Nioh has changed Team Ninja. Sex and death are its air and water, the fundamental needs of life that keep the studio behind Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive running. Ryu Hayabusa’s perfectly toned ass is shoved inside perfectly sculpted body armor as he flips around wielding a sword with all the subtlety of a pick up artist practicing techniques in Neil Strauss’ The Game. Meanwhile Team Ninja literally let you in Ninja Gaiden 2. All the while both Ayane and Ryu dismember monsters with orgiastic aplomb. After Ninja Gaiden 3, director Fumihiko Yasuda’s has abandoned half of the studio’s staples in Nioh. Now he wants you to feel just one thing.
“Death,” said Yasuda via translator during our interview at E3. I’d just asked him what he wants players to feel when they play Nioh. “That line between life and death. The cycle between life and death comes up constantly in the game. Learning by taking on a challenge and adjusting your strategy through trial and error. That rewarding feeling you get from that shift.”
“A samurai is someone who doesn’t fear death,” says Yasuda referring to Nioh’s lead (whose anachronous blonde-haired visage is the only thing that survives from the original Nioh announced by Koei way back in 2004.) “The move from ninjas to samurai is a natural fit for us. Yokai, monsters and ghosts are also connected with those themes of death.”
Nioh is, as proven by its successful alpha demo on PlayStation 4 this past spring, . Team Ninja’s typical flare for bizarre monster design and flamboyant gore is paired well with the slow, deliberate Dark Souls action that has brazenly inspired the game. Its steep difficulty even in demo form is also appreciated after Yasuda’s last directorial effort at Team Ninja, the notorious pushover that was refined and made harder in . The studio’s overwhelming male sexuality, so prevalent in the Ninja Gaiden games, is not a part of Nioh’s tapestry.
“We do have beautiful female characters in this game,” said Yasuda. “This game is it’s own world, though. We wanted to set it apart rather than rehash the same thing over and over. Taking each game as its own individual world is important. Over-emphasizing the sexual aspect wasn’t good for this game.”
The emphasis for Yasuda then: all gameplay, all death.
“It’s less fantastical than our past games. So less sex than our other titles.”