Passing through many units is not the only difficulty in Nioh’s 13-year journey. Choosing a style for the game is also a problem.
In 2014 when the game officially went into development, producer Shibusawa reconsidered Nioh ‘s storytelling. The two project leaders, Yasuda and Hayashi, had disagreements over the style of storytelling they wanted for Nioh. Yasuda wanted something close to Ninja Gaiden, and Hayashi wanted a dark experience of war and death. Death in the game is focused on exploiting both the game’s context and the Bushido samurai principles. The game’s opening sequence at the Tower of London and the haunting legend emphasizes that topic. Nioh’s central theme revolves around the circle of life and death, shown by the protagonist William and the Yokai, which Hayashi does not support.
The context of the Sengoku Warring States period, which was heavily exploited in Japanese history products, continued to be used with Nioh. At the same time, the protagonist William Adams is also utilized not only by being a real historical figure but also to exploit the perspective of a foreigner coming to Japan. Mythological elements like yokai have been added to make the game world more diverse and richer.
One of the factors that greatly influenced the game’s storyline is James Clavell’s Shogun novel, which focuses on a samurai from England based on real-life William Adams. Accordingly, Adams’ character is thought to be a pirate who came to Japan and became a samurai. Nioh features famous actors in leading roles, providing both voice and acting for the game. While most of the characters in Nioh speak Japanese, William and others speak English.
In terms of gameplay, when assigned to develop Nioh, Team Ninja conducted many experiments to find the gameplay style that best suits the atmosphere and theme of Nioh. In 2011, Dark Souls was launched and became a new monument in the genre of action RPGs. That success is thanks in no small part to the gameplay that requires calculation and challenge but is fair and rewarding for the player’s effort. Since then, the high challenge became a new trend in the gaming industry when many products tried to learn from what Dark Souls had done.
With extensive experience in developing the Ninja Gaiden series, a classic action-adventure game well known for its challenging nature, Team Ninja believes that the time has come to take advantage of the quintessence of Dark Souls. to do the same thing. It is said that the opportunity by Nioh at that time was too time-consuming, and many employees of Team Ninja, who were also fans of the Souls series, saw the rise of Souls reputation as a lifeline for Nioh at that time. At the risk of being canceled. As a result, Nioh’s development continued.
Learning from Dark Souls does not mean completely copying all that Dark Souls has. Nioh also needs its own identity. Team Ninja looks to other games to get inspiration, like Bloodborne, Onimusha, Diablo, and their Ninja Gaiden series. The main goal is to create a game that recreates Souls and Ninja Gaiden’s challenging gameplay and must also be accessible, fair, and reward worthy for the player’s efforts. Instead of using the graphics engine of Ninja Gaiden or the external unit, Team Ninja decided to develop an entirely new engine from scratch.
While the combat element is heavy in a Souls game, Nioh’s loot element is more influenced by Diablo when Team Ninja wants to fight around player skills rather than equipment received. The gameplay is combined with samurai swordsmanship in culture. Weapons, armor, and fighting styles have also been modeled by the developers so closely to history that makes items like shields removed from the game due to not being used by samurai. The yokai in the game is made based on the Japanese culture, though some are modified from the original.
Since it was first published in 2004, Nioh has undergone many times shaping and changing the project vision. Along with that, many versions of the game were canceled, and an entire movie with 3 billion yen was canceled. It was not until 2015 at the Tokyo Game Show that Nioh reappeared in the public eye and set the release date in 2016 and then rescheduled to 2017.
Nioh, after officially launching, has received very positive reviews from experts and the community thanks to challenging gameplay and colorful Japanese context. Although many people compare Nioh with FromSoftware games, it must be said that Nioh has created his own identity and is enough to compete with the monumental Dark Souls in this category. The game was also a commercial success, selling over 1 million copies after the first two weeks. Many people’s perseverance achieved all this in Koei for more than 13 decades with a foreign samurai vision in Japan.