Whatever Happened To: Keiji Inafune - A Pixelated View

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Jul
24

Whatever Happened To: Keiji Inafune

 

Sometimes change happens whether we’re prepared for it or not. Sometimes events transpire beyond a person’s control, to the point that their once prominent role as a game creator has been downgraded to nothing more than subservient taskmasters who have no say on the direction their creations take in the future. Sometimes these people see no alternative but to defy that role in life for something better. Sometimes change happens whether we’re prepared for it or not.

Sometimes that change happens to be a very good thing. Come, travel with me for a moment, and let’s find out whatever happened to….

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…The Blue Bomber Effect: Keiji Inafune, Illustrator and co-designer of Mega Man

First officially listed work: Street Fighter (1987)

Other noted games/franchises: Mega Man, Onimusha, (producer/executive producer), various Resident Evil titles, (producer, executive supervisor, & executive producer), Breath of Fire (character design, illustrator), Lost Planet: Extreme Condition (producer, original story), Soul Sacrifice (game and concept designer), Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (director)

Last Seen Working On: Mighty No. 9

In 1987, shortly after graduating college, Keiji Inafune joined Capcom as illustrator and graphic design artist. His first official work was for the first Street Fighter arcade game in 1987, with the character Adon being the only character fully designed by Inafune. With the fledgling Nintendo Entertainment System reinvigorating the once stagnant home console market, Keiji’s superiors directed him to co-design the main character originally known as “Rockman.”

With Capcom’s design team relatively small at the time, Keiji became one of the leading artists in the new project, designing the main character (who would eventually be renamed Mega Man in North America), as well as the secondary characters, game logo, package design and instruction booklet. Keiji’s team then incorporated the concept of a paper-rock-scissors element to the game; bosses, once defeated, enabled Mega Man to gain certain abilities that could be incorporated into special attacks that could allow the character to more easily defeat certain enemies and subsequent boss battles. This core design scheme became a main staple of the franchise in subsequent releases throughout the years.

Initially, while not a breakaway hit, the Mega Man series had managed to gain a small, but loyal, fanbase. In 1988, after being pledged to other franchises, Keiji and his team was eventually given permission to make a sequel. On December 24th, Rockman 2 made its debut in Japan, with the subsequent Mega Man 2 release in North America in 1989. Mega Man 2 became a runaway hit, with many fans considering it the best game in the entire series.

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Over the years, and after several entries in the Mega Man franchise, Keiji wanted to branch out from the series, and began development on the original Onimusha IP, which originally was an idea conceived by then-Capcom designer and co-worker Yoshiki Okamoto. Onimusha started out as a feudal Japan-era Resident Evil featuring a “Ninja House” filled with booby traps much like what players went through in the original Resident Evil game. Instead of guns however, the player would have to rely on swords and shurikens to overcome the various evil denizens and traps of the house. However, Keiji retooled the storyline to tie in to more historical periods and people of Japan (most notably Nobunaga Oda), and delved into the realm of demons rather than zombies.

In 2005, Keiji was promoted to senior corporate officer and began working on the original Dead Rising for the Xbox 360 in 2006. Heavily influenced by George A. Romero’s 1978 movie, Dawn of the Dead, Dead Rising proved to be yet another popular outing for Capcom. Dead Rising 2, a sequel in 2010, marked the series’ transition from console exclusive to multi-platform release.

On April 22, 2010, Keiji was promoted to Capcom’s Global Head of Production. Basically he would be overseeing the development of future titles under Capcom’s supervision. However, for reasons still unknown, Keiji soon became disenfranchised with the company, going so far as to publicly state that “I look around Tokyo Games Show (2010), and everyone’s making awful games; Japan is at least five years behind…..Capcom is barely keeping up. I want to study how Westerners live, and make games that appeal to them.”

To an extent, Keiji’s concerns seemed to have been founded in a certain level of reality. Despite seasonal releases of Nintendo’s Super Mario titles still selling well, attempts to establish new franchises (such as cited examples of White Knight Chronicles and Monster Hunter), Japan’s once prominent 50% hold on the market has been supplanted by western developers; most notably Acitivision’s Call of Duty and Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto titles.

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After roughly six months in office, Keiji resigned from Capcom after 23 years at the company, citing only that he wanted to “start his life over.” With Capcom retaining all rights to Keiji’s previous titles, he is currently unable to complete or continue any of the storylines he may, or may not have had, for any of the subsequent titles. Capcom has publicly stated that with Keiji’s departure, all subsequent Mega Man sequels have been “indefinitely shelved.”

Where is he now: In December 2010, Keiji announced his new development studio, Comcept Inc. It’s first new console game will be the upcoming Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z in collaboration with Tecmo Koei’s Team Ninja team for a 2014 release. Keiji himself started a Kickstarter campaign for what many are describing as the “spiritual successor” to Mega Man; Mighty No. 9.

It’s original $900,000 Kickstarter goal was met two days later. By the end of it’s pledge campaign on October 1, 2013, Mighty No. 9 had collected a total of $4,046,579. Currently, the game is scheduled for an April, 2015 release.

Probability of Success: A Mighty No. 90%

About Marcus Lawshe'