We managed to meet up with Keiji Inafune, the man behind some of the biggest titles in gaming, to talk about the upcoming Ninja Gaiden game, Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. With him was Yosuke Hayashi, the head of development at Team Ninja, the person responsible for Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword for the DS and Ninja Gaiden Sigma for the PlayStation 3.
Rice Digital (RD): Considering that the other Ninja Gaiden games where darker, especially Ninja Gaiden 3. Why is does this one have such a different direction?
Keiji Inafune (KI): The game its-self is complete different from Ninja Gaiden games. So it seems to work for this. We are looking for ways to make a different game than Ninja Gaiden, but still want to go through the Ninja Gaiden world. So there are definitely serious aspects to the story, Ryu is serious in this opening and the things that are going on in the story that are serious. People are acting seriously, but the way we are presenting them also have aspects of humour. Things don’t have to be dark to be serious, you can have humour and contrast humour and serious. We are just looking for ways to be different and make this sort of stand on its own.
RD: What exactly is the main difference in the gameplay?
Yosuke Hayashi (YH): We are not trying to make this different than Ninja Gaiden, we are just trying to make Yaiba as its own thing. So the system its-self works for Yaiba as a game, its different than Ninja Gaiden. It is what it is.
RD: I presume that the reason you are using cel-shading is because of the different approach. Is it more light hearted?
KI: That’s not really why we are using this sort of comic book feel. We where just trying to find an art-style that worked for Yaiba and the elements that we where trying to bring to the game. It’s not like we are trying to lighten it up or try to make it like a kids game or anything like that. This just seemed like the best art-style for this particular game. We don’t think that cel-shading makes this any lighter or darker it just works for the game that Yaiba is, as well as the elements that we brought together.
RD: I see that there a lot of different types of enemies. Can you tell a anything more about why you picked zombies? What kind of enemy types will you meet?
KI: These are just a selection of some of those zombies, some of the enemies you will face in the game. They are all zombies, but they have sort of by-products, they have been created for different purposes. So you will see some zombies that breath fire, or spit out bio-acid. Of course you will have more of the standard stiff zombies infected here. Each one will have its own way of play. As you play through the game you will see their fighting styles and the player will have to figure out the best ways to defeat them and by the way they interact with each other.
RD: Ninja Gaiden is well known for its difficulty. Is this game going to be difficult or are there going to be easier modes?
KI: Ninja Gaiden has been a difficult game. While its separate from Ninja Gaiden it needs to have a certain level of chalange to please Ninja Gaiden fans. But we also do want to make it a little bit easier for people who might not know of Ninja Gaiden to jump in and start playing. People who like the zombies or art-style can check it out. We want to make it accessible to those people as well. The challenge will be there for those that want it, but it will also be open to those that aren’t used to that.
RD: Ninja Gaiden brought multiplayer recently. Can we expect that in this game and will there be co-op considering the style of the game?
YH: This is a game about one ninja defeating zombies, a bunch of zombies. So right now we are not thinking about multiplayer for this game.
RD: What kind of levels can we expect? Ninja Gaiden was really known for the amount of varied levels from forests to cities to other locals. Is there going to be such variety in this game?
KI: Yea absolutely there will be a variety of locations and a variety of levels to play through. You definitely want people to not get bored with the levels as they are playing through.
RD: Are there going to be different weapons as well as upgrade systems?
KI: As you can see he has a cyborg arm. That arm will gain new features and abilities as the game progresses. He can also get weapons from these zombies. So he can rip off the zombies arms and use them as nun-chucks. So there are different ways to use zombies as weapons. So there would be variety there as well.
RD: How long do you expect the game to take? What is the replay value of the game? Once you finish it is there going to be a reason for someone to come back, is there something to collect or other paths through the game?
KI: We are still working on the set length, but it will be in line with other action games. It will be long enough that people will be satisfied with the game length. For replayability, we are looking at some different modes. Players will be able to play the game in different ways as well.
RD: Previous Ninja Gaiden games always had additional unlockable characters, each with his own story. Does this game have something similar or is it just focused on Yaiba?
YH: The title is Yaiba (laughs)
RD: Are you planing on releasing this to next-gen systems?
YH: From the start we where planing on this as a PS3, 360 game. But if there is enough people that want it as a next gen game it’s definitely something we could look into. But right now we are very focused on making a solid game for the current generation when it releases early next year.
RD: Can you tell me a bit more about the story and how it will progress and why does Yaiba fight?
KI: As you see in the opening movie, that duel is one of the primary motivations for Yaiba. Hayabusa cuts him in half and through the course of the story he is looking for Hayabusa to get his revenge.
RD: So can we expect Hayabusa to be the main enemy in this game, maybe as a final boss?
KI: It’s not that simple, he will appear within the course of the game. But of course there are a lot of fans out there that like Hayabusa, they like to play as Hayabusa. So we cant just make a game that is going force them to kill Hayabusa. It’s a complicated relationship that happens through the course of the game.
RD: Is there a reason that Hayabusa attacked Yaiba?
KI: It’s not that Hayabusa was looking for a fight, he wasn’t challenging Yaiba. You will see through the course of the game what happens.