Yuki Nishikawa, the Development Director for the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja series and other games, was kind enough to answer a whole bunch of questions we had about Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm Generations. In part one of the interview, he answers questions from SJ Alpha's video game guru, Urian Brown. In part two, he answers your questions from @shonenjump Twitter!
Q: With over 70 playable characters, this it not only a record number for the Ninja Storm series, it’s higher than any fighting game I've ever heard of. What are the main challenges of making a game with so many fighters?
Nishikawa: The hardest part is testing each and every combination of characters in battle. We have to clash each Jutsu against every other one to check which one comes out stronger, as well as testing each Jutsu versus each Ultimate Jutsu. In addition, every time we introduce a new battle system, we have to check each character to verify how they're affected by the new system. I'd say the toughest part is allocating enough time to check all the possible combinations.
However, we're also aware that fans really want a huge number of fighters to play with, so we definitely try to include as many as the development team can handle.
Q: Because the game is global, meaning you can fight anyone in the world who has it, do you have any concerns about lag when fighting opponents overseas?
Nishikawa: Regarding network lag, there's a certain amount we can compensate for on the development side, but the fact of the matter is that there are always individual differences between players due to both region and each person's internet connectivity. Fighting games in particular require constant syncing, so this is something that we need to continue to work on improving with each title. As with previous titles, testing for Storm Generations included overseas connectivity and battle tests between Japan, Europe, and the United States.
We continue to test out different environments and explore options on the programming side for improving network performance, so we greatly appreciate feedback from users through surveys as well as from our own battles with players around the globe. All of this experience is valuable for our development.
Q: What kinds of feedback from the previous game (Ninja Storm 2) have you implemented into this game?
Nishikawa: With regards to balance, we took special care when considering who is too strong, who is too weak, and what battle styles are used too often. Because this is a competitive game and we want players to be able to enjoy it for a long time, we obviously want to make all characters competitively viable. We take this into account when considering new systems and characters.
Q: Why would fighting game fans (not specifically Naruto fans) like this game?
Nishikawa: In order to appease fighting game fans, we were very conscious of including tactical elements as part of the fighting system. We think we've really upped the speed and excitement of the battles. But of course that's not all. Beginners and children can also easily play the game and enjoy cool looking battles, so you'll have fun even if it's your first time.
Q: What tweaks or improvements have you made to the battle system since the last game?
Nishikawa: The biggest change would be that Substitution Jutsu is now gauge limited. You need to think about how much you have left while fighting, and this makes anticipating your opponent's actions more complex. Also, there are actions you can take against opponents who have used Substitution Jutsu by using Cancel Chakra Dash, and methods to break mid-air guards that have been added, so it might not be the best idea to fight in the same way as the previous title!
Q: What are three rules or tips you’d give a beginning player to help sharpen their fighting abilities.
Nishikawa: First of all, I would recommend that people simply choose some of the characters they like and spend some time figuring out the capabilities of those characters. Once you find the character with the abilities you like, figuring out ways of becoming stronger with that character becomes one of the core elements of gameplay strategy and ultimately enjoying the game.
Secondly, make your opponent use the Substitution Jutsu. In other words, if you are constantly putting pressure on your opponent, you will create situations where you will be at an advantage. Make the first move.
Lastly, be careful not to use up your Substitution power. It will be essential to use the Substitution Jutsu when you are attacked by an enemy who has powered up with Jutsu or Ultimate Jutsu, or when your attacker is performing a move that will leave them open.
Q: Who was the toughest character to program and why?
Nishikawa: Kiba was tough. There is actually a lot of design that went into the systems that kept Akamaru moving independently and automatically in relation to Kiba. For Storm 1, characters that used puppets were also very difficult to do properly. However, the longer we work on the franchise, the more experience we gain. The development process gets easier as a result, despite increase of playable characters.
Q: Now that Naruto games are a worldwide success (over 10 million sold globally), do you feel extra pressure in trying to please everybody?
Nishikawa: It is true that every year we feel the increasing need to beat people's expectations. Every year we take on the challenge as if we are making the best NARUTO game ever. We want to create a final product which will meet the expectations of fans here in Japan, but at the same time will reach out and entertain our international fans around the world. We feel responsible for meeting and beating this world-wide expectation.
However, more than the pressure, it is the passionate admiration for the series and the fans' demands that motivate us to make an even better game. We hope everyone enjoys the games we make now and will listen to any comments made when thinking about any future content.
Part 2 of the interview will be posted tomorrow!
NARUTO SHIPPUDEN™:Ultimate Ninja STORM Generations™
game software © 2004-2012 NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc. All Rights Reserved.
NAMCO BANDAI Games logo is a trademark of NAMCO BANDAI.
NARUTO artwork and elements © 2002 MASASHI KISHIMOTO / 2007 SHIPPUDEN All Rights Reserved.
Interveiw by Urian Brown