Ninja Gaiden 3 Interview (PS3)

Ninja Gaiden is just one of those franchises: It's not insanely popular, but it's iconic. It does what it does, and does it extremely well. Now the action-ninja powerhouse is back, and we spoke to Overseas Product Manager Peter Garza and got him to tell us more:

Strategy Informer: So, Ninja Gaiden 3... not getting confused with the original classic NGIII I hope?

Peter Garza: *smiles* It's been ok - people have been able to differentiate between the two pretty well.

Strategy Informer: On a serious note - are you doing some kind of homage to the original games? Or is it just how things ended up?

Peter Garza: It's more of a coincidence than anything, but there is a connection to the original Ninja Gaiden. We have the writer for the original Ninja Gaiden doing the story for this one. He wrote that and then went one to do some other big titles and now he's back.

Strategy Informer: Since he's gone away and come back, has his perspective changed since when he was doing the work on the original games?

Peter Garza: Well yeah - he's been the writer for several major Japanese games. The concept was worked out between the producer and the writer and there was a lot of back and forth in terms of what they wanted to do... but you'll see his signature in how things play out over the course of the story.

Strategy Informer: Along with this series, you've got the Sigma series, the original series, other spin-offs... that's a lot of Ninja Gaiden games. How do you keep the franchise fresh?

Peter Garza: I think for ... at least since the first game in this new series - the first game nailed combat. The second one you had more splatter and visual 'coolness'... for Ninja Gaiden 3, there's been a concerted effort to make this more of a modern action game. No resting on its laurels and doing things because that's how they've always been done. There's been a lot of work in trying to make it more immersive, to look at other modern games that are out there now, and to incorporate game design that are in other games.

So, we've done away with essence, and dragon statues... very 'game-y' metaphors. In NG3 we're trying to be more immersive, and tried to work those metaphors into the game world itself to keep the player in the world. One example is the arm of the main character - if you've seen the trailer, you'll know that he's got something funny going on with his arm. That's actually a curse that's put on him very early in the game. The more people he kills, the more that curse flares up, and that's essentially how you power up. Instead of having a gauge, we've worked it into his body.
Strategy Informer: Is there any one specific franchise that you've been drawing your 'modernisation' from? Or anything specific that you've seen and thought "yeah, that's good"?

Peter Garza: I don't know if there's one specific franchise, but I can say that if you look at a lot of western games right now there are more immersive experiences. Whether it's looking at Heavy Rain, or Battlefield... it's all this seamless, immersive experience. Even Assassins Creed has it's own metaphors for what it does... that's the kind of ideas, the kind of game design we're looking that.

Strategy Informer: You guys are making a Wii U version of this game - what's it been like developing f or that hardware?

Peter Garza: It's still early days for us - we've only just got the game - the demo - up and running on hardware. Nintendo have been very cooperative, they've been asking us for feedback on the hardware, and spec-wise it's very on par with the 360 and the PS3. In terms of gameplay we're still experimenting with what will make fun gameplay with that controller. Of course we had Dragon Sword on the DS, so we have some notion of touch gameplay, but whether that will work with the Wii U controls, or whether we should just focus on more normal controls, is something we're experimenting with.

Strategy Informer: Obviously, Ninja Gaiden has a very mature, very bloody image, where Nintendo of late has had a very family orientated image - any issues there?

Peter Garza: We know we have that image, but we haven't had any push back from Nintendo itself. They were very welcoming for Dragon Sword on the DS, and I think if you look at the line up of games they have coming on the Wii U, not only ours, you'll see that they are courting that hardcore gamer crowd.

Strategy Informer: Can you go through the online mode briefly?

Peter Garza: Yeah the co-op is a two-player co-op mode. You'll take on different missions, either with a computer controlled AI or with another person. The game battle and the death matches are 8 players.

The concept for the online mode is the world of ninjas. The main story is about the main character and his journey, but he's the most bad-ass ninja out there. Once you go online, you start out as a rookie - you'll be fighting other players and trying to become that top ninja. They'll be customisation aspects, customize weapons, the look... there's also a collectible aspect in the kanji... I think there's going to be 2000 of these? And you can collect them and put them on your back. Even in some of the rules - I can't tell you about them - but some of them make it really feel like a ninja battle.

Strategy Informer: How will these 'rules' work? Will they be like options you can toggle?

Peter Garza: Some of them will happen randomly, so it changes things around, but we hope to make a unique, ninja-like online experience.
Strategy informer: What about DLC? Will extra 'rules' be made available through that?

Peter Garza: We're definitely planning on having DLC, what DLC there will be is still very much under construction - we're just concentrating on the game itself right now, and finding out what is fun for people.

Since it's slated for a Q1 2012 release, it' still very early days for Ninja Gaiden 3. Keep an eye on Strategy Informer over the coming months, as we'll definitely strive to bring you some hands-on impressions. We hope you enjoyed the interview.