End of an era: Ninja Gaiden designer Tomonobu Itagaki departs Tecmo

He’s not happy either; he’s suing his former company:

I have filed this lawsuit with a strong intent to question the social responsibility of Tecmo Co., Ltd. and its President Yoshimi Yasuda, as well as condemning them for their unjust acts. Today, in addition to announcing the reasons for this lawsuit, I make clear my reasons for resigning.

Itagaki is an outspoken individualist so I guess this kind of drama is in character. The move is worth noting though, simply because of the exceptional quality of the Ninja Gaiden game (I’ve not yet seen Ninja Gaiden II). There were several releases of Ninja Gaiden for Xbox: the original; two major downloadable called the Hurricane Pack I and II; and Ninja Gaiden Black which added a new Mission Mode with as much play value as the game itself. The point here is that Itagaki is a perfectionist; he took a game which was already excellent and honed it over several iterations, seemingly putting the pursuit of quality ahead of commercial considerations. The Hurricane Packs were free, and Itagaki is said to have opposed ports to other platforms despite the lack of acceptance for Xbox in Japan.

To understand the game itself you have to look beyond the reviews, to things like this fan-written advanced combat guide. Known to be a challenging game, it is loved by hard core gamers for its sophisticated, nuanced combat system with huge numbers of different moves and many surprises. I know nothing like it for intense combat and replayability, though spoilt by unnecessary gore.

Ninja Gaiden II is just about to be released; it’s a shame that Itagaki won’t be around to further develop it as it did for its predecessor. Unless he makes up with Tecmo, that is.