Rise of the Ronin: Why Koei Tecmo Games wanted to do something seriously different with their latest game

From the acclaimed miniseries Shogun through to hit 2020 game Ghost of Tsushima, for Western audiences the way of the samurai may have never been so culturally prolific and so fertile a source of inspiration and execution.

That continues with the release of new game Rise of the Ronin, launching exclusively on PlayStation, from Japanese studio Team Ninja and publisher Koei Tecmo Games. The studio has previously developed the popular Ninja Gaiden and crushingly difficult Nioh games, all set within feudal worlds populated by samurai, ronin and ninja.

Notable for their punishing combat, the studio tells Newshub when it came to launching a new IP, they were keen to pursue something a little different.

"This title did represent a challenge for us because it was the first time we were moving away from linear game design towards a more open world, one that allows players to experience the game world more freely," Rise of the Ronin producer Yosuke Hayashi said.

"But what we wanted to retain was the signature Team Ninja style. Specifically we're talking about gameplay feel, not just in terms of combat, but in terms of traversal, and other elements as well."

The game is set in Edo in the late 19th century during Bakumatsu, the final years of the period, as the Shogunate comes to a close and East and West collide.

"With this title specifically, we saw it as an opportunity to reach a player base that hasn't necessarily played our titles, up until now. So our proposal to players is - 'would you like to experience what it's like to play as a ronin, in historical Japan?'" director Fumihiko Yasuda told Newshub.

"I think people who are interested in that concept will have a lot of fun with it. But when it comes to, you know, samurai style games, we as a studio have only been making samurai and ninja games. This title represents kind of a natural development for us.

"Also as a studio based in Japan, we can provide an experience that only we as a studio can provide and deliver that experience to a wider range of players around the world."

Rise of the Ronin takes place in Japan.
Rise of the Ronin takes place in Japan. Photo credit: PlayStation

Rather than just a hack and slash concept writ large, Rise of the Ronin gives players a chance to shape their journey by keying into select moments and define the consequences of their actions. Whether that is to kill opponents or spare their lives to encounter them later as companions, the options help deliver a multi-pronged journey.

It was part of the studio's MO to make an open-world game that narratively keeps people on their toes. 

"There are several moments like that in the game, these kind of like these divergent points in the story. We wanted to surprise the players in that way," Hayashi said.

"Up until now, with the titles we've worked on, combat has been the central focus. But this time there are fun elements outside of the combat and the way those elements connect with each other has this chemical chain reaction, where everything complements each other within the open world. We wanted all of these elements to blend together, seamlessly."

Rise of the Ronin offers violence that will satisfy.
Rise of the Ronin offers violence that will satisfy. Photo credit: PlayStation

The game's not averse to showing moments of bloodshed - something the studio has been criticised for in the past - but both Yasuda and Hayashi defend the cut scenes of violence which can occur in certain moments of combat during special moves or where a combination move has a devastating effect.

"In terms of the depictions of violence in the game, when someone is fighting with a katana you can't avoid violence or gore altogether. But we definitely didn't want to put those you know kind of grotesque elements at the forefront," Hayashi said.

"That said, of course, when you're finishing off enemies, you want to provide the players a sense of satisfaction and we created those moments in order to provide that kind of experience."

As for what's next, the studio is playing coy with any ambitions, preferring to focus on the release alone and not any future plans for the world they've created. 

Allegiances can be made in Rise of the Ronin.
Allegiances can be made in Rise of the Ronin. Photo credit: PlayStation

"We have only been focusing on the base game, right now. When we were creating the game, we weren't considering whether we were developing the game with DLC or a sequel in mind, but we are looking forward to seeing how players respond to the title. And then, we'd like to think about what kind of opportunities there are in the future?" Yasuda said.

"We would like to continue to evolve the types of games that we were creating. Up until now, we've mainly been limited to creating pure action. What this title really represents is an opportunity to reach beyond that. So we're looking forward to seeing what kind of possibilities there are for us going forward."

Rise of the Ronin is out now exclusively on PlayStation.