With the rapid approach of Ninja Gaiden 3, I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my thoughts about Ninja Gaiden as a reemerging franchise and where I think it is heading.
It goes without saying that Ninja Gaiden set the benchmark for brutal fantasy action adventures when it released in 2004 on the original Xbox. It brought me in to a franchise that was both familiar and fresh. As a game, it personified a developer's ability to take risks in the right places and invent something that was really adored by fans all over. The driving force behind this was of course none other than Team Ninja, spear headed by the infamous Tomonobu Itagaki. Itagaki had his greasy palms in more than one game series of course.
He vehemently defended the classy dead or alive beach volleyball spin off games (if you can even call them that). I haven't really gotten into the DoA fighting games, nor can I confidently say I've given them a chance. But hey, I'm not one to judge those disgusting perverts wobbling their rocks off digitally skimpy dominatrix females, who can most likely kick your ass in a straight fight.
Moving on, what I would really like to draw attention to is an eye opening documentary about how Team Ninja operated during the development of Ninja Gaiden 2. Its called 'Way of the Warrior', and it was available on Xbox Live for some time. I'm not sure if it's still available, but you can watch it on Youtube starting from part 1 here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxgRAuj96s0
In this documentary, your attention is largely drawn to Itagaki's opinion on things, whether that be design decisions or thoughts on Ninja Gaiden 1. This man openly states that he viewed the first Ninja Gaiden as an embarrassment. Despite its critical success, Itagaki does not see the game as a game he would be proud of. It was not his "vision" for the franchise, and that says a lot about him. After all, it's on open record how he conducted his design decisions, from bosses to enemies to levels. In short, it involved fraternising with his subordinate designers at Team Ninja over several rounds of beer. By watching the little documentary, the momentary atmosphere is vividly described as a drunken orgy where gaming professionals bend over backwards to stroke Itagaki's throbbing manhood, to include their personal designs for the game. It comes as no surprise in truth; the cohesiveness of the enemies with the game's story line was all but none existent. Let me put it you this way: what does a pair of boobs on a skeletal mutant mermaid have anything to do with a lanky cyclops wielding a chainsaw and cannon between both arms?
The improvements in the technical side of gameplay , alongside relatively well designed greater fiends, are overshadowed by the lack of final polish and instability. Overall, the game's art designed was unoriginal and uninspired. That shows, particularly in the game critics' eyes.
Ninja Gaiden 2 was the game he really wanted to make, not the acclaimed fluke that was Ninja Gaiden 1.
His attitude, his image and his persona all bled into his productions. Even upon visiting Microsoft in the US, Itagaki was treated like royalty. Whether you think he should be given special gaming treatment, gaming royalty if you will, is beyond the point. His perception of himself as an individual in the industry speaks volumes about how he conducts his operations.
I am happy to see the back of this guy as far as the Ninja Gaiden series goes. I also think the franchise will be better off for it.
Ninja Gaiden 3 launches soon, approaching the last week of March 2012.