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Team Ninja: "[Ninja Gaiden] Needs to be in the Shadows for a While"

Team Ninja creative director discusses the whereabouts of the iconic action franchise, says Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z "wasn't the right move" for the series.

News by Kat Bailey, .

Ninja Gaiden may be gone for now, but it's not forgotten by either its dedicated fans or its creators.

Still, with it having been close to four years since the last "true" entry in the series, fans have wondered at the absence of Ninja Gaiden. With traditional hardcore action games like Bayonetta struggling to sell despite critical acclaim, it's easy to wonder if Team Ninja has moved on. I posted that question to Team Ninja creative director Tom Lee, who is currently putting the finishing touches on Nioh—the studio's new samurai dungeon crawler.

The critically-acclaimed reboot was first released on the Xbox back in 2004 and subsequently received multiple updates.

Lee replied that the outfit wouldn't be able to call itself "Team Ninja" if they decided to retire Ryu Hayabusa. "Maybe I can say that Nioh is a gateway into the next chapter for Ninja Gaiden. [Ninja Gaiden] is a very important, if not the most important franchise, for us. But at this point I think this franchise needs to be in the shadows for a while until we bring it back. There will be a time, and when the time is right, we will bring it back."

It's been a while since Ninja Gaiden was last in the spotlight, but its sizable fanbase continues to hope for news of a revival. Last year, word of a new Ninja Gaiden project from composer Keiji Yamagishi sent the community into a frenzy, only for Yamagishi to clarify shortly afteward that it wasn't a game after all.

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The franchise's last outing was 2014's rather unfortunate Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z—a silly splatterfest intended to make the series more mainstream. Lee actually winces when I mention it to him, "Hayabusa... zombies... cel-shaded... just throwing a bunch of different things into that. We don't wanna backpedal on our decisions, but it wasn't the right move, I think. But we learned a lot. Just like this Nioh experience, you only learn things by failure. And I don't think we could have made this game if we hadn't had the Yaiba experience."

But even before Yaiba, there were signs that the series was wobbling. Ninja Gaiden 3 debuted to poor reviews when it launched in 2012. With the franchise's idiosyncratic director Tomonobu Itagaki long gone, Team Ninja has struggled to recapture the magic of the Xbox's Ninja Gaiden, which was one of the best action games ever made. Though very different, the Dark Souls-like Nioh is their attempt to get back to their hardcore roots.

With that, Team Ninja is giving Ryu Hayabusa a well-deserved break. If Nioh does well, Ninja Gaiden may yet get a fresh start on the current generation of consoles. But until then, like its main character, Ninja Gaiden will remain in the shadows and wait until the moment is right.

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. Team Ninja creative director Tom Lee says it "wasn't the right move."

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Comments 9

  • Avatar for DedicatedDark #1 DedicatedDark A year ago
    Judging by the writing quality that was on display with Dead or Alive 5, I think that's a most appropriate sentiment. Hopefully Nioh has half-decent... .. . atleast tolerable writing.

    Also, Ninja gaiden 3 on the Wii U is quite good, so team Ninja really are capable in the gameplay department.Edited January 2017 by DedicatedDark
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #2 jeremy.parish A year ago
    Stealth confirmation of a Ninja Gaiden Shadow sequel?
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #3 NateDizzy A year ago
    Talk about odd coincidences. I'm currently replaying Ninja Gaiden on Master Ninja difficulty because I've been missing the kind of depth of combat only this game can provide. Ya know, with all the "remasters" of old franchises, I'm genuinely surprised no version of this game has been released on current-gen consoles. or on the PC.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #4 LBD_Nytetrayn A year ago
    I still just want a new 2D Ninja Gaiden game that effectively does for the NES games what Symphony of the Night did for Castlevania.Edited January 2017 by LBD_Nytetrayn
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  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #5 Kuni-Nino A year ago
    Razor's Edge was actually a decent attempt at recapturing the magic of those older games. The level design and bosses were still bad, but the combat got a nice overhaul and it felt great taking out mobs of enemies.

    I'm fine with Team Ninja taking a break from Ninja Gaiden. If the results are games like Nioh and DOA5, I'm all for it.
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  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #6 brionfoulke91 A year ago
    I'm perfectly okay with letting Ninja Gaiden rest for awhile. Because we're getting Nioh, and it seems like it could be a very worthy replacement.

    Quite honestly, the Nioh alpha was fantastic, an excellent mix of Dark Souls atmosphere and technical skill based gameplay of Ninja Gaiden Black. That game is looking extremely promising as a modern action game. So as much as I love the Ninja Gaiden series, the fact that we're getting potentially great new franchise more than makes up for it.
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  • Avatar for thewonps #7 thewonps A year ago
    @NateDizzy Xbox One remaster should really be a given! and throw in NG2 BC while they're at it.
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  • Avatar for thewonps #8 thewonps A year ago
    @DedicatedDark Kasumi has been looking for Hayate for quite awhile now... Edited January 2017 by thewonps
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  • Avatar for thewonps #9 thewonps A year ago
    Wasn't Yaiba produced by Comcept? I think the post-Capcom Inafune curse continues.
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