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Eurogamer has published an interview with Ni-Oh's creative director Fumihiko Yasuda, who talked about the project's metamorphosis throughout the years (it was first announced, in a very, very different form, at E3 2006), the development team's current vision for the title, the feedback they received during the alpha and beta phases, and the way they're implementing certain mechanics so that they will be integrated in the fiction of the game.
While we are very much on the "action" side of the action-RPG spectrum, I have to admit I have a soft spot for what I've played so far and the overall philosophy displayed in the interview. A couple of snippets:
Eurogamer: Was Dark Souls what changed the game's direction? It doesn't look like a typical Team Ninja game. Or a Musou (Warriors) game for that matter either.
Yasuda: Yes, it did have a big impact on the direction this project eventually took. We have very, very high opinions of the Souls series and it's captivated a very wide audience, even here in Japan. Also, fundamentally that the game is very difficult, very challenging, yet very well-done and refined as a great action game. That part is in common with the past Team Ninja titles. So we did take some inspirations from Dark Souls.
Eurogamer: A lot of the Yokai and characters in the game are based on historical figures or folklore. Will there be an encyclopedia feature that gives backstory to these characters that Japanese players may be familiar with, but westerners might think are completely made up for this game?
Yasuda: You can count on it. There will be a detailed encyclopedia on both characters and Yokai. We're also trying to incorporate that into the actual gameplay. Because if you really think about it, William Adams came to Japan knowing nothing. So everything is foreign and mystical to him. And therefore we're trying to incorporate that into the game where you gradually gather that information through your actions. So if you fight a character then you'll attain their information. We're trying to have that more involved in the gameplay itself instead of just hand you an encyclopedia.