All About Zombies With Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z Creator Keiji Inafune

By Spencer . July 17, 2013 . 2:30pm

Keiji Inafune may be best known for Mega Man, but he’s also a huge fan of zombies. Inafune created the Dead Rising series and is working with Team Ninja on Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. In this interview we talk about the game’s comic book style, Yaiba’s fight with Ninja Gaiden’s regular protagonist, Ryu Hayabusa, and Inafune breaking his personal zombie rules.


When I played Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z there was humor, like the scene where a zombie was driving a truck into another zombie. I remember back when you were working on Dead Rising you had an idea of making zombies like toys, which is quite different from zombie flicks of even Resident Evil.


Keiji Inafune, CEO of Comcept: I feel there are two sides that make zombies interesting when it comes to movies and games. There is a drama aspect like you would see in The Walking Dead, which has elements of tension and fear, but there is also humor and that’s what makes working with zombies a fun theme. Personally, I like the humor aspect, which is why both of those games have humor in them.


I love zombies and I have my own rules for what zombies can and cannot do. Zombies can’t run. They aren’t intelligent, and so forth. For this game, those rules don’t apply.


The zombies that appear in Yaiba are different from other zombies. Like in the truck scene you mentioned, a zombie told another zombie to get out of the way. We loosened the mold of what zombies can and cannot do. That leaves a lot of freedom for us, Team Ninja, and Spark to input lots of ideas. Certainly, there will be humorous ideas that come from that. I hope you look forward to different kinds of humor in this game.


Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z also has wacky weapons like the zombie nunchucks you can get when you yank a zombie’s arms off. Where do you get ideas for weapons like this?


When I produce a game, I don’t necessarily say, “Do this specific idea.” I give a high level idea and set the framework. So, I told the developer [Spark Unlimited] to come up with an idea for this. Harvesting arms and limbs from zombies actually came from Spark. From those ideas, I choose what I like.


After setting the framework, ideas come out. If ideas slip out of the framework they aren’t used and I pick the ones that fit the game.


Was having a comic book art style one of the high level ideas? Were there any alternate ideas?


It was decided early on in the development of the game that we were going with this art style. We talked with Spark and Team Ninja and all of us decided this was a fitting art style and we went with it. There wasn’t an alternate art style we were considering.


Why did you pick a comic book art style for Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z?


The inspiration came from when I saw the Walking Dead graphic novel. Even though the story addresses serious issues and has a dramatic story, it’s done with a comic style. For me, that stood out and I wanted to do something with zombies in a visual style like The Walking Dead.



Will players be able to fight Ryu? I mean the game starts with Ryu Hayabusa cutting through Yaiba.


I don’t want to give it away at this point, but I think players will have expectations of what will happen and certainly we want to cater to those players. At the same time, we want to go beyond their expectations and surprise them with the outcome.


I can imagine Yaiba having multiple endings then depending on what happens, if Yaiba and Ryu fight.


At the moment, we haven’t decided if the game will have multiple endings. It’s common to have multiple endings and online co-op and we don’t want to be confined by those kinds of rules. It’s too early to be discussing this, but Yaiba will be the game it will be whether it has multiple endings or not.


Hmm… early? Isn’t the game coming out in early 2014?


[Laughs] There’s still time!


Compared to Ryu, who is portrayed as a stealthy and honorable character, Yaiba is completely the opposite. He’s vulgar, angry, and loud—kind of barbarian-like.


When developing a new protagonist, it’s always easier to go with the archetype of what a main character should be. What happens if you go with that, you end up with a character that is like Ryu Hayabusa.


I gave the direction and told the team to take off the breaks and get as far away as possible from Ryu Hayabusa. When we started this project it was mutually agreed with Team Ninja.


Who is the girl with the pink hair who acts like a navigator for Yaiba?


She is intertwined with the gameplay. She informs Yaiba where he needs to go and gives him information. She is also the heroine of the game. Since there are two ninjas we need to have a female character, too. Just like how Ninja Gaiden games have female characters as well.


She’s also the character that makes Yaiba’s cybernetic body parts, too, I believe.


[Laughs] I can’t really go into that, but it’s not like she’s Roll-chan from Mega Man or Bulma in Dragon Ball. It’s certainly not like that.


How has Team Ninja guided the game in terms of combat, since their specialty is making stylish action games.


We have a director from Team Ninja who looks specifically at the game’s combat. He needs to sign off to approve all of the combat decisions. If it isn’t feeling right Team Ninja will give feedback on how to make it better. Even the combat is a collaborative process. Spark gives us ideas and we’ll discuss if it’s a good idea and figure out how to grow it into an even better idea.


With Dead Rising, you threw a survivor in a mall. With Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z you mixed zombies with ninjas. What else do you want to with zombie games?


Not specifically, a zombie game genre, but one of the things I would like to do is a big budget zombie game that would be the last thing you would see at a Sony or a Microsoft conference. Something really big.


What about you, Ohara-san? You also worked on Dead Rising 2 as the game’s co-producer.


Shin Ohara, Producer at Comcept: Probably the same. I would like to see a big, big zombie game that involves a lot of people. Maybe multiplayer or a grand scale zombie game. Maybe an outbreak starts from an area and as the game progresses the area grows. Maybe there is another group of people that try to suppress the zombie outbreak. If it’s a multiplayer game, maybe there is a group of players trying to suppress zombie outbreak and another group trying to spread it. That would be interesting.


Since we talked about Dead Rising 2 a couple of years ago, what are your thoughts on Dead Rising 3? It seems like Capcom is trying to go that route.


SO: I saw it. I went to their booth and saw the presentation. It’s open world and since it’s Dead Rising it takes on the good elements of the series, but it’s just much bigger. Not a whole lot of new gameplay has been introduced yet, that I know of. It doesn’t necessarily fill the gap for me. Certainly, I will play it and most likely enjoy it, but it’s still a single player game.

Read more stories about & & & & on Siliconera.

  • NightzeroAX

    Typical youtube comment:

    “What is this? This isn’t NINJA GAIDEN WDF!!!123”

    Of course it’s not Ninja Gaiden, it’s Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z.

    Anyway I like what I see so far. I’m all for INAFKING.

    • Juan Andrés Valencia

      I like it as well. And I dig the visual style, it reminds me of the awesome Splatterhouse reboot.

      • Laer_HeiSeiRyuu

        I dont know, I watched this on the telly. It seemed really generic and hamfisty. I also dont like the art style XD

    • D H

      Well, I’m going to be in the other category then. Nothing about this game has been Ninja Gaiden so far, and may as well be a completely new IP. Basically, it’s attempting to piggyback on the success of the Ninja Gaiden name, and shoehorning in some elements.

      However, that’s not why I don’t like it. I don’t care for the vulgar-ness. I don’t care for the style. And I’m not so blind as to say I enjoy everything INFAKING puts out (not specifically calling you out on this, by the way, just tired of people name-dropping developers/producers/etc. like they couldn’t possibly make something bad; it’s like saying “it’s a Spielburg movie, so it has to be good,” or anything else…). Dead Rising was fun for the first three hours. And then it became completely boring. Same with 2 and Off the Record.

      But, basically, for me, this is something of another DmC, although at least a step above that. DmC didn’t just try to piggyback off the success, it decided to just reinvent everything when they could easily have just created a new character. Nothing about the new Dante made him HAVE to be Dante. With this, I’m glad at least that they aren’t trying to “reinvent” things that don’t need to be. They just simply aren’t doing anything with it that I like. Plus, zombies. I so god damned tired of zombies. I even learned that Archie Andrews has (or will, not even sure if that’s out yet) fought zombies in Riverdale; I had to go cry in shame after that…

  • colorblindnightmare

    Looks like a good time to me! Grteat art sytle and humor to boot. Inafune you awesome bastard.

  • doubleO7

    Its like Ninja Gaiden through a Suda51 filter. And thats totally awesome.

  • Prinnydoom

    Always good to see a game series take a leap of faith. And heck i am always up for something different. Ninja’s and zombies. Sign me up ^__^

  • JustThisOne

    Hmm… early? Isn’t the game coming out in early 2014?
    [Laughs] There’s still time!


    I hope this ends up the way they wanted it to be! Yaiba sounds like a pretty cool protagonist, and the game’s very visually appealing. But gameplay… hm… I want to see more of it. :>

  • ShadowDivz

    When yaiba punches Ryu’s face and he flies back,right before Ryu dashes at him. You can tell he thought:
    “Now im gonna fuck you up”

  • Just Tim

    Given how Inafune is a zombie fan, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to vouch “Nemesis for Capcom Mascot” in hindsight? :s

    Anyway, as for the game itself, why do I get the impression this game is expected to reach a million unit sales mark in the West?

  • BenderIsGreat

    “When I produce a game, I don’t necessarily say, “Do this specific idea.” I say what the fuck, and then do whatever I want.”

    Which is, of course, fine.

  • ZekeFreek

    The guy behind Dead Rising likes zombies? Huh. You don’t say…

  • XiaomuArisu

    Best pre-morten line ever!!!

Video game stories from other sites on the web. These links leave Siliconera.

Siliconera Tests
Siliconera Videos