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'The world has changed': Team Ninja's Hayashi on more realistic, respectful games
'The world has changed': Team Ninja's Hayashi on more realistic, respectful games Exclusive
February 14, 2012 | By Leigh Alexander

It's been three years now since Yosuke Hayashi took leadership of Team Ninja, and although the studio's next two releases, Ninja Gaiden 3 and Dead or Alive 5, are continuations of brands closely associated with the studio for some time, he says they represent the first opportunity to show the new team's spirit.

Most of Team Ninja's staff of "about 200", according to Hayashi, are original team members, but new blood has come in from other Tecmo studios as well. Yet according to Hayashi, the studio's vision has changed since he, the director of Ninja Gaiden Sigma and leader of the Metroid: Other M team, took over from departed head Tomonobu Itagaki.

"The old team was known for making games that just had two primary elements: Sex and violence," Hayashi tells Gamasutra. "It was very obvious. The new team, we want to take it to a new level -- to a direction that contains emotional experiences that can move players."

"Rather than just having violence for the sake of violence and cheap thrill, we wanted to give meaning to violence: Why does this happen? We want to link emotion to violence." With Ninja Gaiden 3, he says, "we wanted to make a game that is for mature audiences, that can make adults think."

With a longstanding action franchise, the team has room to flex those muscles and explore that goal. But Dead or Alive has always seemed a brand just as interested in showcasing sparsely-clad, busty pinup fighters as in providing a fighting game experience -- if not more so.

"We've always had the sex factor in the game; in the past, the female characters had to have big breasts, they had to have scanty dress," says Hayashi. "In DoA 5 especially, we're trying to focus on the real women that surround us; the voice of a female, the mannerisms. We are being realistic about it."

If Team Ninja's goal truly is to dignify the Dead or Alive franchise a bit, then it seems the team risks alienating some fans who may have just tuned in for the flesh parade. But Hayashi feels confident that longtime DoA players might have grown up some over the years.

"In the series up to now we focused on some kind of... Sports Illustrated [aesthetic]. like a magazine for high school kids, with women portrayed in that sense. But that's not what we want," he asserts.

"We want to show something that's more high class, that adult males of our generation could look at a woman [character] and be impressed with her as a woman, not just as a pin-up," he continues. "That's what we wanted to tell our fans."

In Hayashi's view, one of the best opportunities for the new Team Ninja is to take both female bodies and narratives a bit more seriously this way. "The team has always wanted to do it," he says. "The world has changed. People want something that's more substantial."

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John Flush
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"The team has always wanted to do it," he says. "The world has changed. People want something that's more substantial."

That is a bold statement considering there is another set of teenagers every year. Are our kids actually growing up faster these days? or is there less of a teen market? Or maybe they just realize there is a bigger market of adults instead of sex and violence chasers?


As for Other M, wow, it never stops does it. The game wasn't that bad.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Matt Ponton
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Remember, in Japan the birthrate is declining and eventually the older aged group is outnumbering the younger age. Soon it will be an inverse pyramid from what it should be.

John Flush
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I'm definitely not complaining about the change in direction that is sure. I like my games to be more about "lasting" content - even if it isn't long. So I like the change.

Jorge Gonzalez Sanchez
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Yes, do the exact opposite of what defined the team since its inceptio.

Silent Hill Team should get back together and make a new Banjo & Kazooie.

Harlan Sumgui
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You know, that actually might be a pretty awesome game.

Darcy Nelson
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As someone who liked the DOA series but was admittedly put off by their less than noble characterization of female martial artists, I am DYING to see what they will offer up as a 'more mature, realistic' take on that franchise. I feel like it's going to either be impressive, or disappointing and amusing.

Isaiah Taylor
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Really hoping for the best. It's so difficult to make games of this magnitude and maintain some semblence of intergrity to the initial concept and design.

Kevin Fishburne
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True. Actually controlling yourself gets boiled down to some context-sensitive combos and pad flailing. Sad, especially considering how forgiving the timing is. Simple yet all-encompassing controls are best, with immediate physics-based visual and aural feedback. Maintain the rules and enforce them and you'll be happy if emergent combinations evolve.

Ernest Adams
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I'm looking forward to their implementation of Lingerie Football.

William Botti
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OMG Ernest is that really you (EA, Bullfrog) !! You are hilarious. Its bean a while, friend. As for your comment, all I can say is, "insightful". - Will Botti

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The hentai artist side of the net will always be hentai artist no matter how dignified Team Ninja makes their female characters. It's just a fact. These days the internet just parodies and perverts what it sees.

Andreas Ronning
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Yosuke Hayashi makes boring knockoffs. Until he has made a single game with any kind of personality, he may want to stop trolling for unicorns. A couple of unambitious ports of old games and the worst Metroid game in a decade. Well done sir, you are truly someone to listen to!

As for his comments about what the previous team was "known for", he seems to have completely missed the boat. Team Ninja was about rock solid take-no-prisoners action game design. Even for a game series as blisteringly retarded as the DOAX games, nobody else was making those, and TN went all out. That takes balls and determination.

Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox was, next to Halo, a system-defining title. OH BUT THE SEX AND THE VIOLENCE. Fuck off, guy. Go back to beigetown and live in your beige house with your beige tapestry and watch beige-shows on the beige network.

And what the hell is wrong with sex and violence? I'll take a studio making rock solid sex and violence games over bland "mature realism" any day. My god, we are drowning in attempts at mature realism. We really can't leave it all up to Grasshopper Manufacture, can we?

I mean, sometimes we need a creepy sexist asshole to design our video games. If anything it's worth the color it brings to the industry.

David Rodriguez
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I agree, it's more that he's destroying the dynamic's of the studio that founded itself on the over the top style of action games that never relied on emotional story telling to be good. It's the equivalent of someone walking into Rockstar and saying "I want to restore dignity to Grand Theft Auto!!" You just can't make a U-Turn with a studio like that,I'm a little concerned...

Kevin Fishburne
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@ Andreas and David, I think it's possible to incorporate over the top (realistic) violence with running through levels and still have time for a story element. Just because you can cut the top off someone's skull with a specific stance, orientation and move doesn't mean it needs to be macroed to L2. It should be more like Madden but with cutting, bashing and burning people.

Games can have extreme violence and still allow you to do more mundane things without toggling modes or interfaces. You should be able to read a book up close just as easily as cutting someone running at your back, gameplay and controller wise.

Jeremie Sinic
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@ Andreas and David

Yeah, nice to see I am not the only one who's not craving for mature realism in every other game.

I just hope the new approach "adds" to the coming games without killing what made them fun in the first place (gameplay and over-the-top action/characters).

Although a coherent story would not hurt Ninja Gaiden, I am more skeptical about "dignifying" DOA.

DOA4 was totally over-the-top but technically near-perfect, with a solid online vs mode.

The vid I saw of DOA5 didn't seem to show a totally new approach in terms of gameplay so there's still hope.

Regarding the hypersexualization of the female characters: yes, they looked like teenagers' fantasies so what? It was the same for the male characters and I was not offended that some of them were fighting wearing nothing more than a pair of jeans.

Characters of both genders were obvious stereotypes.

It was actually ridiculously fun and funny --this from a guy whose favorite character was Nicole (a Halo-Spartan guest character).

So bad I didn't evolve into a "mature" adult.

Now, what about getting rid of all the gore elements and fatalities and have all female characters (many of whom wear actually more skimpy clothes than the DOA heroines) wear a burqa in the next Mortal Kombat? That would be Oh so dignifying... and boring as hell of course.

But that's right, let's be serious, there's too much fun in this world.

Jeremie Sinic
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Yeah, I agree, but it's just that I find it sad when a once daring and self-assuming development team starts to self-restrain out of puritanism.

Is it not shocking that there's more fuss made about the female characters outfit of DOA (in an otherwise soft game) than the ultra gory violence of Mortal Kombat?

Don't get me wrong, I love Mortal Kombat but frankly, I would let my kid play DOA4 way before he could play Mortal Kombat.

Besides, I find the treatment of DOA4 unfair because although released in late 2005, it's still technically one of the best and most enjoyable fighting games available on 360, swimsuits or not.

I am overreacting again, but that's the effect censorship has on me :)

Vin St John
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@Jeremie - Bashing on the DOA franchise isn't "puritanical." The sexualized elements of that game are ridiculous. They're laughable. They make it much, much worse. It's not censorship, either, when people say "I don't want to play this, because I find it ridiculous and offensive to my tastes."

If indeed Team Ninja plans on "growing up" I think that's awesome. However, reading between the lines of this article, it sounds like they're more likely to continue making games with unnecessarily hypersexualized characters, and then tack on some more 'mature' themes as they did in Other M in an effort to legitimize the game. I hope they prove me wrong, but their track record makes me cynical.

Austin Ivansmith
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I really liked the first DOA a lot because it was one of the first games I played, aside from Tekken, to have more than 1-2 female fighters in it. The hyper-sexuality didn't kick in so much until #3, and by then I was pretty put off by it. I am looking forward to where they try to take 5.

Raymond Grier
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It's sad that the commentary has mostly degenerated into talk about Metroid - Other M, that isn't the topic of the article.

I can appreciate that he wants to make more "wholesome" games but do that with a new franchise, don't so it to an existing highly successful franchise that got most of its attention for not being wholesome. Its sort of like pre-empting an episode of Nikita in prime time to show figuring skating, wrong audience (old BCTV, tisk).

Jeremie Sinic
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My thought exactly.

Still looking forward to the game, though :)

Pathyrus 1
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I am very disappointed to hear this Team Ninja. I adored DOA4 and DOAXBV /precisely/ because of the beautiful bodies of the female characters and the scantily clad way they were shown off in sexy garments.

It troubles me deeply that the new attitude is to pander to social conservatives and feminists.

I will not be buying this game /precisely/ because of this puritanical, or politically correct new direction. DoA5 looks dull and boringly feminist.

Kevin Fishburne
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@Jeremie Sinic - A Mortal Kombat character wearing a pitch-black burqa would actually be awesome, especially if one of their fatalities was slowly sawing your head off with a rusty knife while others held you down. It would get banned in Germany for sure. I stick to arcade and SNES Street Fighter II, so I'm impartial.