim zombie slashing. For example, Yaiba can kill a zombie and then yank off his arms, using them as nunchucks.  The game is fashioned to look like an American comic book. We were first shown comic pages that were supposedly showing pieces of the story to drive this point home. Later we were told that these pages were made up of visuals directly from gameplay, which was surprising from how detailed and comic-like they were. Seeing early gameplay in action, Yaiba really does look like a moving comic book with its heavy, black outlines, dark coloring and shading. The clip we were shown showed third-person slashing-style combat not unlike that of a Ninja Gaiden game, though it had a lighter vibe given that zombies were being ripped apart instead of standard enemies.  We noticed that, while most of the combat was your standard third-person action, some clips showed side-scrolling fighting not unlike the first Ninja Gaiden game. In a bloody romp through what looked to be an infested industrial area, we also spotted some kind of aiming system prompts, and plenty environmental pick-up weapon use. I enjoyed watching many of the silly finishing moves used on the zombies, all of which were delightfully gory. After showing off the game, Inafune told a story about how he had always wanted to do a Ninja Gaiden game in his own style. It just so happened Tecmo Koei had been thinking about making a zombie/ninja game, too. After some initial dealings it was clear that Inafune would give them someone with zombie experience. Inafune also gave them one other twist that helped it all come together: mechs. They did not touch on how mechs would work into the formula, though. Hayashi says that we can expect hands-on opportunities with Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z at E3 this year. Let's hope it works out to be as cool as it sounds.
Yaiba first look photo
Inafune and Hayashi reveal first details
A game about acyborg ninja zombie killer that happens to be the arch-enemy of Ryu Hayabusa? Where has this game been all my life? Actually, we heard about it last year -- it's called Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. We've heard nothing...

Ninja Gaiden Z photo
Ninja Gaiden Z

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z development consoles detailed


Set for 360 and PS3
Dec 25
// Chris Carter
Remember Ninja Gaiden Z? That weird spinoff game where the chief goal is to kill the franchise hero Ryu Hayabusa? Although details on planned platforms have been scarce, leading some to believe it was a next-gen project, it s...

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