During the first game Zaji appears as a Boss character for two story-mandated battles. He can only be fought after reaching a certain point in the story and completing a mission in certain maps; a prompt will appear warning the player and selecting "Yes" will initiate the battle.
Zaji returns in Revenge of Zen, acting as a sort of mentor to the game's main character Zen as he attempts to guide him along a more moral path.
Like Goh and Kinu, he was presumably born in the Asuka Village and trained all his life in the arts of ninjutsu. He had something of a friendly rivalry with Goh in the past, inciting the latter to make a bigger name for himself and make his presence known to his enemies, despite this going against the tenets of ninjutsu.
During a strife between the Asuka and Mosu ninja he witnessed Goh murder the Mosu leader Tateha even after they had surrendered and begged for mercy. Shorly he discovered Goh's relation to Gamuran, their clan's ancestral enemy, and since then believed him to be a traitor.
He lost his right eye during the massacre of the Asuka Village. He might have escaped or stayed and survived the siege, either way he became one of the only three survivors, the others being Kinu and a now-amnesiac Goh.
Way of the NinjaEdit
He reunited with Kinu and warned her against interacting with their former friend, since then actively hunted Goh with the intent of slaying him for his betrayal. During their first encounter he tries to ambush him and refuses to answer Goh's confused questions, they fight to a stalemate and Zaji escapes promising to kill Goh the next time they meet.
He and Goh fight a second time after the latter meets Kinu in the ruins of the Asuka Village and rescues her from the Kenobi. As before he tries to ambush Goh after a mission, Goh blocks the strike and tries to mediate with Zaji but he refuses to listen, they fight to a stalemate and Zaji flees again without giving Goh the chance to explain himself.
Eventually he learns of Goh's condition and intentions to repent from Kinu, after she overhears Gamuran and Kabuto talk about the Soul Fragments and the full moon ritual in the Phantom Forest. He meets Goh a third time in Sengen Town, this time they don't fight but Zaji refuses Goh's wish to repent for the liberation of Gamuran and the destruction of the Asuka claiming it's now his and Kinu's duty as the remaining clan members.
He comes around shortly after the final battle. Trusting Kinu's judgement he tentatively accepts Goh's alliance, now the three united would fight against their mutual enemy. They rush to the Asuka Village to stop Gamuran's resurrection, but as they try to sneak to the shrine Zaji is ambushed by the Taraba. Kabuto waited for Goh to pass first before attacking Zaji, and seeing this the latter believes Goh to truly be a traitor all along before passing out. Depending on the ending obtained his fate varies:
- Daimyo Ending: Zaji is impaled by sharp debris and dies from his injuries. After Gamuran is slain Kinu decides to travel alone, abandoning Goh to rebuild the clan herself.
- Hidden Ending: Zaji is caught by three different clan soldiers before he's impaled and survives. After Gamuran is slain, he wakes up and finally forgives Goh for his previous transgressions, declaring the three united will protect Utakata as members of the Asuka Clan.
Given his later appearances in Tales of the Ninja and Revenge of Zen the Hidden Ending is considered canonical.
Tales of the Ninja Edit
Revenge of ZenEdit
During the events of Shinobido 2, he find Zen by the river after Shu's betrayal and continously serves as a mentor figure, guiding him towards more compassionate and moral choices.
Abilities & Gameplay Edit
He possesses the same skills as his fellow Asuka shinobi. This includes their knowledge of guerrilla tactics, unarmed combat and Alchemy. He also has knowledge over the identification (and possibly the cultivation of) different medicinal and poisonous plants and mushrooms, and fabrication of medicines using the same.
He favors the ninjato as his weapon of choice, and fights using Asuka taijutsu and kenjutsu. He's especially aggresive in combat, constantly on the offensive with quick, powerful strikes.
As a boss, he uses the same combat movepool as Goh, with the adittion of a very damaging triple rising slash, and also uses Knockout Spheres, Potions of Health and Potions of Strength. As a playable character in Tales of the Ninja he uses the exact same movepool as Goh, and has similar HP, mobility and strength characteristics.
Flashbacks show that Zaji and Goh used to be good friends who dabbled in competition and light taunting. So when Goh murdered Tateha it came as a shock to him, and he started to doubt his friend. It was when Gamuran and the Taraba destroyed Asuka Village, and he saw Goh with them, that their relationship turned around completely. From that point onwards and for most of the first game he actively hunted Goh to kill him, and refused to listen when the ninja tried to explain himself. Only when Kinu explained Goh's experiences and mission to stop Gamuran did he approach to offer his aid, if still wary of the former renegade. After the final battle (in the canon ending) the three Asuka ninja are united once again, and evidenced by Tales of the Ninja and Revenge of Zen, he and Goh resumed their friendship.
Zaji and Kinu are shown to be good friends and trustful of each other. After the destruction of Asuka Village, they apparently stayed together for some time before Kinu joined Goh, and despite their disagreements over their former friend they never became hostile towards each other. It was also her who convinced Zaji to give Goh a chance at redemption, and he only went along because of her word. Their relationship continues to be this way for the rest of the series.
It is implied by some dialogue and expressions that Kinu may be attracted to Zaji. Whenether he's aware or not is never adressed.
Zaji finds Zen by the side of the river at the beginning of Revenge of Zen, and brings him back to the Asuka Village to let him recover. For most of the game Zaji aids Zen in his mission by offering him information on Shu's and Nagi's actions, the location of the Tenma Mirrors and a base of operations. He also does what he can to guide Zen towards a moral path and advices him not to let himself be consumed by anger; this goes as far as to allow himself to be captured by the Mosu or Kenobi Ninjas to test Zen's morality.
Zaji finds Kaede along with Zen by the side of the river at the beginning of Revenge of Zen. It's explained that Zaji was the one who named Kaede, as she had no recollection of her former life except for Zen. Expecting Zen's reaction to her, he advices Kaede to stay hidden for as long as possible. For most of the game Zaji serves as a mentor to Kaede, who at this point is still unsure of her emotions and identity, by training her into developing her skills as a ninja and supporting her in her wish to aid Zen. When Kaede is poisoned by Nagi's kunai it's Zaji who tells Zen of the Roadsturn Mushroom to make an antidote and, should the player decide to chase after Nagi instead, goes to find the mushroom himself.
As far as Zaji is concerned, no matter what her origins were Kaede is as much as a human as Zen or himself are; and no matter if she was born a reflection of San, she is not San but her own person.
- Zaji is playable as an alternate skin in Way of the Ninja and Revenge of Zen (playing as Zen).
- The english version of Way of the Ninja spells his alias as "The Hawk". This is corrected in Revenge of Zen.
- He made a guest appearance in Way of the Samurai 3, another franchise developed by Acquire and published by Spike.
- A programming bug in Way of the Ninja made him the only boss character who can be distracted by sushi: When fought, the player can hide from him and throw a piece of sushi, which he always tries to pick up if he hasn't spotted the player yet. It became a meme with the japanese fandom to portray Zaji eating or holding sushi, and the joke was eventually referenced in the developer's blog of Revenge of Zen.