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[Fresh off of the development of Nintendo's Metroid: Other M, Team Ninja's new head Yosuke Hayashi reveals his plans to keep the iconic team intact, discusses new projects, and provides insight into development on Nintendo 3DS.]
Ever since the iconoclastic and outspoken Tomonobu Itagaki parted ways with Tecmo, there's been a question whether the development team he once headed, Team Ninja (Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden), would survive intact.
The team recently finished up work on Nintendo's Metroid: Other M. Yoshio Sakamoto, the longtime Metroid creator and producer of Other M had this to say about Hayashi when he spoke to Gamasutra earlier this year:
"...He's smart, he's young, and he's absolutely excellent at what he does. He works hard and he works well, but he also has a really amazing, dynamic brain. He's able to put his hand on a lot of different things and succeed."
In this interview, the new team leader, Yosuke Hayashi, speaks to Gamasutra with conviction about the team's bright future.
The team currently has two announced projects in the works: a version of Dead or Alive for the Nintendo 3DS, and a new PlayStation 3 collaboration with Koei, the publisher Tecmo merged with in 2009.
The game, Ni-Oh, is the brainchild of Koei founder Kou Shibusawa, creator of the original Nobunaga's Ambition series of games that sped that company's rise to fame in the 1980s.
Here, Hayashi talks about those two projects, and how he sees the industry changing -- and how Team Ninja will address the challenges of new platforms, new interfaces, and new ways of creating games.
So, now that you are the head of Team Ninja, what is your vision for the company going forward? What is it that you hope to achieve that may be different, or may be exactly the same, as before?
Yosuke Hayashi: I want to keep the fact that I'm Japanese. I want to treat that carefully, with respect. The games that we've made so far have been made in Japan. We didn't purposefully try to make them Japanese games, but that is who we are, and that informs the way that the games have been made. We want to use that going forward -- to give the world games and entertainment that only we can make, to keep that uniqueness but still make something everyone can enjoy.
In your mind, what are the major points of Japanese game development that are the best and most unique? What do you want to make sure that you keep with your company culture?
YH: It's a visual sense, an attention to detail, the way the feel of the game is a certain style. It's cool. Those are the things that we want to keep. We think those will work for users throughout the world.
Metroid: Other M
There's a lot that Japanese games can do, or used to do, differently that we're not getting to see as much right now. And at the same time, there are different development practices that have cropped up in Western game development versus Japanese game development. Do you feel like there's any kind of meeting that needs to happen there?
YH: I really feel that currently Japanese games focus too much on specifics of the game itself, game spec. But we need to shift focus to presenting the passion, you know, and the heart of the game.
In terms of things like waterfall game development versus things where you do like a vertical slice and then build from there -- development practices -- is Team Ninja going to continue down the same path, or are you going to incorporate some new techniques?
YH: I think if we don't change that the way we make games, then the games themselves will not change either, so we need to change that.
One thing that doesn't happen quite as often in Japan is prototyping an idea before implementing it. A lot seems to be much more finished on paper before it actually comes into production. What do you think about that? I mean, it's got its good and bad points.
YH: If we only use that development style, then we will only be able to make old style Japanese games -- the games that have already been made. In the past, Team Ninja has done some paper-based concepting, and then just gets all the stuff together, puts it into the game, and see if it works. But moving forward -- right now -- we're shifting more towards a more prototype-based development style. We're trying to put everything into the game quickly so we can see if it works or if it doesn't.