Tecmo defends Ninja Gaiden II violence

One thing is clear from the demos -- this is one bloody game.

We sit down with Ninja Gaiden II producer Yoshifuru Okamoto to discuss the game's glaring violence, a possible AO-rating, and digital jigglies.

Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden II is one of the hottest titles at this year's Tokyo Game Show. Unveiled last week and due on sale next year, not much is known about the game beyond what's been seen in a brief trailer and some game-play demonstrations.

One thing is clear from the demos -- this is one bloody game. Hero Ryu Hayabusa doesn't just decapitate enemies with a swoosh of his scythe, he swings back again to cut their headless bodies in half or lop off their limbs. Blood spurting headless bodies, enemies stumbling as they are engulfed in flames -- it's all in Ninja Gaiden II.

The game (in its current form) seems certain to attract an AO-rating in the US, which would effectively ban it from release on Xbox 360 unless it's toned down first. So what's behind the violence? We sat down with Yoshifuru Okamoto, an assistant producer at Tecmo's Team Ninja, to find out more.

"I think two key elements of entertainment in general regardless of medium are sexual elements and violence and Team Ninja has taken the erotic elements of gaming pretty far with some of our past projects, like Dead or Alive Extreme 2," said Okamoto. "So I think for Ninja Gaiden II one of our goals is to take the violence portion of the entertainment experience as far as we can. And I think that's one of the challenges we have in mind when developing this game."

"That being said I think it's important that the violence is not just for its own sake. One of the key themes we have this time around it the fusion of violence and game play. So that although the expression and what you see in the game is quite gory there's a purpose to all that. What we don't want to do is have gratuitous violence."

"Now obviously I think the definition of gratuitous depends on the individual but for us slaughtering innocent people in the street or taking enemies that are already dead and playing around with their bodies and picking up their arms and throwing them around and things like that is not what we are trying to do."

"We want to show how deadly a situation is when you have enemies after you to kill you and will stop at nothing to kill you. And then the main character, Ryu Hayabusa, his goal is to defeat all of his enemies as quickly and efficiently as possible and we hope that the violence plays a strong part in making that feel visceral to the player," Okamoto said.

An AO (adults only) rating will obviously affect sales -- but quite how depends on the game and its reputation. Sales of "Grand Theft Auto San Andreas" surged when a sex-mini game was discovered deep in the code and other games have enjoyed a boost in sales from controversy surrounding the title. But sometimes games suffer because a high rating means a smaller potential audience.

Okamoto said the eventual rating a game will get isn't of much concern when development begins. He also raised the possibility of producing localized versions of Ninja Gaiden II to comply with local ratings, although followed with a suggestion that he doesn't want to change his game for such purposes.

"We certainly don't take the rating into account at the very beginning," he said. "It's a situation of thinking what's best for the game -- what do we want to show, what do we want to express. And then incorporating that and trying to work out the rating issue later. Obviously we will be localizing the game for various territories around the world and we have technologically the ability to adjust the violent aspects as well however from a personal standpoint because our concept with this game is to include that visceral violence and how that affects the game play I really have no intention of compromising on our ideas for that."

Several technical aspects of the game haven't been decided, such as whether it will support the full 1080p high-definition resolution or the ability to play online and the extent to what is possible, he said.

One other thing has already been decided. Rachel, the big-breasted, fan-favorite heroine from the first Ninja Gaiden game, is gone in the sequel, said Okamoto.

"This time we have a new heroine in place of Rachel," he said. Her name has been decided but it remains a secret to anyone outside of the development team, said Okamoto.

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