Last issue we awarded Team Ninja's new game, Dead Or Alive 5, a healthy 8.1. This month, we caught up with the quiet, unassuming man behind the series (and the Ninja Gaiden games), and asked him - among other things - why he makes fighting games, how PS3's Uncharted series influenced Dead Or Alive 5, and whether or not the gaming media needs to grow up...
Thinking back to your childhood, what got you into games? What was the spark that ignited your games industry career?
The biggest reason I got into games is... I remember a childhood experience I had. One summer holiday myself and my younger brother went down to our cousin's place, and they had a NES there and we started playing it. I remember that I was so intrigued and into the games that I couldn't get away from the TV. I was so glued to it that when my parents said: 'It's time to go back home now,' we didn't move. So they said: 'Alright we'll get you a NES, and any game you want - we just have to go home now.' That promise led my parents to buying me a NES and Super Mario Bros. I remember just falling in love with that game. And I think that was the moment that shaped my future.
Can you think of any other games that have had a big impact on you and the way you think about development?
During a lot of the turning points in my life, games have always been there for me. I remember I was doing my entrance exam for university and I wrote a whole essay on Policenauts. It was Hideo Kojima's game. I wrote a whole essay and I got a really good score actually, and that got
me into university. Games have always played a big role in my life, not just when I was a child. I think Policenauts was one of the games that changed my way of thinking as well.
So, for you, who is making the best games in the world right now?
For Dead Or Alive 5 we took a lot of inspiration from Naughty Dog. Specifically it was the whole stage crumbling, and things falling off, and the characters rolling down, grabbing on to the ledges in Uncharted. We also wanted to hint at that flow you get into in Uncharted, where you know that something massive is about to happen. In Uncharted you fall off a cliff, or off a boat and things like that, and we thought moments like that would be great in DOA5's fighting system. We got really inspired by that, and we've tried to do something very similar.
Yes, the thing Naughty Dog do well is establishing the character's presence in the world, and I think it's something that works well in DOA5 as a result.
I think that we definitely were inspired by Naughty Dog's work. It's not like we're doing a cheap, superficial imitation of that game. As creators we were inspired, and it's a good opportunity right now to tell our players about this. It's something they might not notice, but we really respect Naughty Dog, their work is fantastic.
So you've finished DOA5. Do you ever feel like a game is truly finished, or are there always things you could improve or say: 'I wish I'd done that differently?'
There's always something more that you want to do. It often happens mid-development. You think: 'Ah, we should have done it this way or that way'. There's always something you can learn and apply for next time, so yeah.
Is there a plan beyond DOA5? Have you begun to think about how you might move the series forward?
This is not the end. In many ways DOA5 feels like a fresh start for us. We want to refine the game to the level where we can fight for the number one spot in the genre, so we will keep going until we achieve that. Obviously the next generation is something that we have in mind; we've started thinking about it.
Where do you see videogames going in the future? There's a lot of talk about this next generation being the last for traditional consoles. Do you think that will be the case, or do you think there will always be separation between consoles and other media?
I don't think consoles are going to disappear from gaming. You still have millions of people playing videogames with a controller on a box in front of the TV. Just look at Call Of Duty, for example: it's everywhere. There are millions of people playing it. I think people will continue to play games, and as long as the cost of development stays sustainable, and people continue to buy traditional games, then we'll be here.
If only one game sells everything, it will ruin the gaming and console industries completely. I think you can compare it to movies. People still go to the cinema after all this time. I don't know how long cinemas have been around but it's not like cinemas are completely gone and everyone is watching movies on their TV or smartphone. Yes, you have those new mediums, but the old guy is still there - and I think it's going to be like that with consoles. I think they will be around for quite a while.