Get Ready For 'Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z' With Team Ninja's Creative Director Tom Lee

March 10, 2014

On March 18, gamers are going to get the chance to experience an entirely different take on a game franchise that has been around since the days of the arcade and the NES. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z may bear the name of one of Tecmo Koei's most beloved franchises, but it's leaps and bounds away from the tales of Ryu Hayabusa that players know and love.

Yaiba tells the story of a much different ninja, in a completely different universe, using a cel-shaded art style, and featuring crazy, over-the-top gameplay. The game follows Yaiba Kamikaze as he sets out on a path of revenge, but his adventure is cut short when Ryu Hayabusa slices him in half. Yaiba is brought back to life and reconstructed as a cyborg by a mysterious corporation, and now he must battle his way through the zombie apocalypse to chase down the man that killed him the first time.

The game leans heavily on its comic book art style, and is laced with b-movie humor to give it a twisted, grindhouse feel. We recently had a chance to sit down with Team Ninja's Creative Director, Tom Lee, and Spark Unlimited's Senior Associate Producer, Charles Babb, for a look at the game, and found out five things you need to know about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z.

Where the idea came from:

Lee: We had a unique opportunity when Keiji Inafune came by, and he obviously has a long history with the zombie genre. He's such a huge fan of American zombie movies and what not. It opened up an opportunity for us to try and do something that we've never done before, especially with Ninja Gaiden. We've done this hardcore, serious, structured franchise for so long that we all just jumped on it, and said, "let's do this." So that's kind of where it kickstarted. How far we took it... we had no idea we would go that far. Collaborating with Spark has really helped us to push the envelope, in terms of art style, humor, a lot of that sort of gratuitous nature of things, that perhaps we, as Japanese developers, were maybe not really experienced with.

More Eastern or Western influences:

Lee: I think the direction of it is definitely more Western influenced, for this one. Obviously a lot of the traditional mechanics, the fluid game action, and all that, is still in tact from us.

Where did the unlockable Ninja Gaiden Z mode originate:

Lee: I think a lot of us felt just by the sheer fun factor and style that we were going for with this game, it would just be really good to take it back, and give the fans something as a reward. Instead of just porting the old arcade game, we thought we'd just overhaul it, and give them something really cool as well. We didn’t look at it as just an afterthought. It's a pretty robust arcade mode that they get.

Was anything too crazy for the game:

Lee: (laughing) We swung for the fences in the beginning, so some interesting ideas came through. Overall, I think we are pleased with where things ended. We were going for all sorts of things. There's sequences where he'll take apart zombies, and use bodies parts, and turn it into a chopper and ride out. That kind of gives you an idea of how we were thinking.

Babb: He'll take zombies and cut them open and take out weapons, or use them as weapons. We call it "harvesting." It's a mini game, so you're playing that as well - you're not just watching it happen. You literally have to play it to harvest.

Lee: There are blister zombies that are oozing pus, and you have to take their pusbag, and use it as a weapon and squirt.

Babb: Yeah, we call it the "Hag Pipe."

Possible fan reaction to Yaiba versus Ryu:

Lee: Yeah, that's a touchy subject, even within our team, as well. [Ryu]'s such an important character for us. I think it's going to go both ways. I think there's guys that are going to see Hayabusa get his ass kicked - for once. But, obviously, there are traditional purists out there that feel that Ryu should not be touched. Especially by this trash-talking, cyborg ninja. It will be interesting to see what our base thinks.

Bonus Question: How old is Ryu Hayabusa?

Lee: (laughing) He's forever 21.