hatever you do, don’t call Ninja Gaiden Sigma a remake. It’s not a straight-up port, either. The game’s director, Yosuke Hayashi, wants people to know that his team had higher aspirations. The game takes all of the content in Ninja Gaiden Black and adds new weapons, characters and a lot more. Hayashi says his team wanted his game to be the best action game on the PlayStation 3 this year, as well as the best-looking title on the platform thus far. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s one that certainly seems within reach. We spoke with Hayashi about the game, PlayStation 3 development and how it is to work with the prickly Itagaki.
Game Informer: When you started out your presentation, you gave us an explanation why this isn’t a remake. Do you find it hard that you have to explain how Sigma is different from Black and why people should play this as well?
Yosuke Hayashi: Of course, we knew that the subject of, “Is this another remake?” was going to come up, and we don’t want it just to be thought of as that. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so careful in making sure that the graphics were up to next-generation standards, so we could come in and say, “The game speaks for itself.” You can tell that it’s not a remake. We’re shooting for the best graphics on the PS3 right now. The same thing goes for the action. We still think we have a really compelling action game in the original Ninja Gaiden, but we wanted to improve, like adding a new weapon and having Rachel in there, in order to say, “Hey, look, the action is very much relevant. It’s the best action game on PS3 in 2007 as well.” So that way, people can’t just point to it and say, “This is a remake.” We don’t even want to use the word remake, because of how much effort has gone into it.
GI: Is this a good way to build the ground base for Ninja Gaiden 2 for next-gen consoles?
Hayashi: Yeah, there’s no doubt that at some point, down the line, the discussion about Ninja Gaiden 2 is going to come about. But what I’m focused on right now is making sure that Ninja Gaiden Sigma is the best that it can be for the PlayStation 3 platform right now. Whatever I can do to help out future efforts, obviously, I’m going to, along with all the other members of Team Ninja.
GI: How hands-on is Itagaki-san? Is he always over your shoulder, keeping an eye on how the game’s progressing?
Hayashi: [Laughs] Yeah, I do feel like he’s looking over me from afar, maybe like a worried parent, if you will. It’s not that he has a very specific role, day to day, like I have to report to him on a daily basis, but I do get a lot of advice and feedback from him. His influence is obviously felt with everything we do at Team Ninja, including this game.
GI: What’s it like being Tecmo’s guinea pig with the first PlayStation 3 release?
Hayashi: [Laughs] The PS3, it’s been a couple of months since it came out, but I honestly can say I’m not real impressed with a lot of the software offerings—especially at the launch. I feel that Ninja Gaiden Sigma can and will be representative not only of what Team Ninja can do on the platform but to provide a new benchmark for PlayStation 3 software going forward.
GI: What did you think of Genji?
Hayashi: [Laughs] I think there’s always going to be a trade-off between graphics and gameplay. In a perfect world, you’d obviously have both. Genji is one of those games where it was obvious that they had to prove something with the graphics, so they could say, “Here’s a launch title on PS3, we have to show what the PS3 is capable of.” And as a result, they kind of put the gameplay by the wayside. So we look at that, and to be honest, to us, it’s kind of an anathema to what we do. We’re about the gameplay, first and foremost. That’s why you look at Ninja Gaiden Sigma, it’s running at 60 frames-per-second solid, because it wouldn’t be Ninja Gaiden if it wasn’t. We’ve got self-shadowing, we’ve all those graphically neat things, and it’s still running at 60 frames. So, you take something like Genji, where they obviously weren’t focused as much on the action as we are. We say, “We’ll take the action.” The whole point of having a game is that you have compelling gameplay, and then you see how far you can take the graphics, whereas they had kind of an opposite approach.
When you’re only looking at screenshots, people like to compare us with Genji. But the fact of the matter is that you see that game actually running, we’re running at 60 frames versus their maybe 30 frames, and they even have slowdown and things like that, and I think that once you see the game in motion and play the game, you’ll see how much of a difference there is. The first Genji for PlayStation 2 was running at 60 frames. So you have to ask yourself why did they drop it?
GI: The Xbox Ninja Gaiden games had the classic games included. Do you think we’ll see that this time around, or are you saving that up for possible Xbox downloads or the Virtual Console?
Hayashi: The Ninja Gaiden games for Xbox, Ninja Gaiden and Black, had those games included to give people a chance to have that all in one place and be able to refer to those for nostalgia purposes and also to see how far the series has come. For us, we’re going to try to give a next-generation experience. We think Ninja Gaiden Sigma is the first chapter in the Ninja Gaiden franchise for next-generation consoles, so we’re not as concerned about going back and looking at the history of the franchise—though we obviously respect those games and the people who made them back in the day. But for us it’s about showing people, “This is what we can do now with these new hardware platforms.”