“We tried something new with Ninja Gaiden 3, it was unfortunate that we weren’t able to please all the fans,” says a contemplative Yosuke Hayashi, head of Team Ninja, when we ask whether he regrets streamlining the Ninja Gaiden experience for its third outing – a decision that was met with indignation by the series’ hardcore fans and critical disappointment.
The studio can hardly be blamed for attempting to broaden the appeal of its notoriously unforgiving brawler series, of course, but in doing so, the studio left much of Ninja Gaiden’s appeal on the cutting room floor. It is ironic, then, that as it reaches out to yet another audience traditionally unfamiliar with Ninja Gaiden’s charms – this time with Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge on Wii U – Team Ninja finds itself attempting to repair the damage done elsewhere.
“With Razor’s Edge, we have changed the game design drastically to be more in line with the game aspects fans expect, and we have received a lot of positive feedback,” continues Hayashi. “We have re-examined what fans want from this game [and] will continue to offer high-speed action, punishing battles, and brutal violence as we push forward on the cutting edge of action.”
The thorough overhaul of Razor’s Edge spans aesthetic changes, such as the reinstatement of dismemberment and reduced story sequences, to deeper fixes like improved AI and co-op, new playable characters and new battle areas in which to fight. But despite coming up against hostility as a result of its attempts to veer from the previously established Ninja Gaiden template, Team Ninja doesn’t feel hamstrung by the series vociferous fanbase.
“For me personally, I would be at a loss if new music from my favourite musician was in a completely different genre,” adds director Fumihiko Yasuda. “So fans should be wary of unwanted change. The deeper their feelings for the original work, the longer they’ve invested in it, the stronger they will react to the change.
“However, games and brands cannot continue for a long time without trying new things. So I think of fans who are wary of change not as impediments to innovation but as a hurdle that we must overcome when we do try something new.”
The cutting edge that Hayashi describes, of course, now includes Wii U’s GamePad. A delightful concoction of tablet and controller that promises much, sure, though you’d be forgiven for assuming it was a less than ideal way to translate all those split-second reactions onto the screen. But Yasuda warns against the danger of judging a controller on its form-factor alone.
It’s easy to complain about new controllers since you’re just not used to them,” he says. “The GamePad is about more than just how the controls feel. It’s about the screen on the GamePad and the unique aspects that offers – that’s more important and interesting to me. [Razor’s Edge was developed] with both kinds of controllers.”
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