Q: Please give us a short overview on Naruto. What is the story behind it….?
Ubisoft : Naruto is certainly the most important phenomenon in the manga / anime universe since the early days of Dragon Ball Z. The manga started years ago in Japan and then became an anime, and one of the most popular ever. Naruto is the story of a young Ninja who first gets rejected by the population of his village for having a monster sealed in himself. The whole story is the coming of age journey of this little boy who will – thanks to his tenacity and his big heart – gradually manage to become a great Ninja, accepted and respected by his community.
Q: What is so cool about anime? Why are kids so fascinated by Naruto and this license?
Ubisoft : To me, Naruto is one of the best story and strongest fictional universes out there. Naruto universe is extremely strong and consistent and features also a large cast of well defined and moving characters. But maybe the deep reason for this success is that this story has a universal appeal: Naruto talks about the hardships that comes with childhood and adolescence, this difficulty that we all experience one day in being an imperfect young person and trying to get accepted by others. This little noisy and sometimes ridiculous Ninja manages to touch us because he certainly resembles what we all are - or have been - at times.
Q: How did you succeed in obtaining the rights to work on the 1st Naruto game developed by an Western team?
Ubisoft : Part of the reason is certainly that Ubisoft is well-known for the high quality of its ‘licensed’ games. Games like King Kong for instance show that Ubisoft is aiming for the best possible quality on each of its licenses. Ubisoft Montréal is also known for its expertise on X360 (Splinter Cell, Rainbow 6 to name a few).
But the main reason is certainly that we demonstrated our passion for the manga and anime universe and for Naruto in particular. There is something unique in the anime that we are trying to capture through the gameplay we propose, and this certainly transpires since the early concepts we showed to our licensor.
Q: How is your relationship with the original creators of the series? Is there any collaboration between the development team and the anime team?
Ubisoft : License holders in Japan do check and provide feedback not only on visual assets we create but also on the experience we are offering to the player; gameplay and storytelling elements. This is very useful for us as their deep knowledge of the franchise guaranties that every detail of the final game will be true to the franchise.
Q: What would you say are some of the game's qualities/key features compared to those of its competitors ?
Ubisoft : Some very good games have already been release about Naruto. However, they almost all focus the entire experience on the fight; which is an important aspect of the franchise but is not the only one. We decided to focus our game on Naruto himself and his coming of age journey by offering a large variety of gameplay: fight of course but also RPG elements and platforming. We want to make the player feel he IS in the anime. For this we designed a huge city of Konoha that allows free roaming and supports a lot of interaction with its inhabitants. Fans will be able to recognize each building of this city and really feel as if they were Naruto, a young Ninja of the Village of the Leaves.
Q: How did you manage to stay true to the original content? How hard was it to recreate Konoha universe?
Ubisoft : Yes – we set the bar very high in terms of universe. We wanted a huge Konoha city, completely open for the player. This means hundreds of buildings and tens of streets. We also wanted to propose all the environments you can see in the series outside of Konoha. And this, without loading times that would disrupt the experience.
This is only possible thanks to the X360 capacities. We now have a console powerful enough to get the player immerged in this perfectly recreated world – and a lot of efforts too ?
Q: Visually the game is almost identical to the anime: what is the technology / engine behind the cel shading?
Ubisoft : Yes – our objective is to be as close as possible to the anime. Cel shading really benefits from next gen: we now can use normal maps and complex lights to reproduce dynamic folds and shadows in clothing for instance. This was not possible with the previous generation of consoles. The rest is focused and detail oriented art direction ?
Q: You claim this to be one of the most ambitious Naruto games ever created. What have you implemented to live up to that quality / result?
Ubisoft : Absolutely. We really shot for the sky in conception. Then Ubisoft really gave us the time and the necessary resources to meet our ambitions. We have a large team – up to 90 talents – and an excellent technology. This gave us a lot of freedom to create the gameplay and environments we wanted.
Q: Tell us more about multiplayer, how will it work?
Ubisoft : There will be a versus mode on and off-line. The game will be playable on Xbox live, but I can not give more details right now.
Q: Will there be any sequels, spin-offs or expansions?
Ubisoft : The only thing I know is that we are all fans of Naruto, being able to work on this franchise was a dream for most of the team. But right now, we are concentrating on polishing the game for this fall! Bare with us for more info on a possible sequel!
More articles about Naruto: Rise of a Ninja