2011 is set to be the year Team Ninja emerges from the shadow cast by the departure of Tomonobu Itagaki with new games in the Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden franchises. Dimensions, the first DOA fighting game in over five years, is a launch window title for the 3DS, and Ninja Gaiden 3, still without announced platforms, has been described as a reboot. Exciting times.
For new studio head Yosuke Hayashi, who chatted to Eurogamer after taking to the stage at Nintendo's 3DS event last week, 2011 is going to be an important year. Now, finally, he gets to stamp his own authority on the series Itagaki fans treasure so much. No pressure, then.
Eurogamer: Why is the 3DS the right platform for the first Dead or Alive fighting game in over five years?
Yosuke Hayashi: Originally, before the 3DS arrived, or before we knew about the 3DS, we were studying whether there was some way we could provide a different play style for the fighting game. But we couldn't find any appropriate handheld console.
Then, meeting with the 3DS, which has many communication functions, we thought it enabled us to actualise that concept. That's why we chose the 3DS. But of course, everybody's thinking, what about the consoles? Console is also important but we were thinking about handheld, too. Then 3DS came in. That's why we have it on the handheld.
Eurogamer: Is there a danger some gamers might have forgotten about Dead or Alive? Is it as relevant today as it was five years ago?
Yosuke Hayashi: By not releasing a title for over five years it's maybe more challenging for DOA to go back to the fighting game genre. But with the 3DS we can reach more people. We positioned Dead or Alive: Dimensions as the comeback of Dead or Alive. You can see it as restarting the series.
Eurogamer: You can double the frame rate by turning off the 3D effect. Will hardcore fighting game fans opt for 60 frames per second while newcomers pick the 3D?
Yosuke Hayashi: We didn't put in the 3D 30 frames just for the newcomers, or on the contrary 60 frames just for the hardcore. It's up to people. Actually, there is a Team Ninja member who really loves Dead or Alive and has played thousands of times and for hours, but he opted to choose 3D 30 frames per second. So it depends on the people.
For me, it just depends on the day or maybe the weather.
Eurogamer: The interactive move list that appears on the bottom screen allows players to touch a combo from a list to execute it. If I'm playing online, is there any way to block my opponent from using it if I don't use it? Does it give a player an advantage?
Yosuke Hayashi: Actually, it's fair. All fair. You're not going to be disadvantaged by not using the interactive move list. So don't worry about that.
For another title in the 3DS fighting genre that also has one button touchscreen play, that doesn't have any advantage to using it. But for us the move list itself can be a reference to those who forget about that.
Actually in the bottom screen, of course the list is there, but for the real hardcore fighting game fans, they don't need it, right? They know about that. But we can change the screen to another one, which is called Skill Information.
It includes details about each attack, for example how much disadvantage as a frame rate per second. So even hardcore fighting game fans can see that and learn the frame rate difference technique by technique.
Eurogamer: What online modes are included?
Yosuke Hayashi: There's local play and internet play. But in addition to that, there's a Team Ninja challenge that's two-fold. One, in local play with a Friend Code, Team Ninja tag challenge mode, which is actually co-op where you tag together against an opponent.
The idea behind this is, for example, with a fighting game, you might have A and B. A is really strong and really good. B is okay, so so, but not really great, and when they're fighting together, who knows? Always A wins against B. Maybe for B it's easy to lose interest.
To prevent that in a more entertaining way, even in a fighting game we can challenge them to try the co-op mode and B can run from A, interrupt each other and improve their fighting skill.
Second is using Street Pass mode. Here the user can play other people's avatar – not only a figurine. Your opponent comes into your 3DS and fights. Your avatar imitates how you play. If you play more using kicks, your avatar kicks a lot. It's challenging, but that enables the user to play with an unknown person.