Tecmo Koei Unreal Engine 3

Living flesh is so vulnerable. In the future, only zombies have the chops to make it as a ninja.

Enter Tecmo Koei’s Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z, the latest entry in the publisher’s violent action franchise. Long-time series protagonist Ryu Hayabusa is out as the player character. In his place, gamers now control Yaiba, a zombified Ninja with a too-cool-for-school attitude.

Tecmo Koei first revealed Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z at the 2012 Tokyo Game Show in September. Now, co-developers Team Ninja, Comcept, and Spark Unlimited are showing it off to the U.S. press at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

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“Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z is not a sequel,” Team Ninja studio head Yosuke Hayashi said in a statement. “It is a new experience for gamers. As with any new title, there are many new challenges, from the game design to art style and even development team structure.”

It’s probably pretty easy for Hayashi to promise the “ultimate ninja zombie experience” considering I can’t think of any other competitors in that category.

While players will no longer take control of Hayabusa, he isn’t out of the picture entirely. Yaiba will have to fight his living counterpart. In fact, Hayabusa is the “hero” to Yaiba’s “antihero.” While the undead ninja has is very arrogant, he’s not sure he can actually beat Hayabusa. That drives much of the game’s drama.

As part of the game’s development, Tecmo Koei signed an agreement with Epic Games to use the Unreal Engine for the new Ninja Gaiden.

“Gamers around the world are awaiting Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z with great anticipation,” Epic Games Japan territory manager Taka Kawasaki said. “I’m really excited to see what the great talent at Team Ninja, Comcept, and Spark come up with, as they comprise some of the best creative minds in Japan and the United States. I’m honored to see how Unreal Engine 3 technology helps the team as they reinvent this beloved franchise.”

Tecmo Koei plans to launch Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z in 2013 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.