Years ago, when abrasive game designer Tomonobu Itagaki was in charge of Tecmo's Team Ninja development studio, trash-talking other fighting game franchises was the norm. But the rail-thin rebel left Tecmo to work on the long-brewing Devil's Third for THQ, and now Yosuke Hayashi's the man in charge at Team Ninja.
When I played Dead or Alive 5 at E3 last week, Team Ninja devs let it be known that the upcoming title will see guest appearances by Akira and Sarah from Sega's Virtua Fighter. That turn of events might make one think that—with a new guy at the top— Team Ninja's got a more relaxed attitude about other fighting series. So I asked Hayashi and his colleague if this Virtua crossover meant there might be a new kinder, gentler openness at Team Ninja. After all, It's an era where Namco and Capcom can co-produce titles that pit big rival series Street Fighter and Tekken against each other.
But this bit of VF in DOA5 is different. Hayashi said that they're all fighting game platyers at Team Ninja and the Virtua Fighter games are experiences that they respect. "Without Virtua Fighter," Hayashi offered, "there would be no Dead or Alive." Team Ninja looks at Sega's groundbreaking foray into 3D polygon fighting action as an ancestor to the over-the-top thrills that DOA5 wants to deliver.
So, does the high regard that Team Ninja has for Virtua Fighter extend to other fighting franchises? Neither Hayashi nor his colleague would answer directly but they did comment that they wouldn't put just any character from other franchises into Dead or Alive. It's a respect thing.