Today we have a Xbox Community Network Q&A for Naruto: Rise of the Ninja with Sebastien Puel, Game Producer at Ubisoft. So if you want to find out more about this upcoming anime title read on…
Naruto: Rise of a Ninja was one of the most interesting games at E3 2007. Were you surprised by the excellent critical response to the game?
Well, yes. When you work on a project like this during two years, you are so much into it that you don’t sometimes realize the reach of what you are doing. At the same time, we knew we had a graphically unique game and a never-seen-before mix of gameplay. The team is made of fans, so we knew that if the result pleased us, it would please fans as well. But I must say that the strength of the answer we got was a bit surprising.
Will we be able to take control of other characters to explore the game world, or will we have the possibility to only “be” Naruto?
We wanted to tell the Naruto story first. As cool and ‘edgy’ as other characters might be, Naruto has a particularly interesting personality and depth. We wanted to put the player in Naruto’s skin, and tell a real, deep, interesting story. If we asked the player to randomly choose a character this would have simply not be possible.
Which are the features the game has inherited from the cartoon? And which are the new ones?
All features are inherited from the anime. We did not ‘invent’ any. When you make up too many things by your own, I believe you end up having a ‘somehow-close-to-Naruto-game’. That was not our goal.
Then of course, we had to interpret and translate anime elements into gameplay – like the hand seal system. But in the end, everything in the game has to serve the Naruto universe and not the other way around. That’s at least our philosophy.
What’s, in your opinion, the most difficult aspect of the cartoon to be implemented in the game?
Definitely, the story. Think about this: when you tell Naruto’s story, you have to make sure that the player feels like Naruto. So in the first hours, we wanted the player to feel more or less like a looser. But from a gameplay perspective, we did not want to force player’s failure. So we had to come up with original solutions … that you will discover in the game! ☺
Can the player choose how to influence the story or does he have to hold on the given path?
Sure, the key elements are there (the journey to the Land of Waves, Chunin exam etc …), but what we have created is an open world. In the end every player will choose a different path thanks to the non-linear mission system and the RPG aspect.
How much does the story of the game keep the storyline of the manga and/or the anime?
This is the same story told with different tool (interactive gameplay instead of anime). But with a few exceptions, we did not remove or alter anything to the anime; we only added some missions for gameplay purposes. If you want to do a good Naruto game, I believe you first have to recognise that Mr Kishimoto is better at telling stories than you are.
How many characters will be playable, in the story mode and in the versus mode, and which?
In the story mode, you will only be able to enjoy the being of Naruto. Because we decided to concentrate on the anime story like, we wanted the player to feel like Naruto and not like a friend or a enemy of him.
Regarding the versus mode, there will be 11 characters playable at the game launch and many more to come via DLC.
Here is the list of all the playable characters of Naruto: Rise of a Ninja at the game launch:
- Rock Lee
There are lots of fights with various characters during the game’s story mode, will these be unlockable for play in the versus mode or potentially could be added as downloadable content?
All the main characters you can interact with during the story mode are playable in versus. Downloadable content will later add even more characters.
Naruto combines various elements from a number of genres, how would you describe the game to someone who has little knowledge of Naruto the game?
Well, I think the main thing to understand is that we initially wanted to tell a story, to recreate Naruto’s world as accurately as possible and to put players in the ‘skin’ of Naruto. The different types of gameplay are means to reach this objective. So, we ended up with what one could describe as a mix of fight, action and RPG. Those seem to be 3 quite different genres and mechanics, but in the end, I think it flows perfectly well when you play the game.
Since you’re also implementing a beat em up component in the game, have you looked back at the Japanese games for inspiration for this aspect of the game? If so, which games? After all, many gamers did enjoy the Gekitou Ninja Taisen games on GC…
It’s not a beat them up like in any other Naruto game. It’s a real fight system. The difference is that fight requires skills and strategy and no predetermined button mashing patterns.
To tell the truth, we looked at other Naruto games but the fight system has been more inspired by classics of the genre like Soul Calibur or Virtua Fighter.
Were there ever any plans to let the player co-operatively run around online with (an)other player(s)? If yes, what stopped it? It seems to be the perfect game for it!
No – there was actually no such plan. I believe that the only way to do a good game is to focus on one single initial intention and develop it as far and deep as you can. Otherwise, you end up trying to do a lot of different things and none of them is really polished and fun. There are a lot of opportunities with the Naruto universe, but we decided to focus on the Naruto story as we thought it was what really defined the series.
With such a big license (and you being such a big fans of the series), is there anything really ambitious you guys intend to do with future iterations of the series that there just wasn’t enough time to do now, or just did not fit into the story this time around?
I’m proud of this game as it’s one of the rare instances in this industry when the team can look back and say: ‘we have done pretty much everything we said we would do’. But I still believe that there is something more to do on the online side: manga fans (as we are) form a very active community on the web. But there is very little – if none – offer to them in terms of online gaming. Rise of a Ninja will be a first game offering online gaming. If there was further iteration of the franchise, I hope it would go in this direction: Xbox live is an amazing opportunity to develop great manga-gamers communities!
Which and how many modes will be included in the final game? Will there be any online or cooperative mode?
There is the story mode, the tournament mode, the offline VS mode and the online mode. I think this is great value for money and the guaranty of a huge replayability.
Why did you choose for a beat-em-up fighting style rather than something more “open” like in a classical action-adventure game?
It’s not a beat them up like in one other Naruto game. It’s a real fight system. The difference is that fight requires skills and strategy and no predetermined button mashing patterns.
To tell the truth, we looked at other Naruto games but the fight system as been more inspired by classics of the genre like Soul Calibur or Virtua Fighter.
What will be the importance and length of exploration phases in the game (in opposition to fighting/action sequences)? Will the environments be all taken from the manga/anime or did you create new scenarios?
In the story mode the exploration phases are well balanced with the fighting/action sequences. All environments are taken from the anime. We didn’t want to create a ‘Naruto-resembling world’ but really port the anime into a game.
Are you fully localizing it (text and speech) into all European languages?
No, we decided to fully localize the text. But the speech will be for the moment in English and French.
What is it that makes Anime so great and so ripe for videogame adaptation, in your opinion?
The first time I saw Naruto I thought it was the perfect world for a great game. First its very action oriented (so we decided to go for the fighting aspect), then it’s extremely beautiful and well detailed (which gives you the thrill of exploration), and last but not least, there are extremely well defined and deep characters (so you want to do an RPG). In the end you’ve got Rise of a Ninja mix: fight, exploration and RPG. Those 3 elements are to me obvious in the anime.
Thank you for your time Sebastien!
Be sure to check out our hands-on preview of the game from our recent visit at Ubisoft’s Studios last week. Naruto: Rise of a Ninja punches its way into stores this coming Friday. You can support the site by purchasing this game from Play.com by clicking on the Play button to the right of this article.