System 3's Last Ninja series was so successful during the late '80s and early '90s that it eventually comprised three games and generated an appetite among fans for more adventures. Sadly, that never came to pass – although that wasn't for want of trying.
The drive to make Last Ninja 4 began in 1993 when a developer named John Wells produced a design spec for the game, which was turned down by System 3. A few years later, in 1999, the desire to create a sequel was reborn, with PS1 apparently being the target platform. Then, a new 3D-based entry was shown off at E3 2003, with the intention of launching the following year on PS2 and Xbox.
It's clear that System 3 CEO Mark Cale, who designed the first game in the series, had high hopes for this sequel. Speaking to the website SPOnG in 2004, he dropped the bombshell that it was destined to appear on the PS3. "You see, the game looks amazing, better than any ninja game ever made," he told the site. "Ninja Gaiden simply doesn’t compare, Last Ninja is far superior. The game is simply too advanced technically for a release on current systems, so, we are going to release it on PlayStation 3 instead. This isn’t any reflection on any delays, it’s just that we want the game to be shown off in all its glory, and current systems simply couldn’t handle it."
Despite these bold claims, The Last Ninja 4 was eventually scrapped, with Cale later telling Retro Gamer magazine that it "simply wasn't good enough" before adding: "We’ve scrapped the fourth game. I felt it wasn’t representative of the market. For Last Ninja 4, I think you need to do something that recreates that kind of 'wow' factor of the original game, and in my mind, it wasn’t good enough to wear that badge – so why cash in on a great name? We may as well leave it as it is. There will definitely be a fourth game. It’ll either be a retro version with updated graphics but the same gameplay, or something that’s going to be an epic, like a Final Fantasy game but with a more arcade feel."
Nothing has been heard of the project since, but industry veteran Andy Roberts, who worked on the cancelled fourth game, has mentioned on social media that he might be in a position to reveal a little more about it this year.
Were you one of the many people who were excited about the prospect of a full 3D Last Ninja title? Would you like to see more of the game, despite the fact that it never got released? Let us know with a comment.