Ninja Gaiden. Two simple words that summon up images of nostalgia, swordplay, and those horrible, horrible birds. This holiday season Tecmo will be returning to its roots with the long awaited release of Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox. Recently we had the unique opportunity to speak with Tomonobu Itagaki from Team Ninja regarding the game.eToychest: Firstly, thank you for taking the time to speak with us regarding Ninja Gaiden. This is quickly shaping up to be one of the biggest titles this Q4. One of the most interesting aspects of this game is that its story exists outside the existing Ninja Gaiden storyline. Without giving too much away, can you comment on how this game relates to the existing games, if it ties in at all?
Tomonobu Itagaki: Aside from saying, “they’re both the best action game of the time”, I can’t say that we’ve consciously created any similarity.
SBG: Why was it decided to keep this latest game to bear the Ninja Gaiden name so removed from the original trilogy?
TI: The story of the Trilogy was completed back then. I felt that I should not add anything to an already completed story.
SBG: Team Ninja has a tendency to work on whatever platform is the most powerful at the time, and to seldom work on ports to other system. Will this tendency hold true for Ninja Gaiden?
TI: The most important thing for us is the quality. For this reason, I don’t like porting to other systems. I feel this decreases the quality.
SBG: One of the most secretive, and yet most eagerly anticipated aspects of Ninja Gaiden has been its LIVE component. Would you care to share any tidbits about what players can expect from Ninja Gaiden’s online capabilities?
TI: We’ll be holding a worldwide event called “Master Ninja Tournament”. This tournament will determine the most powerful Ninja in the world.
SBG: Ayane from the Dead or Alive series has been seen in some of the screenshots that have been showcased for Ninja Gaiden. Should we be on the lookout for other Dead or Alive connections? Conversely, could any of the new characters in Ninja Gaiden make their way into future Dead or Alive titles?
TI: Given the fact that the same producers are working on both Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series, there will be some similarity with the look and feel. It’s like the relationship between the two famous anime series by Reiji Matsumoto, “Space Pirate Captain Harlock” and “Galaxy Express 999”.
SBG: Is Ninja Gaiden still on track for a release this November? Do you see any possible roadblocks that could keep the game from missing this target date?
TI: What do you think? (laugh) First thing first, my main goal is to create and release a game that will fulfill the players’ highest expectation. Having said that, the game is scheduled to be released this Christmas season…
SBG: Can you comment on any of the other features Team Ninja is incorporating into Ninja Gaiden? Will it have HDTV support, customizable soundtrack, or downloadable content?
TI: Of course it’s going to be HDTV compatible. Customizing the sound track in this game is not appropriate to this title. I can’t comment on the possible download contents right now.
SBG: It was recently revealed that the original NES trilogy was an unlockable feature in Ninja Gaiden? Can you comment on how Team Ninja came to the decision to include these classic titles? Can you give some hint as to what gamers will have to accomplish to unlock these games?
TI: Overwhelming requests from the old fans of the game from 15 years ago helped us make the decision to include it. Do you realize that it’s no longer a hidden unlockable item since the public knows about it?(laugh)
I’m not giving you any hint but if my memory serves me well, if you do something in the game you can obtain the old game.(just kidding)
SBG: Much of the game’s design looks very original from what we have seen thus far. Can you comment on some of the inspiration behind this game?
TI: When you have worked on fighting games for so many years, you suddenly get the urge to make a single player action game. That’s how this project started.
SBG: Lastly, I want to thank you for talking to us regarding this exciting title. I know all of us and our readers are eagerly anticipating Ninja Gaiden’s release. Is there anything you would like to add before we leave you?
TI: We’re in the midst of the final development battle because we’re squeezing in all of our ideas into this game. You should be happy to know that our motto is to never compromise at the expense of lowering quality.