Tomonobu Itagaki

Interview: Team Ninja boss looks to the future

Tomonobu Itagaki, the creator of Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden, is a man that likes to speak his mind and do things his way. He's been an evangelist of Xbox right from its introduction but the launch of PlayStation 3 has seen his studio's attention shift its Xbox-exclusive focus slightly.

A revamped version of Ninja Gaiden: Black is already in the works for PS3 (read our interview with Director Yosuke Hayashi here) and Itagaki talks exclusively to CVG about his future plans for some of our favourite titles.

You're a hard man to track down, are you always this busy?

Itagaki: I have been in the US for quite a while, and have not been here in Japan, and it appears that some of your questions may have grown old during these two weeks, but I will answer each one as I go along.

OK, with regard to Xbox Live, how do you feel about episodic downloadable content? Would you like to explore that avenue further in future Tecmo games?

Itagaki: Regarding downloadable content for action games, we tried something new with the Hurricane Packs to further expand the game experience in Ninja Gaiden, and I think this was quite effective both for us as developers and for the end users. I think that this is an approach that could possibly be a part of our next project as well.

When you see Wii Mortal Kombat or Ubisoft's Red Steel, for example, does that give you any incentive to bring a Dead or Alive or Ninja Gaiden game to the Wii?

Itagaki: I haven't played Mortal Kombat or Red Steel, so I don't know about those two. However, when I played the Boxing game included in Wii Sports, I thought that it might be interesting to make a fighting game for the Wii.

VF5 recently launched on PS3, are you impressed with what this beat 'em up achieves on the PS3? Do you think a DoA game could be improved on the new hardware?

Itagaki: I plan to take a good, long look at it soon. It would be nice if VF5 were to succeed in raising the bar for future fighting games.

How are your plans for Dead or Alive 5 progressing? Have you settled on a target format as yet?

Itagaki: No, not at all. Right now I am focused on my action game. Creating games one by one is the style that best suits me.

Although the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive franchises must take up most of your time, do you ever have chance to think of entirely new properties?

Itagaki: I will be announcing such a game in the near future. The title of the game aside, it is like no other type of game I have ever made.

Would you like to develop anything unrelated from NG/DOA in the future? Are there any particular ideas that you're investigating?

Itagaki: I still get upwards of 100 letters a year begging me to make a new Tecmo Bowl game! [Laughs.]

What do you think of the European games market? Are your games appreciated enough in Europe?

Itagaki: I have made three series of games: DOA, NG, and DOAX, and I think that the assessment of each has been different, wouldn't you say?

Finally, how do you see the Japanese game industry five years down the line? Which platform(s) do you think will be dominant in Japan?

Itagaki: Once I decided to start developing games for the Xbox, I realised that there is no point to thinking of things that relate to only one country. We are the transmitters, and the world is the receiver. That way of thinking won't change -- not today, not tomorrow.

Thanks for your time.