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Matt Kamen talks to Hiroshi Matsuyama about the Naruto game

“Every time we have a Naruto project we try to keep fresh the idea of control, design, everything,” says Hiroshi Matsuyama, director and company president at the Japanese Cyberconnect2. The developer has been responsible for some of the best loved entries in the Naruto gaming franchise, notably combat heavy Ultimate Ninja series.

One of the core elements that separates the Naruto beat-em-up games from their peers is the huge number of playable characters on offer. In Generations – as if the subtitle weren’t clue enough – players can play as their favourites from different points throughout creator Masashi Kishimoto’s series. “You can pick characters from the Naruto and Naruto: Shippuden series.” Matsuyama explains. “We have the maximum amount from all the series, so that is a good thing. You can enjoy any of the characters you have seen. Young Naruto, older Naruto, everyone.”

The game will also boast both a single player story mode – though Matsuyama would only carefully reveal that it’s set to be “totally different” to earlier Ninja Storm games, but “will be totally faithful to the original anime and comics.”

As Naruto’s core audience has grown up, so have the games. “In previous Naruto games, maybe we were targeting the hardcore Naruto fans,” Matsuyama says. “In this game we are trying to focus on the fighting elements rather than the Naruto elements, so maybe as a game it’s more for fans of series like Street Fighter or Tekken. Those are for people who like to play fast action games, so maybe this game is good for them. Of course, it is also still for Naruto fans!”

And as for where Matsuyama would like to see the game series go in the future? “Our passion is in video, because the cel-shaded CGI [that the Naruto games use] fits the Japanese vision, especially from the anime. We are trying to hit the same quality in the graphics of our video games and we think we are still halfway to achieving the art quality of the Naruto style, so we are trying to hit that. Also, I have a strong interest in the PSP Vita. I’ve been approaching it and am now always thinking of what we can do with it.”

While Naruto’s manga adventures are presently continuing under Kishimoto’s pen, rumours are growing that the famed creator may be winding down the epic story. How might this affect future Naruto games? “Actually, we have no idea when the manga is going to finish, it’s still very much depending on Masashi’s direction. But we are fans of Kishimoto and we are the biggest fans of the series, so we will keep releasing Naruto video games because we love Naruto!“

Naruto Shippuden – Ultimate Ninja Storm: Generations is due out Spring 2012 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Meanwhile, the Naruto anime is available in the UK from Manga Entertainment.

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