{ZEN: Intergalactic Ninja}

Game Concept

Zen the Intergalactic Ninja ~ comic book character (1987) / video game (1993) ~ Zen: Intergalactic Ninja is a side-scrolling action game based on the comic book superhero of the same name. Zen, true to his name, is a ninja from the distant planet of Baltoon who fights for the highest bidder. In this adventure, he is stopping the Lord Contaminous from destroying the Earth’s environment, fighting through his lieutenants through a series of stages.
Concept art: modern Ninja Gaiden
Zen facing off against the evils of environmental collapse…

Thesis: {ZEN: Intergalactic Ninja} is a return to the canon wherein an intergalactic ninja fights against life-destroying ecological collapse across the multiverse. He now arrives upon Earth, where the global energy industry – now under the tyrannic thumb of Contaminous, Zen’s monstrous immortal rival – continues to perpetuate his regime of Sixth Extinctions across the universe… It is up to Zen and his indomitable ninja art to infiltrate, battle and defeat Contaminous’ minions and machines to once again save a world and reverse its ecological apocalypse!

Zen facing off against Contaminous, the toxic villain of the cosmos
Zen playthrough: NES Longplay – Zen – Intergalactic Ninja

Setting: Acid rain jungles | Burning offshore oil rigs | Toxic giga-factories | Underground radioactive waste dumps| Lord Contaminous’ mountainous supergrid complex wherein all of the world’s carbon-emitting nodes of industry are controlled out of…

Zen must travel across the world, attacking and shutting down Contaminous’ energy outposts, defeating his lieutenant monsters overseeing such facilities, all the while slowly working his way towards a final showdown with the toxic lord himself.

Characters & Story:

Intergalactic ninja arts and superior forms of meditation were learned by Zen at a young age. He’s now the most sought after soldier of fortune in the cosmos. Hired by the Gordons, the environmental caretakers of the galaxy, Zen will use his mental and physical abilities, as well as his Photon Stick, to clean up the toxic situation on Earth…”

The game follows Zen, your action hero protagonist, a strong but silent type – who battles against the eco-evils of Contaminous and his toxic, monstrous hordes. It is Zen’s job, as an intergalactic agent of the Gordons, the environmental caretakers of the Multiverse, to prevent worlds from falling to ecological disaster. That is, environmental degradation and destruction, generally brought about the denizens in power and in control of technologies and industries that cause such disaster. Zen is sent to worlds nearing their tippings points, wherein if some kind of forceful, martial intervention is not made, the world will soon fall to its out toxifying excesses.

The Gordons, to whom Zen answers to and who aid him in his tireless quest to save worlds

Zen has not saved every world he’s been sent to, many have indeed fallen – with their peoples forced into space or slowly devolving into extinction entirely – and this weighs upon his soul. Such failures further motivate him and engage him to the source of many of these problems…

Zen taking out the garbage

The corrupting hands of Contaminous. Through his continuous work for the Gordons, Zen has crossed eco-collapse as well as Contaminous in every world he has been called to act upon. And thus, as the apparent mastermind behind these disasters, Contaminous has become Zen’s immortal foe. With a monstrous visage and a cruelty in his eyes beyond reason or understanding, Zen does not know the alien Contaminous’ ultimate endgame, with his dark work to send worlds into apocalypse. He knows only the consequences if he does not act to stop him. And so, Zen is fated to chase Contaminous to each world he travels to, corrupting and amplifying conditions every time to accelerate its unique ecological collapse. Every time Contaminous has escaped, leaving Zen to deal with the world’s return from the brink, or its dissolution entirely.

Zen’s big, sad eyes 🥺

On Earth, Zen plans to finally confront Contaminous once and for all, stopping Earth’s eco-apocalypse and defeating him in the same swift strike. It is up to you whether or not Zen will succeed in this endeavor…

Zen and Greenskull, a minion of Contaminous

Gameplay:

Zen, the Intergalactic Ninja x Ninja Gaiden ~ {ZEN} being a modernizing reboot of an old and lesser-known early 90s NES game, the gameplay now is to resemble one of the most popular action franchises of all time — Ninja Gaiden. The endgame of {ZEN}’s gameplay is to recapture the shifting isometric environments full of bullet-hell style hostilities from the original ZEN Super Nintendo game, but now bring that spirit forward into detailed 3D environs, similarly streamlined yet action-packed level designs full of more robust monsters for Zen to fight with his Phō staff, alongside traps and machines to dodge and destroy, as well as complex jumping puzzles to traverse — all against the clock.

~ examples of the bombastic 3D gameplay of Ninja Gaiden
Gameplay premise in action: Ninja Gaiden Black Summer GDQ speed run ~ maybe my favorite speed run I have ever watched

Facing off against terminal ecological disasters / {Timed levels & Level scores} ~ Going with the theme of terminal ecological collapse, every mission within {ZEN} will be both short/tense – and timed. This is inspired by one of the first levels in the original ZEN, which as you traverse the shifting conveyor belts and machine turrets shooting at you, a giant clock counts down from 100 in the top left corner. A similar level of tension is meant to be generated when playing {ZEN} — which, much like Ninja Gaiden, will be designed from the ground up to be played fast and hard, with requisite challenges of mental and physical dexterity. The missions are meant to be played and replayed, often failing many times on the initial attempts – before Zen’s combos and techniques are fully memorized.

Lower difficulty levels can remove the countdown timer and the fact of mission failure if the level is not completed in time. However, the core {ZEN} experience is meant to be a race against the clock – as Zen quite literally does so, carbon emissions blasting into the atmosphere at record rates, as Contaminous cackles up in his mountainous lair with his finger on the trigger of the world’s energy excesses, waiting for someone to dare and stop him…

Zen racing against the clock

Additionally, due to time, health lost, combo-counter achieved, the general efficiency and skill that the player completes each {ZEN} level with – an end of mission total score will be gained. This score includes the accumulation of points that the player can spend on increases in damage, speed, or ninja art unlocks to help on future missions with {or kept in the New Game+ mode for future runs.}

Battling through the fires and the planes {Zen’s ninja arts} ~ Zen is an expert martial artist, trained in the Om techniques of the intergalactic ninja. He is a master fighter, and knowledgeable in all forms of hand-to-hand combat. Battling through countless planets and planes, fighting against Contaminous and his work to annihilate environments all over the Multiverse, Zen is more than prepared for any challenge, any foe. That is, he is an absolute badass. Fast, strong and smart – Zen is at the peak of physical perfection and can do almost anything on a battlefield — including taking on several mutated eco-rage beasts at once and down them all into unconsciousness with his prime weapon, the:

Zen with his trusty Phō

Phō staff ~ Zen’s Bō-esque staff he uses to non-lethally dispatch his foes along his quest. Empowered with photon energies, his staff amplifies the biodiversity of the natural environments he traverses and can be used to purify water, cleanse areas marred by toxic waste, and can help capture or eradicate carbon within the air. He uses the staff with mastery, every strike from it abetting his ultimate quest – for the natural environments of every world to return to a peaceful, life-empowering equilibrium.

~ The Phō is the primary tool for combat in {ZEN}, with attacks being delivered through complex sequences of Light and Heavy power attacks – common to many 3D action games. The Phō gains in combo variety and power over time, derived from the level scores attained at the end of each mission. Unlike the ninja of ancient Japan, Zen’s style of combat does not include bladed weapons such as swords, stars, sickles, or other similar assassinating devices – Zen is no killer and insofar that he can manage it, truly tries to progress in his mission non-lethally. Thus, he is absolutely reliant upon his fists and feet, and his mighty Phō staff to wage his violence in the world. {All this being said, Zen might ultimately make an exception for Contaminous in the end…}

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen_the_Intergalactic_Ninja#Powers_and_abilities

Zen’s telepathy ~ Zen also communicates through a unique type of telepathy that nobody truly understands. He is able to simply “talk” into your head, allowing you to hear him as though he was simply speaking out loud. When you speak back to him, he “hears” you though a combination of sound waves and thought patterns that he takes in as language and sound. Zen has an amazing awareness of his surroundings thanks to the fact that he “hears” more with his “mind” more than we could take in with just our ears. This ability does not mean he can “read your thoughts” on a whim though. You have to be projecting or transmitting your thoughts or intentions in order for him to be able to receive them—so if you can clear your mind, you “might” be able to keep him in the dark…maybe.

~ Zen’s telepathic abilities allow him to communicate directly with the player throughout the experience. Alongside the game sounds and tense original soundtrack, all sounds will be temporarily silenced when Zen speaks to the player. Depending on the player’s recent actions within the experience, good or bad, or maybe if they are stuck on a certain section of the level or keep getting hit by a pesky mini-boss attack – then Zen will offer up a tip to the player via telepathic message surfacing out of the speakers of the computer/console the game is being played from. These tips directly from Zen will be offered up infrequently but should prove useful. {They can be turned off, or their frequency increased within the menu of the game.}

Zen’s telekinesis ~ Zen’s other mental abilities allow him to dematerialize food with his mind so that he can eat—allows him to communicate with his mentors on distant planets—and even allows him to move objects through the air, including making himself hover while he meditates.

~ Though starting out weak, Zen’s telekinetic powers can be upgraded over time, including the ability to amplify his otherwise extraordinary martial abilities. These telekinetic upgrades include:

  • Push and Pull Force-style maneuvers upon enemies or environmental objects
  • Return his Phō to his hand after being thrown at an enemy
  • Juggle multiple enemies in the air, serving them up as ripe and vulnerable targets
  • Temporarily amplify his speed or jumping ability, to help in combat or puzzles

Mutated ninja monsters! ~ In an even more devastating turn for protagonist Zen, much of Contaminous’ extra-dimensional army is drawn from other zones of the universe, from his battles and mental dominions over Zen’s colleagues in the intergalactic ninja corps. Thusly on Earth, Zen will be crossing his Pho against former ninja, now brainwashed full of mental toxins by Contaminous, or fully transformed into demonic and monstrous enemies. Along with Zen’s own moral code and stance against killing, Zen is also ultimately evasive or non-lethal in his combat strategy for this reason – he does not wish to seriously harm his former brethren.

Each enemy features unique speed/power/health and their strange combinations and strengths/weaknesses provide for Zen a healthy matrix of challenging yet satisfying combat encounters throughout each level.

A fellow intergalactic ninja
Ninja Skullwing mutant
Ninja Quadrikiller mutant
???
Lord Contaminous, the toxic eco-terrorist slayer of worlds, Zen’s final foe

Different levels, new allies ~

Zen with his human allies
Zen with a pair of space allies, a robot and an alien
Zen… with another kind of ally

New Game+ and Speed Run predispositions ~ After all the missions are completed and Zen has faced off against Contaminous for the fate of the world… You can jump right back into the game in the New Game+ mode. The New Game+ mode {wherein the game can be replayed over again from the beginning – but with all of the skills, techniques, powers and items gained for the subsequent playthrough(s)} is important to {ZEN}’s overall design philosophy, as the game’s set of missions will not take long to complete. Each of the game’s ~10 or so stages will be timed from 2,000 to 4,000 second-countdowns and thus every mission is meant to be completed quickly, and more efficiently over time as the player gains mastery over Zen’s mechanics and the level designs. By this same token, {ZEN} – much like the modern Ninja Gaiden series – will be a game designed for speedrunners to compete in, with an easy to learn / impossible to master overall level and monster design.

Inspired by ~

Zen: Intergalactic Ninja

Zen GameBoy game
Zen comic book

Ninja Gaiden

Modern Ninja Gaiden gameplay

Endgame: {ZEN} is a 3D action experience marked by speed, violence, courage, and the time-honored ninja arts; your intergalactic ninja hero is tasked with saving the Earth from ecological apocalypse. Run the missions, fight Contaminous’ monstrous minions, traverse the sources of toxifying industrial power upon the planet and defeat the threats therein, shutting them down in an effort to reverse the dooming climate trajectories. Perhaps Zen, the multiverse-jumping, world-wearied warrior, in his final confrontation with Contaminous, in his timely life-saving intervention upon this planet Earth — may finally find peace.

Zen vs. Lord Contaminous