Last Ninja 4



Latest News:

Found some character models from LN4 (thanks 7oli) [Source]
There also some concepts of characters and a level, taken from the System 3 website.

Taken from an interview with Mark Cale in Australian "Nintendo Gamer"

Mark Cale: The game that I do want to redo - but I think I would find it very difficult to take it totally to next-gen - is Last Ninja. Without a doubt that would be the one title I would choose out of all of them, Why? Because it was the biggest game we ever created. We were planning Last Ninja 4 for PS2 and X-Box but we scrapped it because it simply wasn't good enough. Is Last Ninja coming to the NDS and Wii? Yes it is. But It's a remake of Last Ninja 1,2 and 3.

There's also an interview at PALGN.

Changed release date to ??? to keep up to date. :)
It seems LN4 got cancelled yet again - I eMailed them to ask about their sources. Often games receive the 'cancelled' status just by being in development for a couple of years...

older LN4 news...

The (more or less) verified facts:

Developer:System 3, formerly Studio 3, formerly System 3
Publisher: unknown
Release date: cancelled
Platforms:used to be Xbox, Gamecube, PC, PS2

Pre-2000 information

(earliest to latest)

On Oct 22, 1999, Tim Best sent me an eMail asking for a little LN4 survey on the Lastninjas mailing list, you can read about it here.

Here are some excerpts from eMails with Tim Best: (from 1999..)

From the screenshots I scanned from several magazines LN4 seems pretty advanced already! The shots look awesome!

Tim: Thanks. One of the reasons they look so good is we have a guy whose only job is to research and create the flora and fauna for the backgrounds. To give you an example, the trees and shrubs in the game are absolutely authentic to the period in Japan. There are over 50 different varieties and each one could be used in a reference book about trees. Some people have said this is completely over the top but we don't care. Ninja is very special to us and if it means we all get sent to the funny farm when its finished then so be it :)))

And have you already decided on the name ? Last Ninja 4, Return of the Last Ninja...?

Tim: As of this moment in time, we are calling the project The Last Ninja - Return to Lin Fen Island.

And will there be a System3 website in the near future...?

Tim: Don't know. I am due to work up the Studio 3 site in about 3 weeks time and I will probably push for having some retro section on there with, hopefully, some archives.

Do you have some interesting anecdotes/facts from your LN-creating time ? Which of the games is your favourite ? Got other favourite C64 games ? Favourite games of today ? (except Constructor of course ;)

Tim: I suppose there's quite a lot about those days which would be interesting, I'll have a think about it later in the week and see what I can come up with. Actually, to start you off, when I first joined up with System 3, Mark asked me to look over a short storyboard he'd done called 'The Last Ninja'. So I spent a day going through it and said to Mark that I thought it was a load of crap and that it would never work - if he had listened to me then you'd have to change the name of your mailing list :)))). What changed my mind was that we had a guy called Mark Butler who was the founder of great Imagine Software who was temporarily sharing an office with us while he was deciding whether or not to stay in the games business. Well he looked at the storyboard for 15 minutes, then told me I was being a complete arsehole and that it was a brilliant idea. Finally I gave in and agreed that it 'had potential' but there were problems with the maps and some of the puzzles.

Mark Cale told me that if I thought there was something wrong to go and fix it. I spent three days tweaking things and that weekend the two Marks and myself were due to travel by train up to Liverpool for a stag night and while were on the train I presented the changes I'd made which everyone agreed to. The funny thing is, coming back from the stag night when we were completely hung-over and near unconscious, we actually added a load more to the design. So there you have it, Ninja nearly didn't exist.....

This is taken from a gaming magazine called The Edge:

LAST NINJA (working title)

"Last Ninja, possibly System 3's most anticipated new title, is also proving to be its hardest to develop - such is the pressure to do justice to the series that several versions of the game existed before the current iteration. It was decided that the best way forward was to retain the original games' isometric, flip-screen settings.
According to Cale, who is full of praise for GT interactive's Oddworld, "When we started the new version of Last Ninja we had the character moving around in 3D, but everyone's doing that sort of product, and the feedback we were getting from people was that they wanted it for what it was. Why take a successful product and make it 3D just because that's what the market is dictating ?"

With the game around 12 months from completion, play details are fairly sketchy. However, it is known that the character will be able to roam the environment freely, rather than being confined to paths as in the past, and there is talk aound the development office of interactive scenery - and the possible dismemberment of foes. [see gore section. =]
The number of locations is set to rise dramatically from the 25-30 screens per level of the 80s titles to around 100, with over 800 in total. Promisingly, the firm's recently recruited in-house musician is working to create suitably oriental tunes.
Last Ninja's lush 16bit colour backgrounds and detailed environment go much of the way to justify Cale's argument regarding the switch to 3D, but are again causing headaches on the PlayStation. "Again, you have memory issues, but if we could get the whole game in 64k on the Commodore, I'm sure we can get it running on PlayStation..."

Here's another article from PC Games: (abridged)

Beautiful backgrounds, detailed animations and varied action revive the legendary Last Ninja. Years after their 8-bit debut System 3 are working on an up-to-date sequel to their classic game.

Close to being forgotten, the Last Ninja still is a cult game among C64 users. Even the poor PC conversions were sought after but EGA graphics and PC speaker sound won't help you much these days.
About time for a new version.
System 3, who last received attention through their game Constructor, finally send the Last on a journey into high-res land, brilliantly animated with excellent gameplay. Despite the dazzling appearance System 3 concentrates on one aspect: "It would be easy to copy the successful idea of games like Tomb Raider but the only thing we're aiming at is gameplay!" big boss Mark Cale points out.
Nevertheless, the graphics look awesome because even without 3D-accelerator support The Last Ninja has detailed scenery like rippling waves, animated backgrounds and astonishing lighting effects with the old screen-after-screen display. This was intended, explains Mark Cale: "We stayed with the isometric point of view. Rich, 'breathing' scenery, interaction with the environment and free movement of the character are some of the important features for us." In addition to the classic elements of every action adventure like fighting and puzzles some new ideas are to be implemented. However, System 3 are keeping their mouths shut about these things to avoid being copied by other designers. But we could get one fact from the System 3 CEO: For the first time. the PC-Version will have trading with computer controlled characters.

Your aim in The Last Ninja is not clearly defined. As the last brave Ninja you face the evil Shogun and his many minions. The game is divided into 5 stages which are again divided into 20 other levels. Each of these are up to 100 screens in size which means motivation for a very long time. In addition to that, The Last Ninja is not a pure fighting game, it has loads of puzzles as every good action-adventure. You have to choose the right weapon according to your enemy, disarm traps, find food or open concealed gateways. Sometimes you need to seek the meaning of an artifact you found or prove your skill when jumping over a stream of lava. To make it comfortable, the difficulty level rises slowly but steadily affecting enemies as well as puzzles. Your enemies consist of arrowmen, drunken guards, wild dogs, giant crabs and other monsters which you can fight with the weapons of a Ninja or using magic. At the end of each level an especially huge baddie is waiting for you.
The five different landscapes consist of the Wastelands, the Palace Gardens including a labyrinth, the Dungeons and the pompous Shogun's chambers. There's one thing System 3 want to achieve most of all: Their new action-adventure is not only supposed to bring back the last Ninja, it shall reestablish System 3 on the world market.

Mark Cale says how they will prove System 3 to be a forge for quality games:
"Game have nothing to do with technology but many companies rely too much in it. Many Amiga and Atari ST programmers jumped at the faster pentium processors without having any experience with it. Thus came out many games that looked great but were they great as well ? The answer is no!" The philosphy of these Englishmen is different: "all System 3 games run smoothly on a Pentium 90 - without a 3D card!" says Gameplay worshipper Mark Cale. His attack on technology-hype should not be regarded as technology hostility. "The 3D cards allow our games to look like arcade machines. We can use more colors, the programs run faster but we still need to make sure that we design a game the customer wants.
"We from System 3 believe to know exactly what the poeple want!" Whether Mark Cale's philosophy proves true we'll find out as soon as The Last Ninja is ready!

Check out the screenshots!

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