When we received our copy of Yasai Ninja from developer Reco Technology (maker of Ryan’s favorite game, Toro), we were informed that the game wasn’t created with the hardcore gamer in mind. Instead, in a world full of bloody hack-n slashers, brutal shooters, and graphic fighters, they wanted to craft something parents could easily identify as being suitable for their children. While I wholeheartedly believe that’s a noble approach to game development, it doesn’t excuse the fact that Yasai Ninja is easily one of the worst games I’ve ever played–and not bad in a good way, like Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad. Just bad. (This is coming from someone with every achievement unlocked in Lost, King Kong, Clive Barker’s Jericho, both CSI games, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Backyard Football by the way.)
We begin this journey with a chance meeting between a broccoli and an onion, who form an unlikely alliance in the name of hunger and revenge. However, we quickly plummet in to a neverending hell of camera issues, sloppy textures, lazy environments, sound glitches, awful platforming segments, and quite possibly the most sluggish combat system in recent memory. Even with its Afro Samurai-meets-Borderlands comic stylings, there are absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
“If you’re not turning enemies in to salad, or suffering the wrath of the platforming gods, you’re moving uninteresting objects through uninteresting environments in an uninteresting attempt to solve yet another uninteresting puzzle.”
Camera issues are plentiful, frantically switching viewpoints and getting stuck in terrain, making it near impossible to navigate tight corridors or even open fields. If you’re lucky enough to find a comfortable angle, chances are it’ll be ruined shortly after once you’re forced to turn a corner, platform, or enter any sort of indoor environment. The only time this isn’t an issue is during one of the infrequent 2D platforming stages, but those are a different list of woes altogether.
Platforming is an absolute mess. This is partially due to the aforementioned sloppy camera work, but it’s really just poorly designed. Since every platformer needs a double jump, Yasai Ninja throws one in to the mix. I was cool with this. I love double jumping. When it’s not there, I complain. Here though, I complain whenever I have to platform. Jumping straight up means the camera is going to shift, and when the camera shifts, you can’t see a damn thing. This exciting mechanic that’s been perfected over the years by countless Super Mario Bros., Banjo Kazooie, and Jak & Daxter games is butchered by the developers in the worst way imaginable–as if they didn’t have 30+ years of source material to work with.
Combat is also an agonizing nightmare, requiring timed button presses and blocks (which aren’t even mentioned in the tutorial). If there was a prompt or an indicator of when to press the next attack button, or when to block, maybe it wouldn’t feel so unforgiving, but you’re really just at the mercy of pure blind luck here. Enemies arrive in droves, sporadically flailing their katana until one of you resembles an exploding Bulbasaur, and if you’re lucky (or unlucky, depending on how you look at it) you’ll move on to the next wave. If you’re not turning enemies in to salad, or suffering the wrath of the platforming gods, you’re moving uninteresting objects through uninteresting environments in an uninteresting attempt to solve yet another uninteresting puzzle.
Chopping up other walking vegetables unlocks new combo abilities, although it never moves beyond a sluggish button masher because it’s just so unresponsive and unpredictable. Holding LT to sprint while pressing the attack button, for instance, is supposed to execute a dashing attack on your current target, but mostly just causes you to lunge in the opposite direction. Sometimes you just bump in to stuff and fall over. That’s funny, right?
“The only reason I’d suggest my theoretical child play this is if I wanted to turn them away from video games for the rest of their lives.”
Yasai Ninja is already a chore by itself, but you’re welcome to suffer along with a friend in a local co-op session. This option is both a blessing and a curse–not because you may lose a friend due to your poor choice in video games, but the game runs worse at the expense of a more reliable partner. There were some purely awful platforming segments where my AI companion straight up refused to jump his way across. I didn’t even want to endure it the first time, but having to switch over and do it again only for the character I just left to jump his way BACK ACROSS was beyond frustrating.
While I applaud Reco Technology’s attempt at creating something kid-friendly, unfortunately that’s not a free pass to develop such a technical mess of a game. I’m not exaggerating when I say there’s no redeeming qualities to be found here. Not the design. Not the gameplay. Not the sound effects (when they even show up). The fact that it’s bad is one thing, but the fact that Yasai Ninja is $19.99 is appalling when there are so many superior options out there. Hell, buy a game you enjoyed twice instead! The only reason I’d suggest my theoretical child play this is if I wanted to turn them away from video games for the rest of their lives.
Recommended for fans of: instant regret.
*This review is based entirely on the Xbox One version of Yasai Ninja, which is also available on PS4 and PC.