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Interview: Fly by wire with Red Ninja

Intriguing insights into Vivendi's forthcoming ninja battler await inside

If there's one thing that Red Ninja: End of Honor proves, it's that the female of the species is more deadly than the male. Mind you, if we'd been strung up overnight on a cherry blossom tree and left for dead, we'd be pretty teed-off too.

Still that's Red Ninja heroine Kurenai's fate and with the old maxim "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" ringing in our ears, we spoke with developer Tranji's Melissa Miller, associate producer on the game, about flying by wire and the end of honour.

Could we get a reminder of Red Ninja's plot and setting, to start with, and details on the main character and the genre the game falls into?

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Miller: Red Ninja is a third-person action stealth game featuring a brand new heroine named Kurenai. Set in feudal Japan, the story is centred in the rival war between Oda and Takeda; Kurenai's father is the chief weaponsmith for Takeda. He has invented a new powerful weapon that could shift the balance of power.

At night, he and his daughter are attacked by mysterious ninja; they kill him and leave Kurenai to die hung on a cherry blossom tree. The body hangs there all night and day. Chiyome, the head ninja for Takeda, comes to investigate and finds the body. Miraculously, Kurenai lives and Chiyome adopts her into the ninja clan; but Kurenai insists on training with the wire that was used to hang her and so the Tetsugen was born.

What sets Red Ninja apart from other ninja-themed games, and how does Kurenai better the stars of other games in the ilk?

Miller: The Tetsugen is something that no other ninja game even comes close to duplicating. This weapon is completely unique to Red Ninja as well as her use of her womanly wiles to seduce unwitting guards into a quick and painful death.

Though not what you would expect for a ninja that actually has to perform stealth, her short red kimono makes her stand out from the traditional pyjama look of other ninjas. But, it's her personality and character that really set her apart. Great care has been taken to make Kurenai a three-dimensional character that players will empathize with and want to play with for hours on end.

Red Ninja features a story penned by Japanese movie director Shinsuke Sato - how important has this proved to be for the game?

Miller: Very important; one of the strongest points of the game has been the story. Sato was very collaborative and understanding to our needs for the game. We felt the end result was so compelling that we commissioned high-res CG movies for the opening and ending - they are being done by a company called Semologic whose team members worked on Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

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We felt that Sato's vision should carry through to these movies and hired him to direct the CG movies, so you can see that his involvement had a very large impact on the game.

How many levels are there in the game in total, and could you also tell us about a selection of the environments that feature?

Miller: There are seven levels or environments to the game, but each environment is constructed of multiple sublevels, each one being visually distinct. Some of the different locations the player will go through are a snow filled harbour, deep within salt peter mines, the outside and inside of an ancient Buddha temple and a small village containing a traditional Noh Theatre.

Kurenai has an array of interesting skills and powers. Could you tell us about these, and explain how they fit in with gameplay? (We'd especially like to know more about her seduction skills).

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