The history of video games is littered with bizarre premises. From icons such as Super Mario – a plumber traveling to mysterious kingdoms full of violent turtles and friendly mushroom men – to the complex storylines of the Final Fantasy series, it seems as though no topic is exempt from being adapted into a game. With that in mind, RECOtechnology’s Yasai Ninja it not quite as outrageous as it sounds.
Yasai Ninja tells the story of vegetables on a quest for vengeance. Kaoru Tamanegi is an onion ninja, betrayed by a sensei on a ravenous quest for power. Releasing an exotic prisoner by the name of Broccoli Joe, who is (surprise surprise) a piece of broccoli with deadly nunchucku skills, the pair set off on a quest of vengeance where no evil vegetable is safe.
The game is a 3D hack-and-slash, with Kaoru Tamanegi and Broccoli Joe hunting through areas, taking on hordes of ninja cucumbers and solving puzzles to try and reach the next stage of the game. Initially released in July, Yasai Ninja has now seen a re-release with an update in hand. Iconic video games have been based on less coherent premises, but can the title sate a gamer’s bloodlust with diced vegetables?
Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be no. Yasai Ninja has some serious flaws, with the zany premise not translating over to the gameplay at all. Perhaps the most obvious failing at first glance is the game’s graphics. A world based on feudal Japan inhabited by sentient vegetables gives players an expectation of vibrancy, with colorful locations and vivid character designs. Instead, Yasai Ninja delivers the opposite.
From the very beginning of the game, Yasai Ninja has an unfortunate murkiness, more akin to Ninja Gaiden than a cartoonish adventure. The levels themselves are dark and dingy, whether in the countryside, on an open battlefield, or in the depths of a dungeon. It makes it incredibly difficult to become involved in the gameplay, and hard to work out exactly where to go and what to do to make it to the next stage.
Although there is a slight saving grace through the use of the game’s cel-shaded style, which adds a little bit of timelessness that covers up some of the most obvious failings, it has to be said that Yasai Ninja is not a pretty game to look at. As well as the dark locations, the characters themselves are not exactly appealing, suffering from the same moody color palette as the rest of the game. Meanwhile, clipping is an issue that often breaks immersion.
Although the overall graphical choices account for much of the game’s awkward doom-laden atmosphere, it has to be said that the camera controls do not help matters. It’s incredibly difficult to get a good angle on the action at hand, with the player facing a constant battle to be able to see exactly where their vegetable assassin needs to go next. Given the game’s use of 3D platforming elements with instant death, it’s hardly a match made in heaven, and is instead reminiscent of the notorious N64 Castlevania games.
Alongside the poor camera, which has an unfortunate tendency to pan away whilst in combat sequences, the rest of the controls also suffer from a simplistic muddiness. Fighting enemies is sluggish, with only a couple of buttons to press with a delay that means the player feels like they are constantly playing catch-up. Meanwhile, the characters move a fraction too slow to stop from being frustrating.
In fact, frustration is the name of the game with Yasai Ninja. A hack’n’slash game relies upon the player being able to find thrilling combos and outrageous attacks during the button-mashing combat sequences, but Yasai Ninja has a simplicity that works entirely against its favor. The action scenes are tiring, with squads of unintelligent enemies to slice into salad without anything to set the heart racing. There’s no timing to keep track of akin to the Batman Arkham games, nor challenging special moves to master.
The combat is still welcome however, partly because of the sheer sparseness of any activities for the player at all. Yasai Ninja is full of empty open areas, with the player relying on the simplistic assaults of cucumber antagonists to break up the monotony of walking to different parts of the map and solving easy puzzles that consist of pressing buttons to open doors.
All in all, Yasai Ninja is a lonely experience. Although the player has an AI companion throughout the game, their computer-controlled ally will never add much by way of company. Instead, the AI partner is more of a hindrance than a help, unintelligently attacking opponents in battle and adding little to the overall experience of the game. The ally will also pop from location to location during certain parts of the game, breaking the title’s immersion.
There is, however, the option to play the game co-operatively, and this is one of Yasai Ninja’s few real positives. Playing with a friend is certainly preferable to playing solo, although the failure of one character to make it through some of the awkward 3D platforming sections is bound to test the patience, given that it means both players will need to start over. Two player mode definitely breaks up the one-paced gameplay of single player, although Yasai Ninja is still not interesting enough to really recommend.
Alongside the co-operative gameplay, there are a few other positive aspects to Yasai Ninja, however. Some levels of the game drop the player into a 2D platforming section, more akin to Super Mario than Dynasty Warriors. In these moments, the player may find themselves have a lot more fun; the gameplay is still simplistic and incredibly easy, but the camera issues disappear, whilst some of the lighting and graphical choices actually make the game pleasurable to look at.
Unfortunately, such positives are few and far between, and it’s hard to see exactly who would enjoy Yasai Ninja. Players will never be tested by the game’s combat, but instead by the awkward camera and just how long their patience proves to last. Although there are moments of quality, the title does little to prove its worth against other games of the same ilk.
Yasai Ninja is out now for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. Game Rant was provided with a PS4 code for the purposes of this review.