Gaming Reviews, News, Tips and More.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

The Man Behind Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive and Devil's Third Reveals His Favorite Retro Games

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

The creative force previously behind Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive series, now on the upcoming Devil's Third, Tomonobu Itagaki, says he has wanted to make games since he was a teenager. He just didn't want to make video games.

The man better known for his fast-paced, reflex-based action games told Kotaku in a recent interview that he grew up hoping to work on the plodding, strategic war games of his youth. These are the games played not on a console or computer, but with paper, dice and pencil. Itagaki, a military buff, says he "stayed up all night" during his elementary and middle school years playing tactical war games, hoping to make it his career.


"I wanted to be a designer of these kinds of games," Itagaki said of the genre. "But there was an industry that destroyed my dream: video games."

Itagaki said that in order to get a sense for his tastes and his passion for war simulation, "I want your readers to check out the following games. They're really fun."


Without further ado, here are four of Tomonobu Itagaki's favorite war games from the 1970s to 1980s.


Advanced Squad Leader by Avalon Hill
A "tactical-level board wargame," that simulates actions of company or battalion size set in World War II. Map boards are "divided into hexagons to regulate fire and movement, and depict generic terrain that can represent different historical locations." Counters "depict squads of soldiers, crews, individual leaders, support weapons, heavy weapons, and vehicles."

War in Europe by Simulation Publishing International
The massive War in Europe—it boasts a 46 square foot map—is "a corps/division level simulation designed to recreate the massive campaigns of 1939 to 1945."

Assault: Boots and Saddles by Game Designers' Workshop
The modern warfare wargame module focuses on "Air Cavalry in the 80's." The description reads: "In order to simulate the modern battlefield on a tactical level, a game must cover both hardware and the human element in detail. Assault includes all the latest technology from Chobham armor to Copperhead, as well as simple but realistic command control and morale rules."


Ambush! by Victory Games
Itagaki specifically mentioned the Ambush! module Purple Heart, but the official description of the core game is: "Ambush! is the solitaire game of combat, adventure, and heroism in World War Two France. Using a ground-breaking development of the programmed paragraph solitaire system, Ambush! gives the player control of an American squad, faced with a variety of missions against an ever-changing, hidden German foe. The variable events, innumerable tactical options, and wealth of unexpected occurrences make Ambush! a solitaire gaming experience unlike any that has gone before. The easily learned rules are specially designed to get the player into the action within minutes. The player selects and arms his squad, providing each soldier with command and initiative ratings, perception, weapons skill, driving skill, and movement capability. After selecting one of the eight missions provided, the player sends his squad into a mission map to conduct operations called for in the mission. Soldiers move freely, as far as the player wishes, checking for events each time they move...until the sequenced action rounds are triggered by the whine of German bullets!"


Though Mr. Itagaki chose to continue working on high speed action video games, he's since moved on to the Western-influenced shooter genre with Devil's Third. Why? For a simple reason: "I picked a shooter because it sells, but also because I want to show my own originality."


"I know a lot about wars," Itagaki explained. "I thought that I could bring something new to this genre, so that's why I started working on Devil's Third."