WARNING: This will be a long blog entry about a game I hope I one day acquire the funds and support to make. If you don't like reading long walls of text, this may not be for you. If, however, you're interested in hearing what I have come up with, read on; you may be impressed. Or not. We'll see.
By law, we're required to think that ninjas are awesome, and they are; you'd have to be a pretty cold soul to not love or respect the skill and finesse that ninjas (probably) brought with them on their missions. Like with everything, popular culture has had its own take on the ninja persona multiple times through numerous media.
Sometimes ninja are celebrated:
Sometimes they are ridiculed for the sake of awesome cartoons:
And sometimes we're just doing it astronomically, embarassingly wrong:
Seriously. What the fuck.
But you can always tell when the ninja is done right, whether it be through historically accurate means (i.e. Koei's Samurai Warriors), or just straight up, unrivalled badassery. Case in point: the Tenchu series.
Tenchu is one of my most beloved series of videogames. From developer FromSoftware (Dark Souls, Armored Core), the Tenchu games revolve around a pair of ninja: the shinobi non-shit-giver Rikimaru and the sexy-yet-deadly kunoichi Ayame.
Pictured: Most definitely ninjas.
Under the command of Lord Gohda, the deadly duo take on missions with self-explanatory, yet unintentionally hilarious names; like "Punish the Greedy Merchant," "Stray Dog Slaying" or my personal favourite: "Kill the Shameful Monk."
The games, if you've never played them, are heavily stealth-focused. Normally, a multi-purpose icon on the HUD shows how close you are to an enemy, when the enemy are suspicious of your presence, when you're in their line of sight, or when they've outright spotted you. Each mission usually gives you one ultimate objective, such as killing a target of the greedy or shameful variety. To get there, you can cling to walls and ceilings, run over rooftops, roll around between shrubbery or stay in shadowy areas to remain hidden. Ultimately though, you're usually graded based on how many guards you killed during a mission, and this is where the Tenchu games really shine. Successfully sneaking up on an enemy allows you to perform incredibly stylish stealth kills, which is where the big points lie. Being spotted will deduct from your score and decrease probability of being awarded the highest rank at the end of a mission.
Now, look at these screens and just try to tell me you don't want to play these games:
My point being these are awesome games and everyone should have the privilege of playing them. I play them all the time, and as an aspiring game designer I love to think what directions I would take the series in. Granted, I most likely will never make a Tenchu game so, here's the meat of this blog post finally: The Ultimate Authentic Ninja Experience Game (working title).
The Tenchu games have always done an amazing job of making the player feel like a complete badass; the satisfaction of being a ninja paired with gameplay that required genuine skill, awareness and timing is a gaming experience rarely matched and done this well. Tenchu Z (2007) furthered this experience by allowing the player to create their own ninja. This is something that will be an integral part of The Ninja Experience. Players will not only be able to create their own character from a massively robust creation tool, but they'll also be able to share designs and enter online contests. These "ninja pageants" will have prizes such as exclusive apparel and accessories, weapons and ninja gadgets.
The Ninja Experience will be set during Japan's Sengoku period, between the 15th and 17th centuries when war was rife. The game will be free-roaming and every NPC will be a smart one. What I mean is, based on what kind of a ninja you are, people will react differently towards you. If you're a good ninja, or do good deeds for one city, the people there will take notice, hold you in high regard and often donate items and money to aid you in your quest. Also, officials may take you on board, thus opening up more questlines and areas. Contrarily, if you're a ruthless or evil ninja, townsfolk will avoid you in the streets and maybe even shriek and run away at your presence. If your tyranny grows so much in one area, people may refuse to leave the house, resulting in barren cities. However, some brave souls may seek to kill you for a bounty, officials will place kill orders on you, or maybe tyrannical rulers, such as Oda Nobunaga, will take you under their wing. The important part being you play how you want to play, but what determines good and evil in the game?
Well, there are three ways to neutralise threats in the game. For instance, a good character will perform non-lethal (but still very stylish) takedowns. A neutral character would perform stealth kills, and evil characters can perform savage kills, which strike fear into the hearts of your enemies, if you will. There are good and evil variations on all neutralisation types. For instance, an evil non-lethal takedown might see your character choke or beat an enemy within an inch of their life, or savagely break their legs. A good lethal takedown might see your character break a guard's neck, or kill them with very little bloodshed. Along with this, gestures such as helping civilians, doing favours for officials or acting on your own accord can add to your morality in certain ways. Swinging too much one way will open up certain questlines and close others, whilst various groups will want you dead based on your morals.
The game will be stealth-focused, meaning fights should be avoided at all costs. Players can dispose of enemies in various ways, and how they go about it will make other guards in the area behave in certain ways. For example, savage kills, or a great number of kills, will terrify guards, which will either cause them to flee or be reluctant to hunt you down. They may even cower in your presence if they spot you.
There will be a leveling system, though not in the traditional sense. I believe numbers are restrictive and in cases with online games, somewhat intimidating. Players will instead show progression through personal efforts such as carefully crafting their own weapons or piecing together their ideal apparel. On top of this, being a help or hindrance in another player's "world" will increase your notoriety among other players. As such, if you're lawful and show you can get things done, other players may send requests to you for help on a certain mission. In opposite fashion, if you've killed a great deal of players, your bounty may rise to such an extent that your name appears in many players' worlds on wanted posters or in official hearings if you're a real threat. A player can claim this bounty if they kill the other player.
More ambitiously, a duel system will be put in place for these PvP battles, and it will have impact on players' alignments. For example, if a good or neutral character kills an evil one, they will be regarded as a hero in that players' world, which acts as a sign for the evil player to either better themselves, or never cross paths with that player. Likewise, if an evil player kills a good player, they will be feared in the good player's world, and subsequent "invasions" by them will cause townspeople to flee, or rejoice if they are a good character. Of course, to avoid frustration, PvP battles can only occur whilst the player is not on a mission.
Eventually, you'll become so famous (or infamous) that people will begin writing about you, or painting depictions of you, and so on. You'll play a major role in the final act which will most likely see you assassinating the main good or evil NPC. Of course, if you'd rather be a neutral, lone wolf sort of character, you can take on any mission at any time. In this case, the final mission could be your first. You can of course improve your gear and gadgets purely through exploration without doing any missions. However, if you choose to take on a mission further down a questline, all the missions that would have been available before that will no longer be available.
These are the very first thoughts of an admittedly incredibly ambitious project. One day I hope a developer makes a game like this. Hell, maybe Tenchu's developers will take the series in a direction like this. That would be pretty cool. I'm not aware of a ninja-focused game to be as in-depth as this; I mean, the Tenchu series is pretty deep in its mechanics, but is yet to really step itself up into something this robust.