The sequel to the world's premier hack and slash, Ninja Gaiden 2, is almost here, and to celebrate we caught up with the game's legendary creator, Tomonobu Itagaki, during a recent press trip to London to have one last chat before we bust open the final game in the ultra hard, iconic Japanese series, and, no doubt, Sonia's bra. This won't be pretty, or maybe it will...
VideoGamer.com: How does the difficulty curve of this game compare with the last one?
Itagaki-san: What we've gone for is a difficulty on the default setting where basically if you like action games you should be able to play it all the way through. The previous Ninja Gaiden, you really had to be hardcore. You not only had to be versed in action games, but you had to know about fighting games and understand how all of the combat works. Here what we're looking for, to give an example from another publisher, like Onimusha, if you're able to beat one of those you should be able to make it through this. Obviously the skill improves as you go along.
VideoGamer.com: Can you tell us about the different weapons?
TI: There are a total of eight weapons. You pick them up as you go along. There's a shop scattered in several places in each stage where you can go to the blacksmith and rework your weapons and make them stronger. There are on average three power levels to each weapon and the visuals change as well as the number of moves you can do.
Another important thing that I'd like to note is unlike the previous Ninja Gaiden, in Ninja Gaiden 2 once you've completed the game on a difficulty level with all your weapons, you'll be able to start a new game on the same difficulty and keep all those weapons. So if there's a weapon you haven't got until later on in the game and you want to use it right away you'll be able to do that in the second play through. We think that really helps with replay value as well.
Another thing that we believe was the case in Ninja Gaiden was that while you received a lot of different weapons throughout the game you always fell back on the Dragon Sword because it always felt the most stable, powerful and had the widest variety of moves. In order to counteract that with Ninja Gaiden 2 what we've tried to do is make every weapon unique and powerful in its own right, so they feel different, some are faster, some are slower, but they all have a breadth of moves in order that you can basically play the entire game through with any of the weapons. So we think that people will more likely find a weapon that they really like and stick to that instead of falling back on the Dragon Sword all of the time.
VideoGamer.com: Do you have a favourite weapon?
TI: I think it would be the dual swords. I won't get into detail because I don't want to spoil the surprise but let's just say the dual swords play a very important part in the story of the game as well.
VideoGamer.com: Sonia plays a part in cutscenes. Will she be a playable character like Rachel was in Ninja Gaiden?
TI: I would just like to point our real quickly that the playable Rachel in Ninja Gaiden Sigma was something that was done by a junior member of Team Ninja and I didn't really have any involvement in Ninja Gaiden Sigma for PS3 because I was working on this title. That being said I think that Ninja Gaiden is a story of Ryu Hayabusa and of his journey. Particularly I didn't think that the Rachel playable aspect in Sigma was done very well. Sonia is mainly a supporting character that provides function with the story. She uses machine guns and bazookas and things like that so if we were going to feature her as a playable character we would have to basically make a game like Gears of War.
VideoGamer.com: Can you tell us about how many levels are in the game and the various locales?
TI: As you all know I've spent a long time working on the Dead or Alive series in which the stage plays a part as eye candy. It's a place you say, hey, that looks really cool, I'd like to fight there. That's something I wanted to bring to this game. Where would it be cool to have Ryu Hayabusa fighting? Where would it be cool to have him running around as a ninja? In the first game because everything was tightly confined by story you had the city that the fiends had taken over and you went to various areas of the city and a lot of it was very demonic themed. I felt that was a little bit constricted. What we've tried to do here is pick a number of locations and say I want some with rain, I want some sunny instead of a lot of the dark areas from the first game. Think about how to create a variety of places in which we can fight to give pleasure visually, lots of colour and light, things like that. That was the main goal behind choosing various real world inspired locations for the game.
Getting back to your original question, there are 14 chapters in total and those take place in various locations around the world. You hop the globe to different areas to save them from the clutches of these monsters. Later on in the game you descend deeper into the underworld where things are much more fantasy based and so we have a nice progression there visually.
VideoGamer.com: Have you ever considered doing a London inspired level?
TI: We really wanted to include an area that had a lot of water based gameplay, either in a river or a canal. In Ninja Gaiden 2 you're able to run on top of the water and fight on top of the water. So we considered London as part of that. Ultimately Ryu destroys everything in his path and we didn't want to be responsible for destroying all of the old architecture here in the city, so we decided to be a little bit more politically correct there. We have a stage inspired by, because we can't say it is Venice, it's inspired by Venice and that's our water based stage. But I'm always looking at what areas can make a stage.
VideoGamer.com: We've read that this is the last chapter in the Ninja Gaiden saga. Is there any truth to that?
TI: I really put all my heart and soul into making this the definitive game in the Ninja Gaiden franchise. So I personally don't intend to make any more. This is a game we basically built from the ground up. We threw away everything we had from the first game, improved on what was good, changed what was bad. So it's been a long project, it's been close to three years in the making. We were able to accomplish everything that we wanted to achieve with this franchise.
Story chronologically as well, this takes place after the fist Ninja Gaiden for Xbox, then after this, the story for this game from a chronological stand point leads into the old Ninja Gaiden for the NES. I think we have a nice continuity there.
Maybe some of you will get the reference but Sonia from Ninja Gaiden 2 is a CIA agent. Her name in this game is Sonia but who knows if that is really her name or not.
VideoGamer.com: Have you thought about what you might do next?
TI: I love the action game genre, in particular I am very focussed on movement and the animation. One of the precepts I always have for my games is making sure that the animation of all the characters is as fluid and as cool looking as they can be. I think that I'm going to continue to explore the action genre and do something that allows me to go in directions that I haven't been able to go with the Ninja Gaiden series, with an entirely new franchise .
VideoGamer.com: Thanks for your time.
Ninja Gaiden 2 is out for Xbox 360 exclusively on June 6.