Ninja Gaiden III Was a "Japanese Hamburger"

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Ninja Gaiden III Was a "Japanese Hamburger"

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An attempt to appeal to Western gamers backfired.

A certain caustic-tongued British expat noted that Ninja Gaiden III seemed to be cribbing from some Western games as opposed to its notoriously difficult Japanese roots. According to developer Team Ninja, his assessment is completely correct - in trying to appeal more to a Western audience, the studio had stumbled.

"It seems like we made a Japanese hamburger for the West," Team Ninja head Yosuke Hayashi told Gamasutra. In doing so, says Hayashi, Team Ninja lost sight of its strengths and what the industry expected from a Japanese studio. "[Maybe] as a Japanese developer, we need to make good Japanese food... and that's what people are wanting from a Japanese developer."

As the Japanese industry flounders, says Hayashi, studios try to do whatever they can "just to basically stay above water," and that includes aping the West because that is seen as the most lucrative market. After hitting a wall with Ninja Gaiden, though, it was important for Team Ninja to reflect on what made it a notable developer in the first place. "We really felt that we need to emphasize our strengths as a developer and push those further, moving forward."

"I like Assassin's Creed, but that's not the only game I want to play," he says. Ubisoft has resources that Tecmo and Team Ninja simply can't bring to bear. "We can't compete directly with that, and we don't want to. That's not where we are."

But even in the face of a diminished Japanese industry, says Hayashi, it will always have a place provided it focuses on its strengths. "Maybe if the industry is going for that Hollywood blockbuster direction, we can offer something that's different," says Hayashi. "It's not like everybody wants to see Transformers every day."

"[Gameplay] will be first... We're not going to offer burgers anymore, but we're going to offer you damn good sushi."

Thanks, Yosuke Hayashi. Now I'm really hungry.

Source: Gamsutra

Permalink

I was about to make a comment about how a Japanese hamburger made from Kobe beef is delicious. Then I checked and since i've never been to japan, i very much doubt that the 'Kobe beef' hamburger i had in Arizona was legitimate Kobe Beef. And real Kobe beef would never be ground up.

So.... i guess the analogy is apt.

Also... yum, sushi. I think i'm going to have some tonight.

Well at least they know where they went wrong:
Trying to be a clone of DMC.

Now, with the ACTUAL DMC in their hand, maybe that experience will help them make a good DMC.

So, theyve admitted Ninja Gaiden 3 was crap and now we should all forget about it because the next one is taking no cues from it...

Sounds good, so long as they retcon the cursed arm thing.

Tanis:
Well at least they know where they went wrong:
Trying to be a clone of DMC.

Now, with the ACTUAL DMC in their hand, maybe that experience will help them make a good DMC.

Youre confusing Team Ninja with Ninja Theory.

Not that i blame you, it takes me a few seconds to get it straight in my head too.

"It's not like everybody wants to see Transformers every day."

Yeah.... that's a GREAT example of a movie for that analogy, mate.
How about, almost no one wants to see that crud more than zero times.... better analogy already!

Well, at least they've acknowledged that the game could have been much, much better. In fairness, what Ninja Gaiden 3 did do right, it did very well. It simply forgot to include all the other stuff that made the first two games such an absolute blast to play. Hopefully this is just Team Ninja making a few misteps following Itagaki and co's departure. They've shown with Other M (shut up!) that they can still do really solid, fluid gameplay, so hopefully wherever they go next, they'll acknowledge the flaws of NG3 and use that criticism as the foundation to make a much better game.

Also, no more needless multiplayer. That shit ain't needed in hack-and-slash games...

What amazes me is that they thought they had to make a game about a ninja more appealing TO ANYONE!

It's nice to see stories where the developer actually gets it, rather than blames pirates/used sales/fans/non-fans/the economy/satan for their mediocre game not selling well.

"Japanese hamburger" actually sounds pretty tasty.

...

Incidentally, what exactly are these strengths of the Japanese developers that this guy is talking about?

John Funk:
Source: Gamsutra

Is that a site for really nice legs? Instant bookmark for me.:)

Zhukov:
"Japanese hamburger" actually sounds pretty tasty.

...

Incidentally, what exactly are these strengths of the Japanese developers that this guy is talking about?

They know how to make the best hack-and-slash games, their industry doesn't revolve around the success of generic shooters, they're very good (for the most part) at avoiding 'broader appeal' and instead focusing on making games with depth and hardcore appeal, they have their own sense of style rather than constantly ripping off Lord Of The Rings/Star Wars, their cultural differences give their storytelling techniques a unique flavour that forms a nice contrast to the sea of beige storytelling we're flooded with in the west, they tend to avoid masturbatory gun-fetishing in favour of actual introspection and analysis on violence and its effects, and they usually strive to make their games stand out with unique features, rather than simply making clones of whatever else is successful at the time...

You want me to continue?

Kenjitsuka:
"It's not like everybody wants to see Transformers every day."

Yeah.... that's a GREAT example of a movie for that analogy, mate.
How about, almost no one wants to see that crud more than zero times.... better analogy already!

You say that, and yet the movies make dump trucks full of cash every time they hit theaters. I think it's fair to say that while they're crap, a whole lot of people are paying to see them.

OT: All this talk of burgers and video games is making me very hungry. I can't give an opinion on the last Ninja Gaiden game since I didn't play it, but it's nice to see a developer come out and admit that they made mistakes.

Ne1butme:
I was about to make a comment about how a Japanese hamburger made from Kobe beef is delicious. Then I checked and since i've never been to japan, i very much doubt that the 'Kobe beef' hamburger i had in Arizona was legitimate Kobe Beef. And real Kobe beef would never be ground up.

So.... i guess the analogy is apt.

Also... yum, sushi. I think i'm going to have some tonight.

+1 on the Kobe burgers.

Also, have any of you had teryaki burgers? Decisious. This man has no idea how much their Japanese hamburgers appeal to us!

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

Zhukov:
Incidentally, what exactly are these strengths of the Japanese developers that this guy is talking about?

They know how to make the best hack-and-slash games, their industry doesn't revolve around the success of generic shooters, they're very good (for the most part) at avoiding 'broader appeal' and instead focusing on making games with depth and hardcore appeal, they have their own sense of style rather than constantly ripping off Lord Of The Rings/Star Wars, their cultural differences give their storytelling techniques a unique flavour that forms a nice contrast to the sea of beige storytelling we're flooded with in the west, they tend to avoid masturbatory gun-fetishing in favour of actual introspection and analysis on violence and its effects, and they usually strive to make their games stand out with unique features, rather than simply making clones of whatever else is successful at the time...

You want me to continue?

No, not really.

To be honest, none of what you're saying strikes me as particularly correct.

Granted, I don't play enough Japanese games to make an informed judgement one way or the other.

Zhukov:

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:

Zhukov:
Incidentally, what exactly are these strengths of the Japanese developers that this guy is talking about?

They know how to make the best hack-and-slash games, their industry doesn't revolve around the success of generic shooters, they're very good (for the most part) at avoiding 'broader appeal' and instead focusing on making games with depth and hardcore appeal, they have their own sense of style rather than constantly ripping off Lord Of The Rings/Star Wars, their cultural differences give their storytelling techniques a unique flavour that forms a nice contrast to the sea of beige storytelling we're flooded with in the west, they tend to avoid masturbatory gun-fetishing in favour of actual introspection and analysis on violence and its effects, and they usually strive to make their games stand out with unique features, rather than simply making clones of whatever else is successful at the time...

You want me to continue?

No, not really.

To be honest, none of what you're saying strikes me as particularly correct.

Granted, I don't play enough Japanese games to make an informed judgement one way or the other.

Granted, I don't play enough Japanese games to make an informed judgement one way or the other.

I don't play enough Japanese games to make an informed judgement one way or the other.

I don't play enough Japanese games to make an informed judgement

If you don't play many Japanese games, why make snarky comments on the issue? Why try and correct me on something you have no way of actually knowing yourself? Gee skip, maybe it would just a good idea to actually go and play some more Japanese games before trying to make such bold statements? I certainly wouldn't want to comment on the Polish games industry without playing their wares first.

Micalas:

Ne1butme:
I was about to make a comment about how a Japanese hamburger made from Kobe beef is delicious. Then I checked and since i've never been to japan, i very much doubt that the 'Kobe beef' hamburger i had in Arizona was legitimate Kobe Beef. And real Kobe beef would never be ground up.

So.... i guess the analogy is apt.

Also... yum, sushi. I think i'm going to have some tonight.

+1 on the Kobe burgers.

Also, have any of you had teryaki burgers? Decisious. This man has no idea how much their Japanese hamburgers appeal to us!

might wanna read this aboot kobe beef:

http://www.cracked.com/article_19896_the-6-creepiest-lies-food-industry-feeding-you_p2.html

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
If you don't play many Japanese games, why make snarky comments on the issue? Why try and correct me on something you have no way of actually knowing yourself? Gee skip, maybe it would just a good idea to actually go and play some more Japanese games before trying to make such bold statements? I certainly wouldn't want to comment on the Polish games industry without playing their wares first.

Ugh.

You are reading hostility that isn't there. I was not looking for an argument, especially not on a subject that I am, by my own admission, not particularly knowledgable on.

My initial question was one of curiosity, not snark. As in, "What strengths are particular to Japanese developers?", not "Gee, who do those dumb Japs think they are?". Your response was sullen, defensive and borderline hostile.

As for why I don't play more Japanese games, it's simply because precious few of them interest me enough to part me from my cash. If I could get them for free I'd happily give them a try. Sadly, this being reality and all, I am constrained by the limits of my wallet.

HEY!

For your information, I happen to really like Japanese Hamburg steak!

..

wait, that's the same thing, right? >_>

All they needed to do for NG3 to be awesome was make another game like the first two but obviously improved in the ways that make sense. Tighter more responsive controls, a better camera, enemies that aren't quite as cheap but still really challenging. And to increase the potential audience for the title just include a mode where the game plays the same but the player isn't anywhere near as punished which is done simply through modifying the amount of damage they can take, the amount the enemies dish and the amount needed for enemies to be killed. I mean how was this not incredibly obvious?

DVS BSTrD:
What amazes me is that they thought they had to make a game about a ninja more appealing TO ANYONE!

What amazes me is that they felt the need to "westernize" a franchise that has always been more popular in the West to begin with...

Ryu Habosa definitely sounds like a awesome japanese fish!

All Ninja Gaiden needs is the smooth, responsive combat system and the insane difficulty. I could do without the ridiculous outfits of the female characters though.

Kenjitsuka:
"It's not like everybody wants to see Transformers every day."

Yeah.... that's a GREAT example of a movie for that analogy, mate.
How about, almost no one wants to see that crud more than zero times.... better analogy already!

but I do want to see Pulp Fiction everyday..

NameIsRobertPaulson:
It's nice to see stories where the developer actually gets it, rather than blames pirates/used sales/fans/non-fans/the economy/satan for their mediocre game not selling well.

I just blame Call of Duty

This reads to me as though they are focusing the blame for failure in the wrong direction. They made the game and it flopped. Whether or not they tried to tailor it to a western market is irrelevent. All that shows is that they failed in their intent. The article could also be read as though they were implying that the very act of creating a game for the West inherently has less worth than one for East (though it might be cynical to interpert it that way).

What is all this about comparing themselves to Ubisoft anyway? they're right in that they are not in the same division as them - they're not even playing the same game. If they wanted to take notes from a developer who has successfully created games for the West, they need look no further than Platinum Games. Lots of similarities in budget, intent and style there.

In short: the whole article seems like they are making excuses and dodging the blame.

What part of appealing to the west was throwing out all the weapons? The game just looked like a half baked cash grab to me.

An easy Ninja Gaiden game is like going to a steak house and getting a salad :(.

As a vegetarian the whole meat analogy has me a bit queasy, but asides from that this all sounds like good news. A game company fully acknowledging that they made a huge mistake in moving away from the franchise's core fanbase and toward a larger audience, is promising to correct that error next time. 'Bout damn time, and can't wait to see the next installment (or new IP, whichever comes first).

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Well, at least they've acknowledged that the game could have been much, much better. In fairness, what Ninja Gaiden 3 did do right, it did very well. It simply forgot to include all the other stuff that made the first two games such an absolute blast to play. Hopefully this is just Team Ninja making a few misteps following Itagaki and co's departure. They've shown with Other M (shut up!) that they can still do really solid, fluid gameplay, so hopefully wherever they go next, they'll acknowledge the flaws of NG3 and use that criticism as the foundation to make a much better game.

Also, no more needless multiplayer. That shit ain't needed in hack-and-slash games...

I think Other M's gameplay combat was really great, save for the sense dodge because mapping a quick dodge to the directional pad meant you could easily dodge and avoid projectiles and enemies simply by tapping move haphazardly instead of using a more intensive reaction/timing function. However since I suppose that Team Ninja was responsible for mostly, perhaps only the combat because of their history they did a great job.

I think that NG3 was pretty great, however it makes sense that it fell short after reading this. It makes sense and is great to hear that they'll be playing to their strengths despite the market instead of simply mimicking the conventions of the western industry.

newwiseman:
What part of appealing to the west was throwing out all the weapons? The game just looked like a half baked cash grab to me.

I'd say that the removal of the weapons was in that they tied the weapon system too much to the storyline. When your entire story consists of how Ryu's bloodthirst has awakened the demonic sword he wields and that sword is now essentially consuming him you can't just allow the player to use another weapon and never touch the sword. Of course, I agree with you that the limiting of weapons and fighting styles was a huge problem for me as well even though I often preferred to use the dragon sword in the previous titles.

Beyond that, I'd say that the most obvious design aspects borrowed from stereotypical popular western game design would be the over reliance on cinematics, the extremely linear play focused on cutscene -> hallway -> cutscene, and level design focused more on spectable than solid varied play. And one can't forget the face roll difficulty on the standard difficulty level followed by BS difficulty choices as opposed to solid balanced difficulty on the higher levels. That's definitely a hallmark of stereotypical western design.

gigastar:
So, theyve admitted Ninja Gaiden 3 was crap and now we should all forget about it because the next one is taking no cues from it...

Sounds good, so long as they retcon the cursed arm thing.

The thing is, the cursed arm premise could have worked. It's just that Team Ninja went about it in all the wrong ways. They tried to impose a sense a guilt onto the player that doesn't stick, especially when you compare to the previous games. I mean... really. With MAYBE the sole exception of the lowly ninja at the bottom of the waterfall in NGB, every human enemy that's been turned into sliced or ground luncheon meat by Hayabusa's assorted tools of ass-whoop pretty much deserved it.

And that's just the story. Don't get me started on the completely random characters you're apparently supposed to care about (who the fuck is Sanji?!), the completely random bits of Hayabusa's arm wigging out (and, ironically, also making Hayabusa completely invincible...), the manual controls for mundane tasks, the constant info prompts (that the game mercifully allows you to turn off), the lack of weapons, the wonky combat engine... I could go on.

Observation: Hmm... now I know how all those DA2 detractors felt. Imagine that.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Also, no more needless multiplayer. That shit ain't needed in hack-and-slash games...

To be fair, "Shadows of the Damned" or whatever the fuck the trial mode is called is what's up. Smacking up Imps and Van Gelfs with the scythe has never felt so awesome. You know, when the game isn't making you slide headlong into an enemy's sharp pointy thing.

LazyAza:
All they needed to do for NG3 to be awesome was make another game like the first two but obviously improved in the ways that make sense. Tighter more responsive controls, a better camera, enemies that aren't quite as cheap but still really challenging. And to increase the potential audience for the title just include a mode where the game plays the same but the player isn't anywhere near as punished which is done simply through modifying the amount of damage they can take, the amount the enemies dish and the amount needed for enemies to be killed. I mean how was this not incredibly obvious?

Because apparently a certain cockbite who shall remain nameless thought it would be a far better idea to introduce a story where Hayabusa almost comes off as a heartless murderer than to make any real improvements. Darker and edgier and all that shit.

And I still say that NGB is one of the few games to do its difficulty properly. You didn't simply fight enemies who did more damage (what I like to call "DMC Syndrome") on higher difficulties. You fought new enemies with new attacks. The Red Flame Ninja from Master Ninja difficulty... [shudders]

I can't help but wonder what EA would say if they replaced Team Ninja. Probably something like:

"All the critics are a small but vocal minority, the game was doomed to fail because we can never satisfy the vocal critics" ect ect....

It's refreshing to see somebody own up to their mistakes and admit they done fucked up. I enjoyed Ninja Gaiden and the sequel. This was just a mess, hopefully they go back to their hardcore roots and give us what we really want. Ninja sushi apparently.

They could really just stop with the food metaphors and just make a good game.

newwiseman:
What part of appealing to the west was throwing out all the weapons? The game just looked like a half baked cash grab to me.

Cause round-eyes can't grasp using more than two weapons thanks to the bro-shooters.

Concerning what he said about not making Japanese hamburgers, yeah, he's right. Stop trying to make crappy knock-offs of western properties. Do what you do and do it well and people will buy. Just use some common sense and don't try to make a game that needs to sell 10million units to break even, it won't. Make something good and fiscally responsible that will appeal to a niche. Many other companies from Japan are doing quite well with that model.

j-e-f-f-e-r-s:
Well, at least they've acknowledged that the game could have been much, much better. In fairness, what Ninja Gaiden 3 did do right, it did very well. It simply forgot to include all the other stuff that made the first two games such an absolute blast to play. Hopefully this is just Team Ninja making a few misteps following Itagaki and co's departure. They've shown with Other M (shut up!) that they can still do really solid, fluid gameplay, so hopefully wherever they go next, they'll acknowledge the flaws of NG3 and use that criticism as the foundation to make a much better game.

Also, no more needless multiplayer. That shit ain't needed in hack-and-slash games...

Assassin's Creed is a sandbox game; has there ever been an extreme-action sandbox title?

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