Devil's Third
Image: Nintendo

Tomonobu Itagaki, the man behind the Dead or Alive and modern-era Ninja Gaiden titles, is ready to get back in the game after four years away.

With his flowing hair and ever-present sunglasses, Itagaki is one of Japanese gaming's most recognisable characters, but he hasn't produced a video game since the release of the Wii U exclusive Devil's Third in 2015.

Originally intended for release on the PS3 and Xbox 360 with THQ publishing, Devil's Third would eventually be published by Nintendo itself, but was met with a rather frosty critical reception – we gave it 5/10 and said: "Devil's Third is an odd beast, seductive and alluring in some respects and nightmarish in others." Itagaki stated soon after launch that the negative reception was down to "poor player skill" rather than the quality of the game itself, later adding that Nintendo of America had let reviewers down by not making the online mode fully playable prior to release.

That particular game was created at Valhalla Game Studios, the outfit he established after parting company with Tecmo (now Koei Tecmo) in 2008. He resigned from Valhalla in 2017, and has revealed in off-cuts of an interview with Bloomberg (which he has shared on his own Facebook page) that he's been working on developing younger talent for the past few years:

For the past four years, I’ve been teaching to foster juniors, but now I feel like I want to make a game again and just established a company for that purpose.

Itagaki has now established a new studio – Itagaki Games – but if you're one of the few people hoping that he's about to reunite with Nintendo and create Devil's Third 2 for Switch, you might be disappointed. Itagaki seems keener to work with Microsoft and rekindle the relationship which began back when the original Xbox console was launched. When asked about Xbox fans waiting to see what he does next, he replied:

You can count on me for that. Otherwise I wouldn’t have accepted an interview for this Xbox article... I know Microsoft is still aggressive. If they reach out to me, it will be an honor for me.