Two Total Failures With a Lot in Common — Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
This is a 2014 game in a long-running series many know and appreciate for its punishing but reasonable difficulty. The series has had its share of sequels, spinoffs, remakes, and re-releases. It began in Japan in the late 1980s and continues to churn out new iterations to this day due to its relative popularity. The newest entry in the series is a U.S.-made attempt to revive flagging sales. It is a terrible, dumbed-down, Americanized (in both gameplay and writing), grimdark, QTE-riddled, unenjoyable mess. Notice that this paragraph could apply to either of the games in the title of the article.
If you create a 3D beat-em-up nowadays, law requires you to rip off 2005’s God of War without the tiniest hint of shame or self-awareness. God of War sold fifty quadrillion copies, so if your beat-em-up has a guy with a whip who is FULL OF RAGE AND SORROW, it will necessarily sell just as many, right? This is what American devs actually believe.
According to research, it seems that Americans want more dark ‘n gritty nonsense, more ugly muted color palettes, more cliched dialogue, simpler controls to reduce options in combat, and the omnipresent buckets of guts. If you’re the stereotypical lazy and easily amused American, these two games were made with the help of focus groups formed of copies of you. The low standards of American gamers are squarely to blame for these particular flops.
Don’t get me wrong, though; Japan is more than capable of creating terrible entries in beloved franchises. Horribleness knows no borders. Weeaboos who disagree, Castlevania: Judgment and Metroid: Other M would have a word with you. I’ve probably poured more hours into the western-made Team Fortress Classic than any other game, so don’t take my hatred of Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 as some sort of nationalistic fervor against the country of my birth. I hate these two because they are bad games, and they are noteworthy for being bad in a manner consistent with other bad American games.
Both of these terrible games have irritating protagonists who grunt and rasp their moronic lines, use laughable attempts at sex appeal to garner teenager interest, have incredibly simple fighting that takes very little skill, have ability power-up trees with little inspiration, have boring and easily defeated bosses, and rely on QTEs at the expense of deeper or more elaborate combat. Even a player unfamiliar with their derivative nature would still be annoyed by their banality.
Look at Youtubes of them; they are junk. The gameplay on both is bog-standard God of War clone and the scripts are so moronic and pretentious that I keep imagining Terry Goodkind or Piers Anthony characters will show up. And I’m speaking as someone who kind of liked the dopiness of Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Both games have less charisma than that bald dwarf who screams at the New York busker. Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z‘s attempts at humor are worse than Ebaumsworld. There’s a scene early on where your boring grimdark ninja protagonist fights (sigh) zombies, fights some zombie clown mini-bosses, crashes a zombie wedding where zombies sing “Here Comes the Bride” off-key like at the end of “Gremlins 2”, and the grimdark protagonist says “I prefer death metal” at the Metal Gear Solid operator in the corner of the screen with her ugly polygon tits hanging out, then you fight a zombie bride, and then I knew for certain that this game was irredeemable trash.
The only Castlevania thing about Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 is that it has a vampire in it and features the melodramatic hamming of it up (and that’s not even interesting here like it was in Symphony of the Night). The only Ninja Gaiden thing about Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is the shitty camera. These two games spit bile all over their predecessors in addition to being bad on their own merits. It’s not the end of either series, though; there’s still a little bit of money to be made, but I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them went on the shelf for a decade like Nintendo did with the Metroid franchise or Kid Icarus. They need some time before their next releases if they don’t want to waste what little good will they have remaining.
Is there anything enjoyable about either of these games? Just mash buttons and win the stupid game? Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is just poorly made in all aspects, but at least Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 had the kinda-cool idea of playing Dracula in modern times. It did nothing interesting with it, mind you, but the potential was there. There’s also some new DLC for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 where you can play as Alucard. I’m not buying it.
There was some kerfluffle from the social justice frauds who make up the majority of video games journalists over one scene near the beginning of the game (and which appeared in the previews) that looked kind of like Dracula was gonna rape a woman. He just drained her blood instead. The game’s writing is terrible, but let’s not throw around accusations of misogyny where mere low quality is evident.
So what should they have done? I could say “make more games like God Hand” but we all know there’s no profit in that. If you make a challenging and rewarding game that isn’t called Dark Souls, it’s not going to sell. But sometimes, too, a bad and/or too-easy game doesn’t sell, and gamers are… not happy, but satisfied that badness was not rewarded. It happens from time to time. And it happened here. I don’t take pleasure in the existence of bad games; I just wish they wouldn’t suck. Tecmo Koei, Konami, fix your dying series. Then you won’t have as many people griping about you on the internet.