In our exclusive interview with Tomonobu Itagaki, we discus Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword's story, how the fast-paced action game works on the DS and whether or not all that action will give your hand cramps.
When Team Ninja revealed a DS version of Ninja Gaiden was in the works, we thought it was a joke. But it wasn't quite April 1. Then we saw scans of a Japanese mag that confirmed this was no joke.
How would it work on DS? Wouldn't all that fast-paced gameplay make it impossible to play? How would Itagaki and Co. get round it? Clearly there were too many questions and not enough answers. Only one way to sort that out - get on the blower to Japan and arrange an interview.
Without further ado:
First off, is this a brand new Ninja Gaiden game with a new story, or is it based on events and locations from previous games?
Tomonobu Itagaki: The story of Ninja Gaiden 1 for the Xbox dealt with the mythology of the Vigoor Empire, the setting of the majority of that game. Ninja Gaiden DS takes place six months later, and the story deals with what happened after the conclusion of Ninja Gaiden 1. It will tackle issues like: what exactly were the foes that Hayabusa fought in the Vigoor Empire, who created them, and for what purpose? These and other mysteries will be revealed.
Tell us how you're using the DS. It sounds very interesting - a new way of playing with the DS?
Itagaki: The game will be played while holding the DS vertically, like a book. If you're wondering why I chose to do it that way, I'm sure you'll understand the moment you pick it up, but the main point is that it enables you to get a firm grip on the DS, which you'll need when you are controlling all of the speedy action that occurs on screen.
In addition, by holding the DS vertically, you can limit the amount of screen space that your right hand covers up when you use the stylus. Ninja Gaiden DS is designed for you to control all of the action with the touch screen, so I paid careful attention to how the system itself should be held.
Oops, I said that your right hand would be using the stylus, but what I meant was your dominant hand. If you're left-handed, you can rest easy because Ninja Gaiden DS will feature a mode that flips the screens upside-down for left-handed players.
Phew, some of our writers are left-handed. So how will the character be controlled on screen using the stylus?
Itagaki: Well, I plan to have footage of the actual game being played available to view on the Internet in the near future. My reasoning for this is that, because the controls in this game are so innovative, watching someone play this game is the only way to realistically understand how wonderful it is.
You can perform all of the amazing action in this game simply by pointing the stylus at Hayabusa, his enemies, or the environment, or by tracing it around the screen or speedily slicing with it. The variety of Hayabusa's actions is on par with the Xbox and PS3 versions, not to mention that they are incredibly fast. When you get the chance to play this game for the first time, you will have no choice but to be surprised.
But as Ninja Gaiden is a very intense action game, as you say, we can imagine it hurting our hands with all the quick, cramped movements on the DS. How have you got round this?
Itagaki: I'm sure your hands will be fine! [Laughs.] Relax; I don't planning on making Ninja Gaiden DS as difficult as the Xbox variants. My first priority is giving everyone the chance to try this innovative new control scheme and enjoy how great it feels to manipulate Hayabusa.