At this year’s Eurogamer Expo, we here at GGUK where lucky enough to have a sit down with Peter Garza who is the Localisation Director at Team Ninja, a division of Tecmo Koei which was founded in 1995. They have worked on a number of AAA games including Metroid: Other M, but they’re best known for their work on the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series. We got to ask him a few questions about their up and coming game Ninja Gaiden 3.
GGUK: Having had a go at the game on the show floor, the first thing that strikes you is that Ryu has a strange looking arm – why is this?
Peter: That’s actually a curse. Early on in the story of Ninja Gaiden 3 an enemy called the Regent of the Mask – you may have seen him in some of the trailers for the game, he has a red cloak and a mask and he places a curse on Ryu and that curse feeds on the lives that Ryu has taken in this game. We play off the fact that he has taken so many lives, not just in this game but in the past ones too. The curse will infect more of his body as you play through the game and it is a manifestation of the karma for taking people’s lives. In terms of gameplay, this is how you trigger the ultimate technique – his sort of super move. But you have to power it up by killing people. That’s an example of the more immersive feel we’re going for in this game, rather than just charging your meter up. You have it as sort of a gameplay element, both into the game mechanic and story, so it gives you more of a seamless experience.
GGUK: So that is why there was no essence to collect when I was playing?
Peter: Yeah, Ninja Gaiden 3 doesn’t have essence to help with the level of immersion in the game, for more of a modern take on action games. The story for Ninja Gaiden 3 focused on Ryu Hayabusa and showing the consequences of him killing people and giving the people the experience of striking someone down with a sword and feeling what that’s like in order to get that connection with the action that is going on. You have to empathise with the people that you are cutting down and if you start putting in yellow orbs that come up from dead bodies and things like that, it takes it away from being an immersive experience and you don’t empathise with them. They’re just another game object and you’re just playing a video game. When we look at the way games are evolving, they go more towards an elusive style and we want to be there at the forefront of action games to give that immersive aspect.
GGUK: With there being no essence in the game this time round – does that mean the way in which you unlock and upgrade weapons has changed too?
Peter: There will not be the same shop aspect as in the past game. You will get power ups and you will slowly unlock moves, but those are tied into story mode – so within the course of the story you’ll unlock different swords. Each one will bring with it it’s own moves and powers, but you’re not hitting the dragon statue at the side of the road to power things up again. That was one of the sort of gamely aspects that we wanted to revise and streamline for the experience on the whole.
GGUK: What sort of range of weapons will Ryu have in Ninja Gaiden 3?
Peter: The single player is focused on the story and the concept of cutting someone down so it revolves around sword play – the core combat for the single player then will be based around the Katana.
GGUK: With the game having a tradition of being as hard as hell to play, will the third outing continue this or has it been made easier to appeal to a larger audience?
Peter: For Ninja Gaiden 3 we are implementing what we like to call play styles. We know we have a long history and we have earned a cred for being a hard game and the fans who have cleared the game on ultimate ninja wear that as a badge of honour and we definitely want to give them a challenge and in no way are we trying to dumb it down at all. So that challenge is still there for them, but that being said we know that there are a lot of people who have thrown their controllers away and even more people who haven’t played a Ninja Gaiden game at all. We think those players (when they come to Ninja Gaiden 3) it’s not a case of being good or bad, it’s a matter that they have different skills, maybe they’re used to different games mechanics – so we set up play styles and we have a ninja play skill for the people who want the normal challenge who have played in the past. We also have a Hero play style which is more for the people who just want to play through the story without having to worry about each and every battle. So for people who are new to the series or to players who have thrown their controllers off the wall, Hero play style is there, though you’ll still face hard enemies, but there are things going on in the background to help the player, not to make it easier, and bring you up to that difficulty level.
GGUK: The demo on the show floor has Ryu fighting through the streets of London, will there be any other locations in the full game?
Peter: Yeah, the first stage takes place in London but there will be plenty of locations across the world in the full game.
GGUK: Will there be any online play in Ninja Gaiden 3? Versus? Or scoreboards?
Peter: Yeah, we’re definitely looking at online play. With the concept of the single player mode being about what it’s like to cut a person down and being focused on the dark hero Ryu, the online modes are focused on the world of ninjas. So you start the online modes as a rookie ninja, you can customise the look and weapons so you play as the ninja you want and you’ll be fighting the other ninja’s through the world to become that top ninja.
GGUK: In the past games of the series there have been Easter Eggs in the world. Are there any plans to have Easter Eggs in the third game and if so, what could there be?
Peter: We will definitely have content that series fans will enjoy.
GGUK: With the game being on the Xbox360 and PS3, is there any difference between them?
Peter: The PS3 game will support Move in the Hero play style. But by and large both games are the same.
GGUK: With Move being an option on the PS3 version of the game, did you ever look at using Kinect on the Xbox360 side?
Peter: We looked at Kinect, but we didn’t get the gameplay connection with it that we were looking for. So we felt we could serve the 360 fans better through other aspects, other than Kinect.
GGUK: With the game also coming out on the WiiU how is it shaping up?
Peter: Definitely for the WiiU version Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge is just getting up and running on the development hardware, so we’re still at the stage of playing with control schemes and see what works and what doesn’t. We definitely want to use as many features as we can and to push the WiiU to the limit, and we do have a history with touch controls with Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword on the DS and the director Yosuke Hyashi is working on it as we have that history with touch controls. So we can refer to that as a base, but if that works on the WiiU or not is something we have to play with and that’s the really exciting thing about new hardware.
GGUK: Graphically how are you finding it against the likes of the Xbox360 and PS3?
Peter: For graphics and hardware power, it’s definitely on par with both the Xbox360 and the PS3.
GGUK: With Ninja Gaiden being on the DS in the past with the excellent Dragon Blade, and with the success of Dead or Alive on the 3DS, are there any plans to bring Gaiden to the 3DS?
Peter: There’s definitely ideas there and Dead or Alive on the 3DS was a great project for the team, and the 3DS is a very capable piece of hardware. So it’s not something that there are any plans at the moment, but there are ideas there.
GGUK: With more and more Eastern developers leasing games to the Western developers, like Dead Rising and Devil May Cry, do you ever see Team Ninja doing this with Ninja Gaiden or Dead or Alive?
Peter: For Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive, I’m pretty sure that both will stay in house. Team Ninja makes both games and that’s their culture, and not just the Japanese culture but the development culture and game culture and that’s what they live and breathe – the kinds of animation and the kinds of combat, that’s what the team have been doing that for years. That being said, we would still welcome the chance to work with Western developers where there is a lot that we can learn. Being open to Western is definitely something we welcome.
GGUK: It’s been some time since Ryu was last seen on the home consoles and with the likes of God of War and Ninja Scrolls on the market now, how do you think Ryu will stand out in the crowd?
Peter: We focused on the story this time round and trying to portray Ryu as not just a mindless killing machine from a Japanese arcadey game, but focus on his humanity and what makes him tick and talking about the consequence of killing someone. The players will be able to make more of an emotional connection to Ryu through the brutality that they will commit throughout the game and they’ll see Ryu as a Japanese dark hero and not just a cool killing machine. We really want to humanise Ryu and show the real person behind the mask.
GGUK: Well that about wraps up all my questions, so I’d like to thank you for your time and for speaking to us. We can’t wait for the game to come out next year.