Our pro-in-Tokyo Heidi Kemps sat down with Team Ninja's super shinobi Yosuke Hayashi on the floor of the Tokyo Game Show this week and got the inside scoop on Ninja Gaiden 3. Read our interview below.
G4: The dismemberment system from Ninja Gaiden I and II isn’t present in NG3. Does this have anything to do with Japan’s notoriously strict CERO rating system?
Hayashi: There are different rules for what we can and can’t do under undertain ratings in different territories, but that didn’t play a part in the decisions we made. We have a sense of violence and brutality we want to show in this game, and we feel like it really doesn’t need that sort of thing. We wanted to focus on what it actually feels like to have to kill someone with a sword. Once you start hacking limbs off, the enemy goes from being a human being to just being a plaything, taking that feeling away. We want the violence to feel human and personal, rather than having these characters be mere objects to be chopped up. We’re going in a different direction now, and we feel the old dismemberment system simply doesn’t work with that.
G4: You emphasize that Hayabusa is a dark hero who has to do bad things for a greater good. You also mentioned that there may be a sense of guilt as the story progresses. It seems like you’re really emphasizing the story more this time around.
Hayashi: Ninja Gaiden has always been an action-driven game. You kill enemies, you go to the next stage, repeat. We feel that, nowadays, there’s more to games than that. If we focus on the story as well, the combination of a good story and strong action can work together. That way, the combat you experience works on an entirely new level. It becomes more than the sum of its parts.
G4: Thus far we’ve mostly seen Hayabusa fighting military-style enemies. The previous Ninja Gaiden games always had a strong supernatural element to the threat them, as well. Will we see that in NG3?
Hayashi: Absolutely. The stage we’ve been showing off is the prologue stage. In the course of the game, you’ll definitely see a wide variety of enemies. That’s one of the hallmarks of a Ninja Gaiden game. We definitely don’t want to lose that. However, we don’t want to toss certain elements in just because – we want to make sure the enemies we do put in there work with the concept and story.
G4: Team Ninja also announced that they are working on Dead or Alive 5. You’ve stated that the concept for the game is “fighting entertainment.” I can’t help but think that might carry a negative connotation to hardcore fighting game fans, however, who view a fighting game devised as “entertainment” to be lacking in skill and competitive qualities.
Hayashi: Yes, we do understand the term has a bit of a negative connotation. We’re sure some people will hear “fighting entertainment” and think we’re just trying to put together some lame fighting game with no depth whatsoever. I assure you, that is not our intention. We have the base for DoA already as a solid fighting game. We will definitely make sure that it satisfies their needs.
But looking at modern game design – if you want to make a brand new fighting game now, what would you want to do with it to make it stand out from the pack? Where would you take the genre? It seems like there’s more to be explored there. We have the base, and we’ll definitely offer an experience that fans will want. But there’s a level of spectacle, fun, and entertainment we’re also trying to bring back to the genre.
G4: There’s always been a lot of spectacle going on in the DoA levels, but it looks like you’re really trying to make the stages an even bigger part of the gameplay. How are you approaching the stage design this time around? Will the levels have any element of randomness to them?
Hayashi: Any element of randomness we may or may not decide to put in is going to be something we’ll decide when weighing the overall balance of the game. We can’t really say right now what’s going to be in. We can tell you that we will offer a solid, well-balanced fighting game. Whether that includes random elements or not – we’ll just have to see if that will work with what we want to do.
G4: Going back to Ninja Gaiden 3 – Team Ninja’s last action game, Metroid: Other M, was also quite story-heavy. The story elements, however, received something of a mixed reaction among players and critics. Have you learned anything from your experience with that title, and how will you use it to improve the story presentation in NG3?
Hayashi: The story for Other M was definitely the product of Mr. Sakamoto at Nintendo. We definitely worked with them on the project, but that was all him. For NG3, we’ve worked with Masato Kato to create our own story. It’s going to be different in a lot of ways. There are definitely things we learned from Other M by working with Mr. Sakamoto and with Nintendo that we’ve applied to the NG development. The actual story that you will experience here, however, will have a very different feel. A “Team Ninja” feel, you might say.
G4: Masato Kato was the writer for the original Ninja Gaiden NES games. Does this mean we’ll see any crossover between the two different Ryu Hayabusa timelines?
Hayashi: Absolutely. There are some links – you’ll see characters from those games appearing in this one…
Hayashi: Hmmm, I can’t say yet! But there are definitely people you’ll recognize by their names. Consider they last appeared as NES sprites, however, maybe it’s a bit tougher to recognize their appearance… *laughs*
For more Tokyo Game Show goodness, check out all of our TGS 2011 coverage!