A long-lost Itagaki game as a Wii U exclusive? That’s something you don’t hear every day.
This year at E3, years after the initial announcement of Devil’s Third, developer Valhalla Games Studios finally presented their upcoming (and violent) Wii U exclusive. According to Yoshifuru Okamoto, the studio’s producer, the game was to be a breakthrough in various ways, or the end result of things they wanted to accomplish. Regardless of how it turns out, it looks like a title from Tomonobu Itagaki (Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden) — and Nintendo is totally cool with that.
Devil’s Third is by large a third-person shooter, but it carries a focus on hack-and-slash action as well. The protagonist is a beefy bald man named Ivan, heavily tattooed with Buddhist scripture in Sanskrit all over his body. Ivan is based on Hoichi from the old Japanese ghost story Hoichi the Earless, showing the game’s inspiration in multiple cultures. The game is set after the Kessler effect (in which objects like satellites in low orbit collide, creating debris, leading to further collisions) has occurred, and nearly all satellites are wiped out. This disaster eliminates the Earth’s power grid, leading to worldwide havoc. The single player campaign itself jumps to different locations around the world, such as Panama and Yoshiwara, Japan. In the multiplayer slideshow during the Treehouse showing, the pre-text before the Texas multiplayer level gave a clue as to what sort of problems are occurring due to the Kessler syndrome:
“The fracturing of post-Kessler America led Texas to resurrect its past as an independent Republic. But the former state is hardly unified, as the Lone Star clans are at war over precious petroleum. Bloody battlegrounds stretch from the Panhandle oil fields to the wrecked high-rises of Dallas, down through the warlord-controlled southern beaches.”
Though the overall story is unclear from only this preface, it distinctly displays that battles between factions have a sizeable presence. In this case, the fight is over petroleum. With satellite and other communication seemingly near-nonexistent, the nation is having a hard time keeping it together.
In the demo mission that Okamoto played at Treehouse Live during E3, Ivan infiltrated a building in the company of a few other men and fought off a wave of enemies, with ninja following soon after. Though categorized as a third-person shooter – it takes place in a third-person space most of the time – the camera went first person while aiming. All other attacks stayed third-person, so you could fully see the sword split bodies as the main character sliced and diced. At the same time, enemies were also ruthless and the action stayed fast-paced. The ninja were quick and had glowing red eyes, and at times even shot at the protagonist. Yes, you read that correctly: there are gun-wielding ninja.
This melee-shooting blend ties in with the first goal Valhalla wanted to accomplish, which is to make a breakthrough in the shooter genre. Though this has been done before in games like Sleeping Dogs, it appears that Valhalla is giving the shooting at least as much attention as the melee, if not more so. “We’ve spent a lot of years making fighting games and action games, but this time we wanted to challenge ourselves to make a shooter,” Okamoto explained at the Treehouse showing. Now, having combined shooting with the studio’s experience with action/fighting games, Okamoto established that there are countless ways to go about ending the enemies’ lives while playing.
In the midst of all the killing, verticality was prominently shown with the gunfight. The gunfight started on ground level, continuing with Ivan climbing up buildings, and ultimately ending with the ninja fight on a roof. While this was happening, people were dropping from being shot, sliced, stabbed via sword throw, and beaten with nothing but bare fist.
Parallel to single-player, the multiplayer will offer the same melee/shooter combat, but will have more options in regards to game-type and customizables. There are ten different match types with different rule sets. The playable maps consist of thirteen areas in different parts of North America, such as Northern and Southern California, the Midwest, Texas, and more. It of course has Team Deathmatch, with other game-types such as Cargo Capture, Battle Royal, Gladiator, and others. There is even a match type called Chickens, that has something to do with flying colorful chickens. Overall, it looks like a more militarized (but wacky) version of Uncharted multiplayer, but with far more customization.
With costumes, the game offers “dozens” of choices, with crazy costumes like cardboard boxes and a cat warrior. One of the goals in multiplayer will be to invade an opposing fortress, and you can bet that fortresses will be customizable too. If that wasn’t enough, you can join a clan, create your own clan, or even go it alone if you’re feeling up to it. “We found that the more customization options we added, the happier Nintendo was, so we just kept going and going, creating a bunch,” Okamoto commented. All these attributes contribute to their second goal, which is to make a breakthrough in multiplayer.
“And the third thing we wanted to accomplish was creating a breakthrough game in this partnership with Nintendo,” he added. This is particularly interesting due to Devil’s Third’s history. Long story short, it was originally announced by THQ in 2010 and planned to release on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. However, after THQ closed last year, the rights were given back to Valhalla, and Nintendo became the game’s publisher.
In an interview with Polygon, Itagaki explained that the majority of the game remains the same with about 90 percent of the game staying unchanged. “That other 10 percent I think really has been favored by this cooperation with Nintendo,” Itagaki explained. Okamoto also said during the live E3 Treehouse event that “there are probably some people who are really surprised by this pairing of Valhalla and Nintendo, but I think both of us having different ideas and bringing them together in that kind of conflict has created some really interesting and unique concepts.”
With it still having most of the characteristics and content that Itagaki and Valhalla originally planned, it might appeal to players who enjoy the latest Ninja Gaiden games. One thing’s for sure: it’s adding diversity to the Wii U’s library, and this is never a bad thing.