Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Tribute to Satoru Iwata

The gaming industry lost a tremendous figure on July 11. Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, passed away due to bile duct cancer that he had been battling for a few years. He was one of the few CEOs who was humble, seemed to care about his workers and consumers, and understood where his games came from as a former designer and programmer. People who have known Iwata on a personal and professional level have already given their tribute to him and while I have never met him, I’ll write about how his games influenced me growing up.

I believe that the first game that I played that Satoru Iwata worked on was Kirby’s Dream Land 2 for the Game Boy. This was also my introduction to the Kirby franchise. Having the loveable pink blob suck up enemies for his own benefit kept me entertained for hours on end while taking the Game Boy with me wherever my family traveled. Of course at the time I knew nothing of the developers behind the game nor that HAL Laboratory developed the game. I only knew that Nintendo had something to do with it and that it must be good. The large sprites, catchy music, tight controls, and whimsy of the characters kept me engrossed until my next HAL Laboratory game.

Earthbound was my next exposure to HAL Laboratory and Satoru Iwata’s programming. The avant-garde JRPG still resonates with me today as it does for thousands of other fans. This is probably the game that I remember most of HAL Laboratory and Satoru Iwata. While the game is basically Shigesato Itoi’s baby, it certainly wouldn’t have gotten to completion without the brilliance of Iwata’s programming. I still play this game at least once a year and listen to its brilliant soundtrack regularly. While I wish that Nintendo would be a better supporter of the Mother series, I’m glad they at least brought over the second game in the series to the States.

The next game was Kirby Super Star for the Super Nintendo. This game is probably my favorite of the Kirby franchise. A brilliant collection of eight games with enough differences between them to keep things fresh. The Great Cave Offensive is my favorite mode due to the item collecting that references past Nintendo franchises and its nods to RPGs in some boss battles. The Samurai Kirby mini-game was another favorite of mine especially when I was playing against my dad. We had to press a button the moment the sign was given and whoever was quickest would be the victor. It’s one of the few times that I had my dad play games with me and I’m grateful of the memories we created.

Satoru Iwata had a huge hand in developing the Pokemon series and it was a series that I wasn’t terribly interested in. I had watched several episodes of the animated series and have only played a few games in the franchise. I believe the first Pokemon game that I played was Pokemon Red which I borrowed from my little brother. I found it to be an enjoyable RPG and even liked the capturing of Pokemon to build up my roster. However I lost interest as I was developing my Onyx and it was starting to disobey my orders. Rather than continue with the game and conquer more gyms, I decided to stop playing and focus on something else.

I did play Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Snap on the Nintendo 64. Most of my time spent in Stadium was in multiplayer against my little brother and my friends. That provided a source of amusement for me and frustration for my brother as I was using a third party controller with turbo functionality. Since the controller was not designed like the standard Nintendo 64 controller no one wanted to use it so I opted to take it during multiplayer games. On a mini-game that required the A button to be mashed repeatedly, I mapped the turbo to the A button and soundly won the match. I did not do that in Pokemon Snap but I did find that game to be enjoyable and relaxing.

I may not have played a lot of Iwata developed games but the ones I did play left quite an impression on me. Just as Iwata has left quite an impression on Nintendo when he took over as president. He may have been president of a large company but he still felt that he was a game developer and at gamer at heart. So long Satoru Iwata and thanks for all the games!

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