Remembering Fukio Mitsuji

‘MTJ’ was a Japanese game designer and artist largely known for the coin-op smash hits Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands he devised for Taito.

His impetus was to encourage the fairer sex to embrace gaming and share the experience with their partners through cooperative play. He asserted that gaming should – above all else – represent unadulterated, distilled fun, which explains why his creations focus so heavily on game play rather than flashy graphics and gimmickry.

He famously refused to produce a direct sequel to Bubble Bobble because he felt it was bad policy to rehash concepts and milk cash cows at the expense of innovation. Hence we were treated to Rainbow Islands, a radical departure to its predecessor, yet a timeless classic in its own right.

He went on to operate as a freelancer and also ran his own game design school, his reasoning being that he’d “like to be a person who plants trees rather than being a tree.”

At the meagre age of 48, he fell into a coma induced by kidney failure and on 11th December 2008 died due to a cardiac arrest.

Not a huge amount is known about the man who made Bub and Bob household names, and brought so much joy to kids and adults alike, so when I noticed that one of the few interviews he agreed to give had fallen off the face of the web, I thought it would be appropriate to resuscitate it in his honour. Not least because John and Aaron will be covering Graftgold’s Amiga conversion of Rainbow Islands this week.

It was conducted by the one-time longest running video game brand in the world, the UK-based Computer and Video Games magazine (also known as C&VG or C+VG), which was published between 1981 and 2004.

This was the magazine that featured a paltry two or three pages of Amiga content each month, yet I bought it regardless to drool over all those Neo-Geo screenshots of arcade quality games I’d never be able to afford.

Prior to the cessation of the physical magazine, the brand was given a second lease of life online at computerandvideogames.com. The web site enjoyed a 16 year run before the plug was finally pulled in February 2015.

I don’t know which member of staff asked the questions as the credit was simply given to ‘CVG Staff for CVG UK’. It was originally posted on 26th August 2005…

Bubble Bobble creator speaks!

Creator of Bubble Bobble Fukio Mitsuji takes us down memory lane and muses on videogaming present and future

Bubble Bobble, now there’s a classic. A cutesy platform game with itty-bitty dinosaurs that spewed forth bubbles to trap the enemy and then popped them, the title was an addictive little blighter that had an equally addictive theme tune. Created by Fukio Mitsuji, Bubble Bobble is soon to get a new lease of life in retro collection bonanza Taito Legends (out October 14 on PS2, Xbox and PC and featuring a total of 29 titles) and we recently caught up with Mitsuji-san for a chat – join us as we take a walk down memory lane with Fukio Mitsuji and discover his opinions on the videogame scene present and future….

Why is Bubble Bobble fun, what makes/made it popular?

Mitsuji-san: My original concept was to create a game which is both thrilling and exhilarating. Bubbles are an intuitive visual cue to convey a fun element and popping them all at once triggers thrills and exhilaration.

You had to play co-operatively in order to reach the true ending. So compared to other titles, co-operative gameplay is a more crucial part. As a result, many players challenged the game by teaming up with other players. Also, couples were seen playing the game together.

Is it surprising that Bubble Bobble’s popularity has endured? Why has it endured?

Mitsuji-san: I think it’s because of their cute character design and unique ability to shoot bubbles.

Certain parties reckon videogames have become overly complex. Is that something you’d agree with? Do you think games are easier or harder these days?

Mitsuji-san: I think videogames have become more and more complex these days. As far as difficulty level is concerned, the developers are running out of new ideas and many games now share identical game design. Since many players’ skills are already tuned to a specific game design, newer games tend to become harder. So, in order to gain wider audiences, the creators must come up with a fresh idea and easy-to-grasp game design. In other words, simple yet deep gameplay elements. Game creators must come up with them. And I would like to see more creators focus on fresh game designs.

What do you think of the direction in which video games have gone since Bubble Bobble’s debut?

Mitsuji-san: These days, games have become driven by technology and tend to rely too much on sounds and visuals. I think we should look back and think about the essence of video games.

Do you reckon there’s still room for innovation in video game development then?

Mitsuji-san: Of course. There are an infinite number of new game ideas. Many people think that we have ran out of possible new game ideas, but I don’t think so. Just as many objects are left alone on this planet, there are many new ideas waiting to be discovered. It is a matter of realizing it.

So what excites you about the video game industry currently?

Mitsuji-san: There are too many people to name, but I respect every creator because they work hard day and night.

How do you envisage the next generation of consoles affecting the gaming experience?

Mitsuji-san: Next-generation consoles should not drive the games. Game ideas should.

Finally, if you had the opportunity to instantly create your dream game, what would that game be?

Mitsuji-san: There are many things I want to tell you now, but I choose not to. I look forward to people reading this creating fun and inspiring games, and becoming next-generation creators. Good luck!

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