Nioh evolved from a JRPG into an action game to be more challenging

4 min read

Nioh (17)

Nioh, a video game that was in development for so long that we actually forgot about it. It wasn’t until last year however that Sony and Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja brought it back to life with a vengeance. Announced in 2004, Nioh finally drops next year February. It’s had a hellacious journey, one that may have earned all those various delays along the way. A game that had an entirely different style when it was first being worked on.

“From what I know, initially it was meant to be a Japanese RPG title,” game director Fumihiko Yasuda said to GameSpot.


Sometime later, because it was handed to Omega Force, the plan resembled more of a Warriors game. He only jumped in three years earlier. Those were the different possibilities on the side.

The original creator of this Nioh game concept was from our president and CEO Kou Shibusawa. He’s always had strong feelings towards this game. He was very persistent and you could almost say that he’s… Well, I wouldn’t want to use the word obsessive, but he had his principals and the earlier phases of the development obviously did not live up to that standard.

For me personally, to join the Nioh project, it was roughly three years ago and since then the project was assigned to Team Ninja, and since it was assigned to Team Ninja the vision became clearer. Aside from the earlier ideas Shibusawa had about this project, eventually it became clearer that it needs to be an action game. It had to be challenging. Eventually he agreed to that and gave us the green light.

Speaking of history, Nioh itself happens to be set in an interesting part of Japanese history, the Sengoku period that is typically known as the Japanese Warring States era. So what makes this massive civil war such a fascinating time to revisit yet again in video game form? Because turmoil is the perfect stage for any video game. Plus, there’s some Game of Thrones similarities there as well. “Because this is when the first blonde samurai rose. That was Sengoku era,” Yasuda explained.

Nioh (9)

Also, just in general, the warring period of turmoil is just a fascinating stage for any good IP. In the West we have Game of Thrones, that’s kind of a period of turmoil, if you will. Heroes rise and fall. Also, it goes well with fantasy stuff, as seen in Game of Thrones. Based on above what I just said, ultimately we decided this is the period.

And it’s not like we had a lot of choices, because that’s where William Adams made his fame.

Aside from the fact that it was meant to be a foreigner struggling to become a Japanese samurai, aside from that point everything was kind of up in the air three years ago. Not like there was a visible game. Obviously from there, once it was decided that it was meant to be an action game for it to be challenging, they decided that they needed powerful enemies. And powerful enemies–naturally they thought of the yokai from the Japanese folklore. That’s how it evolved into the form that you see today.

I’ve got a weird fascination with Nioh lately. The latest beta demo did the game some favours, and even though its more punishing than my homemade cooking, I love seeing history reinterpreted. Also, my Onimusha gland has been tingling whenever it spots mentions of Nioh lately.

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Last Updated: September 19, 2016

Darryn Bonthuys

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  • Umar

    I guess this is one of the few titles that’s been in dev hell that will actually be good.

    • Original Heretic

      Fingers crossed…

      • Umar

        You play the beta? It’s really flippen good.

        • Original Heretic

          I have not, to my dismay. I love games of this nature, so I am rather vexed that I have yet to get around to it.
          I get so little time to game these days, so before I play a beta, I try and finish what I currently have in my library.

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