The August issue of Nintendo Power has brought some great news, but I thought I should take the time to also write out the interview Nintendo Power had with Steven Frost & Kris Durrschmidt about the upcoming entry to the much-loved Shinobi series for the Nintendo 3DS. In this interview, some details never before revealed are talked about like the fact that there are more playable characters than our friend, Jiro Musashi. Read the entire interview after the break! - Greg Boe (admin)
Nintendo Power’s Interview with Steven Frost & Kris Durrschmidt
Nintendo Power: Why did Sega want to bring back Shinobi and put it on the Nintendo 3DS handheld?
Steven Frost: Shinobi has always been an IP that Sega has wanted to revive, but there just hasn’t been a proper opportunity since Hotsuma’s appearance on the PS2. It’s one of those IPs that seems to need all the planets in alignment in order to come to frution. Fortunately, everything did come together and was even further accelerated by Nintendo’s announcement of the Nintendo 3DS hardware.
As far as why the N3DS, there are several reasons for that. Mainly, though, we just felt that the system’s abilities were a good match with what our goals were for the project. We wanted to take what was great about the old Shinobi titles and then build up upon them, adding features that could “modernize” the classic gameplay that fans were already familiar with.
That means adding stereoscopic 3D to enhance the unique art style in the game, throwing in touch-screen and gyroscope support in order to introduce new ways of controlling our hero and, finally, bringing together the Shinobi community through the inclusion of StreetPass.
Honestly, though, it’s been so long since we’ve seen a Shinobi title on a handheld and we all just got excited about changing that.
How did this collaboration come about? Did Sega approach Griptonite or was it the other way around?
SF: This is another thing that just came together at the same time. Griptonite is home to some amazingly passionate Shinobi fans, so when they found out that Sega was considering the return of the IP, they jumped at the chance to win us over.
In a really short amount of time, they actually put together a great demo of a ninja running around in a detailed environment, using some of the basic moves that Jiro uses in the final game. It instantly won over the folks at Sega and the rest, as they say, is history.
As gamers, what kind of a history do the Griptonite team members have with Shinobi?
Kris Durrrschmidt: All of us grew up playing and loving Shinobi games. We all have our personal favorites. Several of us could be considered fanatical fans of the franchise. We regularly get together and have a blast playing Shinobi games in our development area, all the while yelling and cheering when team members pull off some amazing feats or narrowly avoid death.
That’s especially true when we are play-testing the new Shinobi. The whole company knows when that happens. We make an insane amount of noise cheering at awesome skill and teasing when someone loses a life.
What games did you use most for a reference in the development of this title?
KD: The games we referred to the most were The Revenge of Shinobi, Shinobi III, and Shinobi [for] PS2.
What were the key elements you thought needed to be included to make a proper Shinobi?
KD: Pattern and skill-based gameplay was at the very top. Past Shinobi games are about learning the situations you are thrown into and how to overcome them. This pertains to enemy behaviors, attack patterns, and what is the best player move to deal with the situation at the right time. As a player becomes more familiar and skilled with the enemies and situations, they will discover multiple ways to maximize their score.
Additionally, there is an expectation to include certain move sets. Returning is the ability to throw kunai in a fan spread, and ninja magic.
We found that early on players unfamiliar with the game rely on ranged kunai attacks to safely dispatch enemies. However, as they become very skilled at the game they rely more on devastating katana attacks and parrying, becoming a lean, mean, ninja-killing machine while maximizing score.
Speaking of which, the old Shinobi games were heavily focused on ranged attacks. This one includes up-close melee attacks as a key component. Why the change?
KD: Ranged kunai attacks are still incredibly important in this Shinobi game. In fact, there are situations where one weapon or another is ineffective! Older Shinobi games also had katana strikes; they were powerful but very risky. That tradition carries over into the new Shinobi game. Kunai award fewer points but they are safer, for the most part. Skillful katana gameplay awards many more points, but there is a greater risk to take damage and die by letting the enemy get closer to you.
Will there be any hostages to rescue?
KD: [Laughs] Nope! Not because it isn’t cool, because that was really a cool part about the 1987 arcade game and Shadow Dancer. We talked about that early on, but it doesn’t fit into this Shinobi’s plot line. We do have a game mode that simulates some of that retro one-hit gameplay, though.
Does the game take anything from the PS2 Shinobi? Hopefully not the insane difficulty level!
KD: [Laughs] This new Shinobi is definitely challenging, as all Shinobi games are. This Shinobi is difficult in a different way than the PS2 game is. In this Shinobi it’s more about understanding the situation you are in and dealing with it using the right move and timing.
Inspiration from the PS2 game that made it into this iteration is obviously the Oboro Clan Red Scarf and the headpiece that Jiro wears that resembles Hotsuma’s. There is also a battle with a helicopter boss!
Do you feel any added pressure trying to live up to the classic Shinobi games? How do you deal with that?
KD: Definitely felt the pressure for sure! This is an epic franchise and incredible responsibility. It has been a dream come true for me as a superfan, I personally lost sleep worrying about disappointing anyone who loves Shinobi. As a team we all had passionate debates about features we would include during the development cycle and putting the fans first.
Why did you choose Jiro Musashi, Joe Musashi’s father, as the protagonist?
KD: There is a rich family history in Shinobi. In previous games you got the opportunity to play as Joe Musashi and his son Hayate. For this Shinobi game we wanted to change the character’s fighting style slightly and it made sense to create a new character while remaining very respectful to what was already established.
What’s the deal with the story? The first level shows Jiro in feudal Japan, but his son fought in modern times! Is there another playable character?
KD: Shinobi does take place in the past and the near future! Jiro does exist in feudal Japan and in the present, but how that is possible is for the player to discover! As far as other playable characters, yes, Shinobi has them and they will be really fun for fans to discover and unlock.
How important would you say that parrying is to Shinobi on the N3DS? What does it add to gameplay?
KD: The game can be completed without using it. However, if players want to master Shinobi, they will need to master parrying. Not only will they look awesome; they will get much higher scores while the game becomes inherently easier. Ultimately, this leads to unlocking new rewards! There is nothing more awesome then deflecting an attack from behind without even bothering to look. That is Shinobi.
We’ve seen and heard about some pretty crazy stuff that you encounter in this game. What would you say are the craziest elements?
KD: Oh, I wouldn’t want to spoil that. When people saw some of the things that happened in Shinobi around here they audibly squealed with delight. Try to picture 30-year-old males uncontrollably squealing with glee.
What types of bonus content will be included?
KD: There are unlockable characters, cheats, and more than 60 achievements–much more content that a fan could hope for. There is way too much stuff to list here. I believe it is going to surprise people how much extra stuff there is for a game of this type.
We’ve really enjoyed the game so far, but there was some negative fan reaction to the first screenshots of the game. What do you have to say to those fans to assure them that Shinobi is in good hands?
KD: Art is a very subjective thing. When, as a developer, you elect to go with a strong stylized look not everyone is going to love it. You always hope they do, but you can’t please everyone.
Some of the media that has been released so far has been of a game still in progress and there have been some improvements here and there as the game is coming to completion. We feel the game looks and feels amazing on the actual Nintendo 3DS and hope the fans agree later this year when they get to finally enjoy it too.
With that said, we worked with top Japanese talent when collaborating on character design (Mahiro Maeda) and for the music (Norihiko Hibino) in Shinobi.
Are there any other ninjas who you think are skilled enough to hang with the Musashis?
KD: No. Well, maybe Sho Kosugi.