Yoshiaki Koizumi

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"Koizumi-san the romantic … had quite a large influence over the general direction of The Legend of Zelda series."

Yoshiaki Koizumi (born April 29th, 1968 in Japan) is the manager and producer of Nintendo EAD's Tokyo Development Group No. 2 (EAD Tokyo), overseeing the development of games in the Mario series. Before moving to EAD Tokyo, he was involved with several Zelda games and co-directed Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and The Wind Waker. Several of the series' iconic elements, such as Z-Targeting, the Three-Day System, and the Moon, can be attributed in part to Koizumi.

Works

Year Game Contribution
1991 A Link to the Past Artwork, layout, and story of the manual
1993 Link's Awakening Story, script writer, manual writer
1998 Ocarina of Time 3D System Director, story, character design
1998 Link's Awakening DX Story, script writer, manual writer
2000 Majora's Mask Game System Director, story
2002 The Wind Waker Assistant Director

Early Life

Koizumi originally had no interest in video games. He graduated in 1991 from Osaka University of Arts, where he studied film, drama, animation, and storyboarding in the hopes of becoming a film director. His dream was to create characters and tell their stories with dramatic tension as they act toward accomplishment in their own world. Although the Famicom came out when he was in sixth grade, his first experience with video games wasn't until he borrowed one from a friend in college to play Super Mario Bros. Being inexperienced and not good at action games, Mario was very difficult and he died frequently. "And it was at that point that it occurred to me, what do first-time players think of games like this? You jump right in and you just die over and over again. I found it a little easier to play Zelda, because Link has three hearts. It's not like you touch something once and then you're dead."[2]

Career

Nintendo was close to his university, and gave him an opportunity to work for them after he graduated. At this time, he embraced video games as an interesting way to create unique dramas that couldn't be expressed as films.[2]

A Link to the Past

Koizumi's first assignment at Nintendo was to put together the artwork and layout of the manual for A Link to the Past. The drawing and writing involved in this project made it just the right fit for him. As he worked, the lack of any solid Zelda mythos became evident. Game elements had no meaning, and there was no peripheral story to create the feeling of a believable Zelda universe. Needing a backstory to put in the manual, Koizumi was responsible for creating many of the now traditional and well-known Zelda legends, including that of the Golden Goddesses and that of the Triforce. The Triforce had existed since the first game, but its origins were not explained until A Link to the Past, and repeated in Ocarina of Time and Twilight Princess.

"Though Tanabe is usually credited as being most directly responsible for Zelda's storyline during these early years, it was actually Koizumi, with his background in film and storyboarding and a desire to bring powerful drama to video games, who did much of the heavy lifting."

— Mike Damiani[3]

One of these stories that Koizumi developed, likely in conjunction with Tanabe who was in charge of the game script, was the Imprisoning War. This particular story becomes one of the most pivotal series of events in the entire Zelda chronology as well as the basis of Ocarina of Time[4][5].

Link's Awakening

For Link's Awakening, fellow writer Tanabe was given by the game's director, Takashi Tezuka, a list of things not to include in the game: there would be no Hyrule, no Triforce, and no Zelda. This gave him and Koizumi a lot more freedom to implement their superb story ideas without the burden of keeping the canon in mind. Tanabe explains, "I recall having a lot of trouble with storyline consistency in ALttP, and this meant I could leave out the stuff that got bottlenecked. … I then wrote a script that fit my vision of an egg hatching on a mountaintop ending the world with Koizumi's 'Your dream? Or someone else's dream?' Koizumi worked on the main thread of the story and I did the odd characters."[6]

Following with most of the early Zelda titles, which were developed gameplay first, story second, they didn't need a writer until later in development. When the time came to work on the story, they called Koizumi in from another division.[1] Like his last Zelda game, he came in to work on the manual, and again, it didn't have much of a story in place, so he had to make it up himself.[2] Link's Awakening had a unique development process, which was more like an after-school club than the disciplined teams with well-defined roles that create software today.[1] People did whatever work needed to be done, and Koizumi ended up making the story for the entire game. Miyamoto didn't give the team much attention as producer, so Koizumi had almost free reign as long as he didn't push the story too much and make Miyamoto angry.[2]

"So when it came to Link's Awakening, I wanted to make something that, while it would be small enough in scope to easily understand, it would have deep and distinctive characteristics."

— Takashi Tezuka[1]

The conditions were just right to allow Koizumi to use his imagination and present to us a unique and captivating story. It was the first of its kind in Zelda, as Eiji Aonuma comments: "It wasn't until The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening that the series started having a proper plot."[1] Previous games had some backstory and progressive objectives, but Koizumi considers themes like "save the princess" to be goals, not story.[2] For Link's Awakening, he was able to add characters to interact with and continue the story throughout the game. Even the Nightmares whose behaviors he designed were directly related to the story and had dialog to show it.

Ocarina of Time

Majora's Mask

The Wind Waker

Trivia

References

  1. 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Iwata Asks: The History of Handheld The Legend of Zelda Games
  2. 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Interview: Super Mario Galaxy Director On Sneaking Stories Past Miyamoto, Wired, 4 Dec 2007
  3. Reset: Demystifying Zelda's Chronology, GameTrailers, 5 Mar 2011
  4. "The story in Ocarina of time isn't actually original, it deals with the Sages' Imprisoning War from the Super Famicom's ALttP." — Satoru Takizawa, Ocarina of Time Development - Ganondorf, Hobo Nikkan Itoi Shinbun, 26 Nov 1998
  5. "Basically, the events in Ocarina of Time are the "Imprisoning War" described in the SNES version's story." — Dan Owsen, Total RPG, 22 Feb 1999
  6. Link's Awakening DX Developer Questionaire, translated by GlitterBerri

Resources

  1. Iwata Asks: Spirit Tracks
  2. Iwata Asks: The History of Handheld The Legend of Zelda Games
  3. Interview: Super Mario Galaxy Director On Sneaking Stories Past Miyamoto
  4. Interview: Nintendo's Unsung Star
  5. 1101: OoT Animations*
  6. OoT - Half Done By Mario*
  7. GDC '99*
  8. Spaceworld '01*
  9. 3-day system*
  10. z-target, epona*
  11. Link's Awakening Staff interview
  12. Link's Awakening DX Staff Questionaire
  13. Iwata Asks: Ocarina of Time 3D
  14. Zelda: Majora's Mask came to me in a dream - Koizumi
*Some interviews used in the construction of this article are no longer available on ZD. They will be added here as they are uploaded. External links will also be changed to the corresponding ZD document.

Further Reading