EXCLUSIVE: Team Ninja's Itagaki on the future of Ninja Gaiden, the PSP, and the Wii
Team Ninja's founder, Tomonobu Itagaki is as known for creating two things; great games and greater controversy with his off-the-cuff interview style. GamePro sat down with the prolific developer for his thoughts on the portables, ports, and his love for Halo.
GamePro: The Xbox versions of Ninja Gaiden required very precise control. The DS touch screen is known for being imprecise. Is that something you were worried about when starting the project [Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword]?
Itagaki: We weren't really worried about that. Games for home consoles have to be made a certain, almost digital way where you have to provide a certain input and you succeed or fail but portable games need a slightly different way of thinking. They're a different genre in and of itself so they can be a bit more... amorphous, is the word I'd use. They don't have to be quite as precise in that regard. It's about choosing the best way for each genre.
GP:There aren't many DS games that utilize a vertical setup. What made you decide to do that?
Itagaki: From the gameplay perspective, it decreases the amount of space your hand covers the screen. Also, its easier to show realistic depth to the 3D graphics when it's vertical. Since [Ryu] Hayabusa is a character that jumps and does a lot of vertical movement it's easier to show his movement using a vertical screen. Of course, we're also going to include a mode for left-handed players too.
GP: Team Ninja games usually appear on the most powerful platforms. Why not put the new Ninja Gaiden on the PSP?
Itagaki: The design philosophy for the PSP as a piece of hardware is a home gaming machine--in terms of specs--you can take with you. If we were gonna make it for PSP, it'd be better for us to make it for a powerful home system instead. The DS is designed under the concept of "What should a portable system be?" instead of trying to replicate the home experience. That's what attracted me to developing on the DS because you can really utilize its strengths as a portable platform. I think if I were to develop this game on the PSP, most of my fans would be upset.
I think if I were to develop this game on the PSP, most of my fans would be upset.
GP: A lot of developers have used the DS as a springboard of sorts for their ideas to go to the Wii. Do you think that's something that might happen with this title?
Itagaki: Just as this game is called Ninja Gaiden but it has a completely different style of gameplay than the other games in the series, I think there's definitely a possibility to bring it to the Wii if it was going to have a completely different style of gameplay. I won't say what game it is, but I was playing an action-RPG game on the DS the other day and the gameplay was exactly the same as any home console. Polygon enemies appeared and you fought them using the control pad and buttons. There's no reason that game has to be on the DS. By the same token, if you were going to take a game that was on the DS and put it on the Wii, if you're not going to change the way the game fundamentally plays, there's really no point to it. If you're going to try to make use of the originality of the Wii hardware and make changes to the game to reflect that, then it's worth doing.