Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword interview

Jan 15, 2008

There's a great deal of hyperbole in the games industry. People will frequently make impossible claims like "Game X will haunt you for years to come" or "Game Y will change the way you view the world," but those statements just aren't true. In the case of this game, however, we can safely make a statement along those lines and mean every single word: There is no other DS game, action or otherwise, that can compare to the technical prowess of Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword. Its smooth, ultra-quick ninja action seemingly belongs on a console, yet functions beautifully on the DS.

We recently had a chance to chat with Team Ninja's head assassin, the well-known Tomonobu Itagaki, and came away even more excited about the game than when we entered.

GamesRadar: When we first heard about Dragon Sword, we certainly didn't picture a stylus-heavy game that's held like a book. Was this presentation a difficult sell to the team or was everyone on board from the beginning?

Tomonobu Itagaki: There was no resistance, no problem with taking the game in this direction. Whatever I say goes, so if I say "Don't use buttons," that's how they're going to make the game.

GR: Did you have to sacrifice anything from your original vision, due either to time or hardware restrictions?

Itagaki: I spent plenty of time, so there was no limitation. I spent two years doing it. Even though I've been making games for 16 years, this is the first handheld project, so I took the time to do this right. From a hardware standpoint, I think the DS is great and there was really no problem. I won't even start to make a game for bad hardware.

GR: The supporting characters, Momiji for example, look a lot more family friendly than those in the console games. Was this done specifically for the DS audience or an attempt at a new style?

Itagaki: Yes, we did consider the audience. Also, the designer was a woman, so maybe that has something to do with it. She's a genius.

GR: Would we know her work from any previous games?

Itagaki: This is her first time.

GR: But not her last, it sounds like.

Itagaki: That's her decision. (laughs)

Above: We're playing with a fully-powered Ryu, so don't expect the end boss to go down this easily

GR: Speaking of that younger audience, how's the difficulty in Dragon Sword? Have you tuned the difficulty at all to be a more entry level game when compared to the unforgiving console games?

Itagaki: Of course. Our main focus as we adjusted the difficulty level was to keep focused on how good it feels to move the playable character, and everything was based on that idea.

GR: Going off that idea, movement with the stylus, it's obvious you took a lot of time considering the hardware specifically for Dragon Sword. Do you feel other developers are using the DS' features appropriately or throwing in touch screen features as an afterthought?

Itagaki: I don't think they're focusing on that like they should. The way I make games is to utilize the characteristics of the device, use them to create an appropriate game concept. Companies that look at the market and try to make games that fit the market will not be focusing on the same things.

GR: Ninja Gaiden is known for being extremely action oriented, so we never get to see Ryu operate as a silent assassin. Have you ever thought about exploring a stealth aspect in a future game?

Itagaki: There are many types of ninja, but the kind I like are the ones that go out and kill a bunch of enemies all at once. Do you think it's fitting for me to make a stealthy ninja game, knowing my personality?

GR: That doesn't sound fitting, but it's definitely in capable hands.

Itagaki: I wouldn't disagree, but I just feel that's not my style. (laughs)


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