The Tokyo Game Show is days away and just before it kicked off, we had a chance to catch up with former Team Ninja lead ninja Tomonobu Itagaki — designer of Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive.
Itagaki has kept a relatively low profile since leaving Tecmo, working with his new company Tokyo Vikings and agreeing to only to interviews here and there.
Itagaki is upbeat and opinionated as ever, talking about a range of topics and showing us pictures of missiles. And who doesn't love pictures of missiles?
While Itagaki was tight lipped about what he and his team were working on, he did express an interest in military weaponry (missiles!). Back in May 2008, he told Kotaku that he was interested in doing something "totally new, completely unrelated to anything I've done before. Not any part of any existing franchises."
As we previously reported, Itagaki said what he'd like to do is work on another action title or perhaps a war-themed game, perhaps something set in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
"I think the Pacific theater of World War II is a interesting topic," he said in 2008. "I think it would be cool to work with an American developer and do a game based on the Pacific Theater." When Kotaku asked during that interview how long he had been thinking about doing such a title, Itagaki said it was something he came up with during our short interview. "I'm interested in that period of time, for my generation, that was an event that influenced us more than anything else," he said at the time. "I think that would be an interesting topic to explore."
That was 2008, this is now, a year later. Our 2009 Tokyo Game Show interview with Itagaki below:
Kotaku: It's good to see you again, Itagaki-san.
Itagaki: You too. How have you been?
Kotaku: Pretty good, thanks. So first let me ask you what you thought of our recent news story.
Itagaki: Which story?
Kotaku: That Tecmo had been falsely editing the Team Ninja entry on Wikipedia, and it became pretty big news.
Itagaki: Editing, you say?
Kotaku: Yeah, they apparently deleted sections about you and your former team members.
Itagaki: I don't really know what the point is in doing something like that, but hey, I'm still here. Does editing Wikipedia change the world or something?
Kotaku: That's a good question.
Itagaki: We live in a convenient day and age, but trust me, nothing's that convenient. They should find better things to do with their time.
Kotaku: Curious to know what your opinion is on the current state of the Japanese game industry?
Itagaki: I think that, in time, it will end up much like the Japanese film industry, you know?
Kotaku: What do you mean that it's like the Japanese film industry?
Itagaki: I mean it will become similar in terms of its competitiveness in mass markets, its ability to raise funds, and its technological prowess. I mean, Kojima-san at Konami has been talking about the technological side of the issue for quite some time now, hasn't he?
Kotaku: So, are you saying that the Japanese game industry is heading towards a decline?
Itagaki: Whether it goes into a major decline or not will depend on the publishers and game creators here in Japan. There's no point in traveling the same path that Japan did 400 years ago, after all.
Kotaku: What do you mean by 400 years ago?
Itagaki: I'm talking about sakoku, the policy in which Japan closed its borders to the outside world. What the industry is doing right now is just a modern form of sakoku. What I'm trying to get at is that you've got to be an Earthling first, and a Japanese second.
Kotaku: Are there any Japanese films in particular that you like?
Itagaki: Yesterday I saw Departures on TV. I thought that the head of the funeral home was the main character's father, but after watching it I found out I was wrong (laughs). It was pretty interesting but I felt that the ending was lacking somewhat. But, what's a Japanese movie I like? I'm particularly fond of Brother by Takeshi Kitano — that's a great film.
Kotaku: What about games, what games have you played recently that you thought were fun or not so fun?
Itagaki: Sandy from the new Dragon Quest made me want to take the DS and snap the damn thing in half (laughs). Looks like the game is pretty popular amongst my friends, though.
Kotaku: What have you been doing since you quit Tecmo?
Itagaki: I've been taking photographs, designing games — you know, the usual. The other day I went to Mt. Fuji and took some pictures of the Japanese Army. It was a 24-hour forced march so I'm pretty tired though! (laughs)
This was taken at the moment a Type-90 battle tank fired its main cannon.
Here's the launching of rocket artillery.
Kotaku: Wow, these are pretty impressive.
Itagaki: Yeah, there is nothing like the real thing. This is no video game.
Kotaku: Do these have anything to do with your next games?
Itagaki: I don't spend even a second on anything that I don't have an interest in.
Kotaku: What do you think about the feature in Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 that allows players to control characters' chest movements with the SIXAXIS?
Itagaki: What the hell...?
Kotaku: When you shake the controller forcefully, the female characters' chests bounce. What do you think of that?
Itagaki: Well, it certainly is unique... (laughs)
Kotaku: What do you mean by "unique"?
Itagaki: Are those guys doing okay at home? I mean, I know Sigma 2's producer, Hayashi, just got married recently...
Kotaku: Well, we tend to think of breast bouncing mechanics as being a registered trademark of your games, Itagaki-san, so tell us, are you doing okay at home?
Itagaki: Don't worry, my wife is no pushover — trust me! (laughs)
Kotaku: How many team members do you have at Tokyo Vikings? Are there any ex-Tecmo staff?
Itagaki: What sort of stupid general would give his enemy information on his troop strength? You'd better go back and read up on Rommel, AKA "the Desert Fox."
Kotaku: Would you like to make another fighting game at some point?
Itagaki: I believe I created one possible example of a perfected fighting game 4 years ago. If someone else wants to make one, I say they go right ahead.
Kotaku: What genre of game would you like to make then?
Itagaki: If I were to tell you that it would ruin the surprise! Be patient just a little while longer.
Kotaku: Are you considering doing something for the Wii or DS?
Itagaki: I've made one for the DS, as you know. It wasn't a typical DS game, though, that's for sure. When you get right down to it, I'm not sure that I'm suited for portable games, you know?
Kotaku: Will you be at the Tokyo Game Show? I think your fans are waiting for you to announce your next project.
Itagaki: I'm really sorry to keep them waiting, but it's just not time to announce anything quite yet. My partners and I are working on quite a few bombshells at the moment.
Kotaku: So you'll drop those bombs somewhere? Where's your target?
Itagaki: You'll know once you see the explosions.