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Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword interview

GR: In a previous interview you said Dragon Sword is meant to destroy all the other action competition for the DS - is there a specific game you viewed as a competitor?

Itagaki: I don't mean to be arrogant or anything, but there is no direct competition.

GR: That's why we were curious if there was something specific, as it is a rather underrepresented genre on the DS.

Itagaki: The level of this game is so beyond anything else that's out there that there's no game we can be compared with.

GR: We have to admit that we can't think of any other DS game that even attempted action at this level, let alone succeeded. 

Itagaki: Usually, people don't spend two years making a DS game. (laughs)

GR: Except Pokemon, perhaps?

Itagaki: Pokemon will beat me in terms of development time (laughs). I love Pokemon, I'm always exchanging monsters with my daughter. You can store all the monsters on one of the GameCube games, and somehow that file was erased. She started crying "all my monsters escaped!"

GR: That's really cute. It's quite a game, much deeper than it appears. We're huge fans. Back to Dragon Sword, though, we were curious about the comic book style cutscenes. Were they included as a nod to the classic NES games that pioneered the idea, or are they a better way to tell a story on a handheld?

Itagaki: The same girl I called a genius, I really liked her art style. I decided to utilize it and turn it into the cutscenes. Many think Team Ninja is full of talented people, and they're correct, and my philosophy is to make games that take advantage of these talented people.

GR: Have you ever considered making her art available as a download or promotional item as with Castlevania or Advance Wars? Wallpaper, perhaps? Hint hint...

Itagaki: That's up to the designer. If she wants to do it, she'll do it. Team Ninja's not going to control what she wants to do with herself.

GR: You've said you never considered Dragon Sword as a 2D game, that it was 3D from the start. Are you against the idea of 2D development altogether or just not with Ninja Gaiden?

Itagaki: I personally don't plan or want to make 2D games, I like 3D games.

GR: The original Xbox Gaiden had all three NES games tucked away. Any chance they're in Dragon Sword too?

Itagaki: No, there's nothing like that in this game. I was too busy focusing on making this one fun to play and didn't have time to work on that. But there are other unlockable items, so please enjoy those.

Above: If you told us the dragon boss battle was from a PSP game, we'd believe you

GR: If Dragon Sword becomes a hit, and there's consideration for a sequel or follow up, would you keep the "new input" idea alive by making a motion-controlled Gaiden for Wii?

Itagaki: I don't think I'll consider it, because you can't make it as speedy as it needs to be if you use the Wii controller. Most other sword/action games for Wii, to make up for that problem, use a combination of buttons and only at the last minute do you swing.

GR: You've been asked "why DS instead of PSP" plenty of times at this point, but we'll throw it out there too. But was there anything you were hoping people would ask about but never did?

Itagaki: First of all, it's quite simple - I wanted my own kid to have a game to play that I made. Also, her classmates all have a DS, and she wanted a game to play while she was still in elementary school, so I had to fulfill that promise. If I did that just to satisfy my child, I might be a selfish parent, but it worked out because it's a fun game regardless.

GR: Is she enjoying the game?

Itagaki: Yeah, she started playing when the game was only 10 percent complete.

GR: Wow, she's probably better than almost anyone else out there.

Itagaki: Of course, she's really good. The earlier version had no collision detection, so you could go through the wall like a real ninja (laughs).

GR: Finally, as a developer of hardcore games, are you concerned at all about the Wii and DS' success with casual gamers? That is, do you see this new audience branching out and trying more difficult games or will they stick to brain training and puzzle games, and that audience will grow while hardcore gamers dwindle?

Itagaki: I think there are enough people out there for both. I have no plans to make games for people who've grown tired of hardcore games, and it's not my job to cater to those people. However, if hardcore gamers are no longer around, then maybe I'll just go back to being a gambler and stop making games.

Looking for more on Dragon Sword? We have another interview with Itagaki detailing the gameplay, plus a detailed hands-on.

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