Yu Suzuki at the Game Developers Conference 2011
June 10, 1958 |
Kamaishi, Iwate, Japan
Yu Suzuki (鈴木 裕 Suzuki Yū , born June 10, 1958) is a Japanese game designer and producer who has spent his entire career with Sega Enterprises. Often referred to as Sega's answer to Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, he has been responsible for the creation of many of Sega's most important arcade games, including Hang-On, Space Harrier, Out Run, After Burner, and pioneering 3D games such as Virtua Racing, Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA, and Virtua Cop, as well as the Shenmue series of open world adventure games for the Dreamcast. In 2003, Suzuki became the sixth person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame. IGN listed him at #9 in their Top 100 Game Creators of All Time list.
Suzuki was born and raised in Iwate Prefecture, Japan, the older of two children to parents who were elementary school teachers. Suzuki's father was Yuzuru, and his mother, Taka, taught piano. Suzuki has one younger sister named Yuka, who became a dance teacher. Yu Suzuki's interests were wide-ranging as a child. At a young age, he was encouraged by his father to have an interest in music and the arts on which it would end up staying with him for the rest of his life. He also enjoyed building numerous model cars, wooden miniature houses, and robots made of plastic blocks, as well as a passion for drawing.
Before entering college, Suzuki flirted with the idea of going into education, having been influenced by his parents. After a while, he thought of becoming an illustrator and then a dentist; however, the latter dream was short-lived, as he didn't pass the required entry exam for dental school. Ever resourceful, Suzuki began to play the guitar, but he stated in an interview with G4TV that, "No matter how much I practiced, I never got that much better."
Seeing the similarities between the plastic blocks he played with as a child and the architecture of electronic design, Yu Suzuki decided to pursue computer programming at the Okayama University of Science. He graduated from there in the early 1980s. He was also interested in music. He played guitar at Music club called "Muscat" at Okayama Ridai.
Career at Sega
Suzuki joined Sega Enterprises in 1983 as a programmer. In his first year, he created a 2D boxing arcade game called Champion Boxing, which was later ported to Sega's first home game console, the SG-1000. Under the mantle of Sega's development studio AM2, Suzuki began working on another arcade game which would prove to be the big stepping-off point of his career. "To develop this game," Suzuki told G4TV, "I rode on motorcycles a lot. When we came up with the prototype (for the arcades), I would ride on that prototype bike for hours and hours every day." His and AM2's efforts finally culminated into the game Hang-On, released in 1985. Hang-On was a success as it broke new ground in arcade technology. It did not feature any traditional controls, as the movement of the onscreen avatar was dictated by the movements the player made on the stationary motorcycle cabinet. AM2 soon followed with the immersive, 3D-esque third-person shooter game Space Harrier later that year. Showing his interest in Ferraris, Suzuki created the driving simulator Out Run, which was released in 1986. Although it didn't officially feature a Ferrari, the player controlled a car that looked almost exactly like one. But Out Run's innovations didn't necessarily lie in the design of the car; it offered players a wide variety of driving paths and routes to complete the game, adding elements of nonlinear gameplay and increasing replay value. It also featured a radio with three songs to choose from as players drove through the wide variety of landscapes. The soundtrack (by Hiroshi Kawaguchi) has proven to be quite popular in the gaming world.
After these hits, Suzuki's creativity continued to yield great results for Sega, from the jet fighting After Burner series in the late 1980s to the roller coaster racer Power Drift in 1988. The dawn of the 1990s saw Suzuki bringing immersive gaming to the next level with a spiritual sequel to After Burner called G-LOC in 1990, which featured a gyroscope-like cabinet that rotated 360 degrees to give players the realistic illusion of flying a fighter jet. Suzuki had been interested in 3D technology since his days in college and he wanted to fully exploit its capabilities. Although Space Harrier and Out Run had graphics similar to 3D, they did not fully utilize the capabilities. When Sega released the Model 1 development board, a piece of hardware capable of generating 3D polygonal graphics, Suzuki and AM2 went right to work. In 1992, they released the 3D Formula 1 racer Virtua Racing, which was considered one of, if not the most, realistic-looking arcade games on the market at that time. It is regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time, in laying the foundations of subsequent 3D racing games and for being partially responsible in popularizing 3D polygonal graphics to a certain extent. Virtua Racing proved to be a foreshadowing of the next 3D project from AM2, one that proved to be their biggest success to date. In 1993, Suzuki created Virtua Fighter, the first 3D fighting game, which became enormously popular and spawned a series of sequels and spinoffs. It inspired many 3D fighting games such as the Tekken and Soul Calibur series. The Virtua Fighter series was recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as an application which made great contributions to society in the field of art and entertainment. For the first time ever, a Japanese game became a part of the Smithsonian Institution's Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology Innovation, and is now being kept perpetually at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C..
The following year, he created Virtua Cop, which broke new ground by popularizing the use of 3D graphics in shooter games. It inspired 3D light gun shooters such as Time Crisis and The House of the Dead as well as inspiring 3D first-person shooters such as GoldenEye 007.
Suzuki's Shenmue for the Dreamcast gave rise to a new style of adventure games, bending it away from the typical mold most games of its nature seem to fit into, with Suzuki's own concept denoted as "FREE" (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment). The story, graphics and the innovative system exceeded those of many previous games. Shenmue was the most expensive game to be developed (until Grand Theft Auto IV in 2008), with the whole project costing 70 million USD, equivalent to 93 million USD in 2011. Shenmue was a major step forward for 3D open world, nonlinear gameplay, touted as offering an unparalleled level of player freedom, giving them full reign to explore an expansive sandbox city with its own day-night cycles, changing weather, and fully voiced non-player characters going about their daily routines. The game's large interactive environments, wealth of options, level of detail and the scope of its urban sandbox exploration has been compared to later sandbox games like Grand Theft Auto III and its sequels, Sega's own Yakuza series, Fallout 3, and Deadly Premonition. The game also introduced the quick time event mechanic in its modern form and coined a name for it, "QTE". The mechanic has since appeared in many later titles, including popular action games such as Resident Evil 4, God of War, Tomb Raider: Legend, Heavenly Sword, and Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Conspiracy.
One of Suzuki's most notable arcade games was Ferrari F355 Challenge, a racing simulator created upon a strong partnership with Ferrari. Rubens Barrichello of the F1 Team Ferrari was quoted by Suzuki to "have considered to purchase one for practicing." The game was considered the most accurate racing simulation of the Ferrari F355 possible up until that time.
MMO Studio 2004 - 2009
At DigitalRex Yu Suzuki worked on 4 games Psy-Phi, Shenmue Online, Sega Race TV and an unannounced fantasy sports game. Shenmue Online and the Sports game were cancelled during development. PsyPhi a game that was initially delayed due to development shifting from Sega Chihiro to Sega Lindbergh Arcade boards. The game was successfully completed but was never shipped as it performed poorly at location testing. One of the biggest problems with the game the developers couldn't get around was that players' fingers heated up too much from the friction of moving over the screen, and the game just became painful to play.
The goal of his new studio was to make Shenmue Online to penetrate the rising Asian MMO RPG markets. After numerous problems in development Shenmue Online was quietly cancelled The development of Shenmue Online cost Sega and JCEntertainment almost $26 Million dollars 
After 4 years away from AM2 Yu Suzuki released his first game an Arcade racing game titled Sega Race TV released under the studio name AM plus. The game was given a limited release and did not do well commercially. After the release of the game Suzuki resumed non executive work as an adviser for AM2.
In the spring of 2009, rumors surfaced that Yu Suzuki would step down from Sega after 26 years of employment. However, an article written by Brendan Sinclair, a reporter for the American video game journalism website GameSpot, stated the rumors to be false and that an anonymous representative for Sega of America revealed that Suzuki was in fact not retiring but staying "in a much more diminished capacity" than in the past. He has become the manager of the R&D department for Sega's new development studio, AM Plus. AM Plus has solely focused its attention on the Japanese video arcade market with such titles as Psy-Phi (which was cancelled), a dodgeball-esque one-on-one fighting game whose development was headed by Suzuki, and the character-based racing game Sega Race TV (limited release). According to a gamasutra interview, Yu Suzuki plans to officially leave Sega in September 2011 to concentrate on his own development studio YS NET. However, he will not completely cut ties with Sega as he will take an advisory role within the company.
Mainstream return with YS.Net
In 2010 it was rumored that Yu Suzuki would be appearing at E3, and revealing a game for the PlayStation 3 incorporating the new PlayStation Move motion control technology. The game was rumored to be a reworked Psy-Phi. Although this was proven as a hoax as Suzuki was not in attendance at E3 and no updates are available on the cancelled Psy-Phi.
Yu Suzuki's actual main stream return took place in fall of 2010, with a new game in the Shenmue Series, titled Shenmue City, was being developed by Sunsoft and YS Net (Yu Suzuki's new studio) for Yahoo Games.
In December 2010, 1UP posted an interview with Yu Suzuki titled "The Disappearance of Yu Suzuki" it was his first English interview in several years. It was also a career retrospective conducted by former 1UP Editor in Chief James Mielke with Tak Hirai (both are employees at Tetsuya Mizuguchi's Q Entertainment).
In March 2011, Yu Suzuki was at GDC to receive a pioneer award for his body of work. Prior to the award ceremony, He also participated in an open panel career retrospective hosted by Mark Cerny. Also at GDC he participated with MEGA64 to record his voice for a parody video on "how shenmue was meant to end" In December 2011, Yu Suzuki flew to TGS (Toulouse Game Show) in France and participated in an open panel career retrospective. He also participated in an open with Tekken producer Katsuhiro Harada, they both talked about their games and fought each other in both of their respected fighting franchises.
In 2013, Suzuki designed a new shooting game, titled Shooting Wars; this was YS.Net's first original game unrelated to any of Suzuki's previous Sega franchises. In July 2013, Suzuki returned to France for Monaco Animé Game Show.
|Champion Boxing||1984||Sega SG-1000 hardware||Producer / Director|
|Champion Pro Wrestling||1985||Sega SG-1000 hardware||Producer / Director|
|Space Harrier||1985||Sega Space Harrier hardware||Producer / Director|
|Hang-On||1985||Sega Space Harrier hardware||Producer / Director|
|Out Run||1986||Sega Out Run hardware||Producer / Director|
|Super Hang-On||1986||Sega Out Run hardware||Producer|
|Enduro Racer||1986||Sega Space Harrier hardware||Producer / Director|
|After Burner||1987||Sega X Board||Producer / Director|
|After Burner II||1987||Sega X Board||Producer / Director|
|Power Drift||1988||Sega Y Board||Producer / Director|
|Turbo Outrun||1989||Sega Out Run hardware||Producer|
|G-LOC: Air Battle||1990||Sega Y Board||Producer / Director|
|Virtua Racing||1992||Sega Model 1||Producer / Director|
|Virtua Fighter||1993||Sega Model 1||Director|
|Virtua Cop||1994||Sega Model 2||Producer|
|Virtua Fighter 2||1994||Sega Model 2||Producer / Director|
|Virtua Cop 2||1995||Sega Model 2||Producer|
|Virtua Fighter 3||1996||Sega Model 3||Producer|
|Virtua Fighter 3 Team Battle||1997||Sega Model 3||Producer|
|Ferrari F355 Challenge||1999||Sega NAOMI||Producer / Director|
|Shenmue||1999||Dreamcast||Producer / Director|
|Shenmue II||2001||Dreamcast, Xbox||Producer / Director|
|Virtua Fighter 4||2001||Sega NAOMI 2, PS2||Executive director|
|Suzuki Yu - Game Works Vol. 1||2002||Dreamcast|
|Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution||2002||Sega NAOMI 2 / PS2||Executive director|
|Virtua Fighter 4 Final Tuned||2003||Sega NAOMI 2||Producer|
|Propeller Arena||2003 Leaked Online||Dreamcast||Executive director|
|Virtua Cop 3||2003||Sega Chihiro||Executive director|
|OutRun 2||2003||Sega Chihiro||Producer|
|Sega Race TV||2008||Sega Lindbergh||Producer|
|Shenmue City||2010||Yahoo Mobage Service||Director|
- "Yu Suzuki". IGN. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
- GameCenter CX - 2nd Season, Episode 13. Retrieved on 2009-04-04
- "Virtua Racing--Arcade (1992)". 15 Most Influential Games of All Time. GameSpot. 2001. Retrieved 12 April 2012.
- Towell, Justin (April 6, 2009). "Yu Suzuki's five finest moments: As legendary Sega man steps down, we celebrate his legacy". GamesRadar. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
- Virtua Cop, IGN, July 7, 2004, Accessed Feb 27, 2009
- Martin Hollis (2004-09-02). "The Making of GoldenEye 007". Zoonami. Archived from the original on 2011-07-18. Retrieved 2011-12-22.
- YouTube - Shenmue: The 70 million Dollar question
- "Shenmue: Through the Ages". IGN. August 7, 2007. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
- "CPI Inflation Calculator". Bureau of Labor Statistics. Retrieved 2011-03-22.
- Brendan Main, Lost in Yokosuka, The Escapist
- Shenmue: Creator Yu Suzuki Speaks Out, GamesTM
- Yu Suzuki, IGN
- The Disappearance of Yu Suzuki: Part 1, 1UP
- Adam LaMosca, On-Screen Help, In-Game Hindrance, The Escapist
- "F355 Challenge: It's hard. It's hard. And it's hard. But god, is it worth it.". IGN. September 19, 2000. Retrieved 15 April 2012.
- Shenmue Online Trailer 2:53 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QtmVdyAGLZs
- http://www.ign.com/articles/2004/08/03/shenmue-goes-online $25,945,455 US Budget Shenmue Online
- System16 - The Arcade Museum
- Interview with Yu Suzuki and Will Wright, June 2002
- (Japanese) Yu Suzuki, Akira Nagae. Suzuki Yu - Game Works Vol. 1. 2002, ASPECT, ISBN 4-7572-0889-8
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