Ninja Gaiden: Tomonobu Itagaki Interview

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December 5th, 2003
Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
One of Tecmo�s most treasured franchises will be given new life this February when a whole new action-packed Ninja Gaiden hits store shelves�with a vengeance. The player takes on the role of the powerful and mysterious ninja, Ryu Hayabusa, who seeks revenge after his clan is massacred by the Vigor Empire. Realistically violent battle sequences and acrobatic ninja moves restore Ninja Gaiden to its rightful place in the action/adventure hall of fame.

New features include a revolutionary Xbox Live feature being specifically engineered by Tecmo's esteemed developing group, "Team Ninja," swift new moves and intense action sequences, and amazing visual effects.

I had the great opportunity to speak with gaming guru Tomonobu Itagaki regarding his highly anticipated title in this rare exclusive interview, check it out.

How is Ninja Gaiden coming along? What state are you at in terms of development and what's left to be done?

Tomonobu Itagaki: There are still quite a few things left to be done.

One thing we noticed while watching the different movies and demos is that Hayabusa moves really quick when compared to other action games. It's as if he moves like a fighting game character rather than one that is part of an action game. Is this on purpose? How will this affect the gameplay?

Tomonobu Itagaki: The speediness of Ninja Gaiden will provide comfort and enjoyment to casual users, and depth for hardcore gamers. Of course, the faster characters move, the better; however, that alone is not enough. Smooth, high-quality animation, highly responsive control with a great sense of immediacy, the feeling of being one with the character you're controlling on screen, and camerawork that provides superb playability; unless these factors are all included, it won't matter how fast a game is, it will still be a cheap action game.

I know you have tweaked the control system since the E3 demo. Could you please give us a quick overview?

Tomonobu Itagaki: The button assignments have been changed greatly since the E3 version. Below, I have listed the button assignments in detail (of course, these can be changed at the player's will on the options screen):
  • Left Thumbstick: Used to move Hayabusa and input commands for fighting techniques
  • Right Thumbstick: Switches to 1st-person View Mode and pans the camera in that mode
  • Left Trigger: Block enemy attacks
  • Right Trigger: Returns the 3rd-person camera to the position behind Hayabusa
  • A Button: Jump
  • B Button: Use Projectile Weapons
  • X Button: Melee Weapon attack
  • Y Button: Melee Weapon strong attack
  • B + Y: Ninpo magic attacks
  • Black Button: Brings up the map at once
The functions assigned to each button can be used in parallel in the game; this is one of the features that gives Ninja Gaiden an extraordinary amount of interactivity and depth of gameplay.

The NES Ninja Gaiden games were what you call in Japan "Oboe-ge", games that require memorization in order to defeat enemies. Is this new Ninja Gaiden an "oboe-ge"?

Tomonobu Itagaki: If someone only wants to play Ninja Gaiden through to the end, they won't need to memorize anything. All they will need are their reflexes.

However, people that want to win the Master Ninja Tournament will need to learn enemy positions and respawn patterns in order to achieve the maximum score.

So far, the demos and movies released have unveiled several types of enemies, supporting characters and levels. There are the Japanese ones like Ayane, the clans, the ninjas, the sewers levels, and then you�ve the Dynamo, the military base, the helicopters, the Vigoor Empire�s MSAT and finally monsters, demons and other creatures. What was your reason to mix different cultural elements and settings? To make the game appeal to different audiences across all territories?

Tomonobu Itagaki: Well, since I didn't know when I would next be able to make an action game, I just put everything in that I wanted to create! The result of this is all of the wonderful characters and scenery that you have mentioned.

There are several types of shurikens for Hayabusa to use along with other edged weapons. Could you tell us a bit more about how these will work?

Tomonobu Itagaki: Weapons are broadly divided into 2 categories: Melee Weapons and Projectile Weapons. The representative Melee Weapon is the Dragon Sword. In addition, there are several Japanese-style swords, a number of Nunchaku-type weapons, a warhammer, and several massive swords. There is also the Spear Gun, which is a specialty weapon that is classified as a Melee Weapon.

In the category of Projectile Weapons, there are Shuriken (throwing knives), Incendiary Shuriken, and the legendary Windmill Shuriken which been carried on from the classic NES games. In addition, there are multiple types of Bows and Arrows to use with them, such as APFSDS Cores used to take down heavily-armored tanks, or Exploding Arrows used to deliver an explosive punch across a wide area.

Will Ninja Gaiden take advantage of Xbox's Dolby Digital audio capabilities? Please describe some scenarios where you are using 5.1 surround sound in a revolutionary way?

Tomonobu Itagaki: Ninja Gaiden will support Dolby Digital, of course. I wouldn't call what we are doing with it "revolutionary"; it will be similar to the implementation used in DOA3 and DOAX Beach Volleyball.

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