Tribute to Rieko Kodama, the grande dame of Sega
It was by means of a easy message, “In reminiscence of Rieko Kodama”, affixed within the credit of the Mega Drive Mini 2 that the world of digital leisure realized the information. At 58 (she was approaching her 59th birthday), the one who could have spent her whole profession at SEGA, has left us. Like Hidekazu Yukawa final June, the announcement of this disappearance was delayed (as is usually the case in Japan) and it was in shock that the trade awoke on this 27 October 2022.
For the overwhelming majority of French individuals, this title might be fully unknown. However, for individuals who are fascinated with video video games and their historical past, it’s going to have a selected resonance.
Pioneer of the Japanese online game, the one who bore the nickname Phoenix Rie / Phoenix Rie (impressed by Phoenix Ikki from Knights of the Zodiac) – at a time when studios had been defending themselves from headhunters – died on Could ninth. We may spend hours on what she has delivered to the online game trade and to the place of girls on this medium. In reality, to pay him a worthy tribute, it will take a e book revisiting his whole profession. Whereas ready for this e book to reach someday, your servant has determined to put in writing these few strains to pay homage to it.
Rieko Kodama died on Could 9, 2022. I’ve very fond reminiscences of her as a result of we had been colleagues at Sega and created Phantasy Star and Sonic collectively. I wasn’t certain concerning the funeral photographs, however I needed everybody to recollect her. Could she relaxation in peace. Rieko Kodama, eternally. pic.twitter.com/lw9UTxLXbS
— Yuji Naka / Yuji Naka (@nakayuji) October 27, 2022
In 1984, she was solely 21 when she was employed by SEGA. On the daybreak of the Eighties, the corporate had simply opened its part devoted to home machines and it urgently wanted video games for its consoles, and extra immediately for its very first Western-dominated machine, the SEGA Mark III – which is able to change into the Grasp System with us. Somewhat misplaced on this masculine universe, she receives the help of the one who will change into one in all her mentors: Yoshiki Kawasaki, the artist behind the sport Flicky.
I wasn’t very into video video games, however my dad and mom ran a café, so it was one thing I had identified about since highschool. After this enterprise closed, I performed titles similar to House Invaders and Galaxian and my dad and mom obtained to know this universe.
He teaches her the fundamentals of recreation design (through the Scan systema type of digital pill) and he or she manages, month after month, to disentangle herself with the constraints of the machines of the second by creating stunning leprechaun (characters, units, objects, and so on.) and animations.
We had a particular instrument referred to as Digitizer and the very first thing was to discover ways to use it. It consisted of two screens (NDA: one subsequent to the opposite) and should you tapped with the sunshine pen on the contact monitor, the drawing was then reproduced on the opposite monitor in the identical show format as console. It was then copied to the ROM (principally a prototype of the longer term cartridge) and the entire thing was handed over to the programmer. Skilled designers confirmed me paperwork (from the analog period) and on the time they used coloured pencils to attract figures on specialised graph paper.
She thus participates within the growth of the graphics of Champion Boxing (Yu Suzuki, on the origin of the best successes of SEGA in arcade, goes as far as to sit down subsequent to her to provide her recommendation and present her numerous tips) and the protagonists of Ninja Princess (tailored on Grasp System underneath the title The Ninja). The one who imagined making archeology or portray a occupation will lastly embrace a really totally different profession. Lastly, she’s going to be capable of do what she all the time needed to do: create one thing.
Once I arrived at SEGA, I assumed I used to be going to do industrial graphics, however once I noticed the sport creation part, I assumed it may very well be attention-grabbing. So I used to be allowed to attract the characters for Champion Boxing proper after I joined the corporate. I additionally labored on arcade video games similar to Ninja Princess. There have been only some designers and the manufacturing time was quick, so I generally labored on 5 – 6 video games a yr.
His colleagues discover the expertise of Rieko Kodama. Having confirmed herself within the arcade, she is dropped at be part of the home division. In the course of the Eighties, SEGA was not in a logic of “high quality”, however put above all on “amount” to impose its Mark III (Grasp System) to the detriment of Nintendo’s Famicom (NES). Regardless of the stress, she chooses to not rush her technique and finally ends up adopting an strategy that provides a novel contact to her video games: coloration. Not coloration within the correct sense of the time period, however coloration as visible cachet. Simply have a look at every of those titles, together with essentially the most distant, to flush out a leg that lights up the display. She’s going to thus put a excessive level on her video games being colourful and pleasing to the attention. This contact might be discovered on one in all his emblematic titles: Phantasy Star on Grasp System!
Dragon Quest was in style and I assumed SEGA, as a console designer, wanted roleplaying video games. The workforce was made up of people that actually needed to make RPGs and that is how, I imagine, the event of Phantasy Star started.
Underneath the course of Kotaro Hayashida (Mr. Alex Kidd) and accompanied by Yuji Naka (programmer), Naoto Oshima (graphic designer) and Tokuhiko Uwabo (music), the younger designer fashions the world of Phantasy Star (and never Fantasy to keep away from the too medieval character of the phrase). Apart from designing the primary characters, she attracts the 2D maps and wallpapers throughout the struggle scenes.
The idea was to create a “shifting map”, in order that should you look intently on the space of the map the place the ocean is, you’ll be able to see the waves shifting.
With this expertise, Rieko Kodama will then multiply the initiatives. Along with being on the controls of Alex Kidd within the Enchanted Fort on Mega Drive (a growth that was not simple as a result of the structure of the Mega Drive was not finalized), she gleaned the place of lead designer (chief designer) and finds herself serving to the builders of Sonic the Hedgehog (sure, sure), Superior Daisenryaku (she is impressed by fashions to make the automobiles within the recreation), Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi and plenty of others. She was additionally the one who tailored the graphics for the arcade model of Altered Beast on Mega Drive. By his tenacity, his creativity, his kindness and his humor, Rieko Kodama was an actual Swiss military knife inside SEGA. A gifted and valued jack-of-all-trades who has paved the best way for a lot of ladies within the trade. At SEGA, she all the time acknowledged that she by no means felt like she was handled otherwise, however she in all probability owed it to a really sturdy mood. With the Mega Drive, she had enjoyable making video games visually vibrant. She beloved that point when the ambiance within the small groups was superb. And above all, she did every part to make sure that the SEGA console shows graphics as spectacular as its competitor.
The Tremendous Famicom allowed to do issues that the Mega Drive couldn’t, similar to transparency results or the show of intermediate colours. Quite than seeing it as a rival, I used to be principally jealous and to compensate, I did numerous analysis to seek out a substitute for make stunning graphics.
It’s lastly by a cheerful coincidence that she turns into a producer, even when the place didn’t exist on the time of the Mega Drive. There was speak of a brand new RPG then, and growth started with 4 designers, however there was nobody to supervise the undertaking. Rieko Kodama first stepped in to help to the small workforce and little by little the sport turned a brand new episode of Phantasy Star. She ultimately took a liking to overseeing the sport as a complete, and he or she took the reins of the undertaking. Phantasy Star IV: The Finish Of The Millennium is certainly one in all its biggest successes.
Though she was near SEGA’s RPG productions (ahhh, Magic Knight Rayearth), Rieko Kodama additionally participated in titles far faraway from this universe. We will notably cite the superb Deep Worry on Saturn, a really immersive “clone” of Resident Evil going down underneath water (extra precisely in a submarine), and even Atsumare! Guru Guru Onsen, a celebration recreation on Dreamcast. Currently, she was a producer on a number of episodes of the SEGA Ages assortment on Change and likewise made a reputation for herself overseeing the seventh Dragon collection on handhelds. However in fact, we can’t omit one in all his masterpieces: Skies of Arcadia.
Once more, we may speak for hours about this recreation, however we invite you to learn the article about its unbelievable creation. However, and yours really will finish with this, all SEGA builders have all the time spoken properly of Rieko Kodama. It is sufficient to evaluation his interviews or have a look at his photographs to be satisfied, his kindness and his accessibility might be actually missed by this trade. And one can think about the shock brought on by this inner disappearance. At SEGA. Rieko Kodama was a vital determine, along with being a producer appreciated by all.
Personally, I feel it is attention-grabbing to create remakes taking into consideration the sentiments of people that found the unique work on the time. Once I labored on these video games, I gave it my all so I’ve no regrets saying to myself “rattling, I ought to have performed this or that”. Folks get aggravated once I say that, however I make each play considering this may very well be my final.
As a lady, it might have all the time been a part of SEGA’s company tradition, however I by no means felt devalued. I’ve been on this universe for greater than 30 years now and since my beginnings, I’ve been capable of work with none distinction being made between women and men.
In 2019 you gained the prize Pioneer on the Recreation Builders Selection Awards and it was properly deserved. But when there’s one prize you have gained, it is our hearts.
Relaxation in peace Ms. Rieko Kodama, and thanks for every part.
- Interview with Rieko Kodama – SEGA Japan
- Interview Rieko Kodama – Famitsu
- Interview with Rieko Kodama translated by Sega-mag.com
- Rieko Kodama – Segaretro.org
- Picture of the grave:
Yuji Naka (Twitter)
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