E3 2002: New Shinobi details

We chat with Overworks' Noriyoshi Ohba and Takashi Uriu and find out about Shinobi's return, Skies of Arcadia for the GameCube, and more.

We were able to talk with Noriyoshi Ohba and Takashi Uriu of Overworks in the Sega booth during E3 about the ongoing development of Shinobi and other titles currently being worked on at the company. On the topic of Shinobi's development, which began roughly a year ago, the two were pleased at how work on the title is progressing. While Ohba is the only member of the team with direct ties to the series--he was responsible for the classic Revenge of Shinobi--he believes the team is driven to do right by the respected series and produce a game worthy of the Shinobi name. The decision to release the title for the PlayStation 2 stemmed from the fact that, of the three consoles, the PlayStation 2 was the one the team was most familiar with.

In terms of the game's design, Overworks decided the next installment of the series needed to be in 3D due to the changing market. The switch obviously presented challenges in translating the 2D gameplay, most notably accuracy. The challenges of ensuring accuracy caused the gameplay emphasis to shift to the sword instead of the shuriken. The move set of the main character, Hotsuma, also expanded to include an ability to run on walls. While the move looked cool, it took work to implement into regular gameplay.

On the subject of gameplay, we asked if the game would feature any other classic Shinobi gameplay elements--the game already offers the double jump and shuriken barrage seen in the 16-bit games. The pair mentioned that the game will be a mix of old and new elements. Hotsuma's stealth dash is a new addition, while the inclusion of ninja magic is a nod toward the earlier games. While the exact magic types have yet to be finalized, it sounds as though lightning and fireballs are likely to be on hand. Other gameplay elements seen in previous Shinobi games, such as riding vehicles and horses and being accompanied by a wolf, won't be returning this time. Ohba and Uriu also stated that the demo limited the areas you could explore and actions you could do quite a bit in comparison to the real game. You can expect more freedom of movement and a different structure for the levels. The two also hope to feature levels in which you'll have to ascend the outside of buildings by jumping between them. While they couldn't go into much detail about the actual size and scope of the game, they promised a good amount of variety in levels.

Given the growing number of stealth-oriented ninja games, we asked Ohba if he'd thought of taking the series in that direction. He replied that such games were starting to be pretty common and that he felt a well-done ninja action game would be appreciated since there are so few these days. In spite of that, Ohba and Uriu did concede that the character of Hotsuma and the game's tragic plot were a bit darker. The tone resulted from the desire to create a darker hero and a unique cast of characters for him to interact with. One aspect of Hotsuma that didn't appear too dark was the bright red scarf that trails behind him as he fights. Ohba stated that the scarf served two main purposes. The first was to help players keep track of his location, which could be challenging due to the speed of some of his moves. The second was to give them something interesting to look at since players will spend a lot of time looking at the back of Hotsuma as they play the game.

As we wrapped up our chat with Ohba and Uriu, we asked them about Overworks' future projects. While the company is currently focusing on the GameCube version of Skies of Arcadia, which is well into development, Ohba said they weren't ready to release information on it just yet. However, he said that we should keep our eyes open for information later this year. Finally, given Ohba's past involvement with the Streets of Rage series, we had to ask if there was a chance we would see that series undergo a rebirth like Shinobi. Ohba replied that they were currently considering the topic internally. When asked to specify if they were thinking about it or planning on it, he chuckled and said that at the moment they're just thinking about it.

Our thanks to Noriyoshi Ohba and Takashi Uriu of Overworks for taking the time to meet with us at the show.

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