What is your process and who is working on the story for the third game?
YH: I came up with sort of the concept, and I had some ideas of what I wanted to do with the game, and the direction I wanted to take it in. And we wanted to make sort of a new [main character] Ryu Hayabusa, and present him in a new way. And so we reached out to the writer for the original NES Ninja Gaiden -- Masato Kato -- and brought him back into the Ninja Gaiden world. And just going back and forth with him, brainstorming ideas, a lot of things like that -- that's how the story came together.
Kato's stories always have a twist -- a very strong twist that you don't expect.
[Ed. note: Kato is responsible for the scripts for such games as Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and Baten Kaitos.]
YH: Yeah, you can look forward to something similar. [laughs]
It usually has a profound effect on the story, to the point where it completely changes your conception of what was happening in the beginning of the game.
YH: For the story, we really tried to work it into the gameplay as well. So for Ninja Gaiden 3, it's not just going to be good gameplay that feels good, and then you have kind of a story there. We really think that the elements of the story will keep you playing, and in the play will keep you interested in the elements of the story; they merge together very well within the course of the game.
Are you telling the story the same way as the previous games have in terms of cutscene, gameplay, cutscene, gameplay? Or are you doing things to change that kind of flow?
YH: You've seen in some of the trailer movies, some of the events within Ninja Gaiden 3 are actually gameplay events. They're done in-engine, but it's a very impactful scenario -- it's a very strong and powerful scene -- and we will have those within the course of the game as well. I guess, internally, yeah, we have gameplay parts and we have movie parts, but for the player we're hoping for a very seamless experience starting from gameplay.
And you can see that you will play through, it's not just killing enemies, killing enemies and then there's a movie; you'll have events that you can play through, and you can see maybe the result of that event of what follows in a movie. But we're really trying to make it a seamless entertainment experience, and an overall story and an overall experience.
Ninja Gaiden 3
It's good to keep your eye on the competition to see what kind of innovations are coming out, or what player preferences are. So I was wondering if you've looked at anything from that perspective.
YH: I was a game fan, first, before I was a game creator, so yeah I'm still playing lots of games.
It seems that sometimes people in companies are not really game fans, especially in Japan.
YH: [In English] Why? Why? [laughs] It seems like there are people, especially in Japanese game development, you have an older generation that is kept making a similar game. You see they're looking at the same sort of younger age group; the target is a younger age and you have big eyed girls, and the standard Japanese tropes.
And you can kind of understand why they make them, but them being now an adult themselves, that doesn't really do anything for them anymore. And so I, along with Team Ninja, want to make games that appeal to us, and appeal to adults, a mature audience. And sticking with that kind of game is not going to resonate with us. And if we're not into our own games, who else is going to be?
I was familiar with Tecmo and Koei for years. And the culture of those two different companies was completely different. So can you talk about coming together? [Ed. note: the two companies merged in 2009.]
YH: So during the Tecmo era, I saw everything that was going on, and I could see everything within Tecmo. And as for that, there were no new experiences; you knew what was going to happen. So joining with Koei, we now have access to a very different business culture, and they are very different, and a different development culture as well.
And we can see how games are made in a different way, and how different teams make their games and how they approach their stuff. So there's a lot of new information and there's a lot of just new stuff for us to learn. And we can look at that and we can take stuff that works and we can tell them, "Hey, don't do it that way". You know, give them feedback and just a healthy feedback cycle.