When Dark Souls met Ninja Gaiden: Team Ninja talks Nioh

2016 is seeing the release of several much-awaited and long in development titles.

This month sees Final Fantasy XV – originally announced in 2006 as Final Fantasy XIII Versus – while The Last Guardian, which began development in 2007, is set to hit shelves in December.

But the start of 2017 is seeing the release of Koei Tecmo’s Nioh, a title that has been in development since 2004. Originally it was to be based on an unfinished script from Akira Kurosawa called Oni, but missed its summer 2006 release date. The title all but disappeared from the public gaze until it resurfaced at 2015’s Tokyo Game Show.

There was a strong desire from Koei founder and Nioh’s general producer, Kou Shibusawa, to ‘complete the mission of creating Nioh’ over the past 10 years, the game’s director Fumihiko Yasuda says.

With the presence of massocore [portmanteau of ‘masochism’ and ‘hardcore’] games growing in the market, he was determined to continue the development of Nioh with Team Ninja, who have experience in entertaining core gamers worldwide, and have the capability of taking on Nioh’s challenging game concept.”

Yasuda says that though the game has been in development for over ten years and some aspects of the game have changed, much of Nioh has remained constant since its 2004 beginnings.

The concept and plot of the game, was to have a blonde haired, blue eyed protagonist (based upon the historical figure William Adams) playing a role in the Warring States era of Japan,” he says. This has remained the same throughout development and Team Ninja has fleshed out the game by adding the samurai action and including yokai [Japanese demons] as enemies.”

The project has now taken on a very Dark Souls-esque style of gameplay with slow and punishing swordplay. But Yasuda insists that the game has its own identity.

Nioh’s protagonist is a samurai, and the title is an action-centric game with a unique approach to combat which fuses strategic attacks with hack-and-slash elements,” he says.

These hack-and-slash elements will differ depending on the weapon used, such as katanas and spears, or the equipped items, such as the type of armour.”

One of the most interesting aspects of Nioh’s gameplay is the graphical options available to players. Consumers can choose between a higher frame rate with lower graphical resolution, and a lower frame rate with higher graphical fidelity.

The biggest reasoning for this is that Nioh is an action RPG,” Yasuda explains.

If the player wants a quick response, then they should choose ‘Action Mode’ as this enables the game to run at 60fps whereas if the player wishes to enjoy higher graphics then they can select ‘Graphic Mode’ to display the game in high resolution.

These modes were implemented to provide players with control over their visual preference, something which we see in PC games but rarely in console games. We were glad to hear that this was well received among players through demos.”

Yasuda continues, saying that these different modes will not affect the overall balance of gameplay: Both modes have their advantages and disadvantages, but this does not mean one is superior to the other, the default setting for all players will be set to ‘Action Mode’.”

Team Ninja has also held a series of alpha and beta tests for Nioh. Since the initial announcement in 2004, we have kept players waiting, and we wanted to provide an opportunity for them to play the game as early as possible,” Yasuda says.

We were also interested to know if our development was moving in the right direction, and how well the title would be received as it is a brand new IP. These are the reasons we released the demos online, as it allowed direct feedback from players and, as a result, we saw very positive responses from our audience, particularly in the West.”

He continues: We are happy with the results of the beta demo which are positive overall, especially on the improvements we had worked on from the alpha demo’s feedback.

In spite of the beta having greater volume and systems than the alpha, the majority of the players played the demo till the end, which was a pleasant surprise. We learnt the difference of increasing difficulty through simple and artificial means, and we intend to improve upon this feedback to bring the title to completion with care.”

Nioh is now launching in February 2017 following a final, small delay from October 2016.

Development is currently on schedule, but Yasuda wanted the additional time to respond to the feedback from the demos and ensure the game was of the highest quality.

He also stressed that: The quality of localisation was also very important as we wanted to launch the game at the same time worldwide.”

Surprisingly, Yasuda says that although the game has a high difficulty, he believes Nioh will appeal to a wide audience.

Nioh is a tough game which we strongly recommend to those who love challenging games,” he says.

For players who aren’t as keen on challenging games, they will feel the satisfaction and achievement of defeating strong enemies and improving their skills, making it worth the challenge.”

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