Team Ninja is definitely trying to broaden the appeal of the Ninja Gaiden franchise. The addition of PlayStation Move support, for example, was meant to add "casual appeal." In addition, Ninja Gaiden 3 will include a new "Hero Mode," intended to make it easier for newer (or less-skilled) players to make it through the game's story. In a nutshell, the entirely optional "Hero Mode" enables automatic blocking and dodging of most normal attacks.
"In the past the games were really hardcore and we couldn't get players to stay with us and complete the game," director Fumihiko Yasuda told Joystiq. The hope is that "Hero Mode" will encourage more players to finish Ninja Gaiden 3's more "fleshed out" story.
In an effort to help players relate to ninja Hayabusa on a more personal level, Ninja Gaiden 3 will be taking a look behind Ryu's mask. Yasuda explained: "When you take that mask off, he's not a ninja anymore. He's a human like all of us. To leave that aspect out doesn't make sense. We wanted to show that human under the mask. Who is this guy, why he does things."
Yasuda was also quick to reassure longtime fans of the series' blistering difficulty that Ninja Gaiden 3 will still pack a serious challenge, even including a "super hard difficulty mode." "We're keeping the hardcore aspect of the game anyway," he said. "We're just trying to get the players who have never had a go at Ninja Gaiden to come check it out."
Making a series more accessible to newcomers without alienating traditional fans is a noble goal, but "Hero Mode" is one that we suspect might not have happened under outspoken Ninja Gaiden creator Tomonobu Itagaki's watch, were he still with Team Ninja.