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 about the tag team game from Tecmo Koei and Comcept (with help from Western dev Spark Unlimited) since its announcement at Tokyo Game Show last year, but Team Ninja's Yosuke Hayashi and Comcept's Keiji Inafune showed at GDC today to break that silence and tease their latest.
We got the first details on the game's background as well as a quick look at gameplay this afternoon at a special press event during GDC 2013.
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.