Yu Suzuki Bio / 4th of October 2014
Shenmue, one of the greatest and most significant videogames ever created, was envisioned by a man with almost no equal within the industry, he is responsible for creating some of the most important and ground breaking pieces of interactive entertainment ever to see the light of day, and for pushing the boundaries of technology in the process. He is, of course, none other than the legendary, Yu Suzuki. He is a man with few contemporaries, and none-save for Nintendo’s legendary Shigeru Miyamoto-can possibly compete with the achievements that Suzuki has accomplished throughout his illustrious career. The following is far from being a complete biography of his life, and his many endeavours, but it does provide a brief overview that does afford some insight into the workings of this industry luminary and pioneer.
Yu Suzuki was born on June 10th, 1955 in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan where, as he grew up, he showed enormous interest in a variety of subjects, including both music and art, before finally taking to computer programming. He graduated from the Okayama University of Science in the early 1980’s and swiftly joined the ranks of Sega Enterprises in 1983 where he developed his first game, Champion Boxing, before making a name for himself in 1985 with the ground breaking, Hang-On. This was swiftly followed by the enormously popular Space Harrier and then the utterly brilliant, Out Run. Even this early in his career, Suzuki was pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible in the medium with motion controls, advanced sprite scaling and scrolling, not to mention the multiple routes and soundtracks that Out Run also had to offer. Needless to say, he had already found himself on the path to stardom very early on.
His arcade legacy would only continue to grow with subsequent releases Afterburner, G-Loc and Power Drift, but his standing as a legend would be confirmed with the advent of 3D gaming, so when Sega finally unveiled the Model-1 arcade board, Suzuki and his team at AM2 set to work on creating experiences that had never been seen before. His first gem with the new technology was undoubtedly the incredible Virtua Racing, a truly mind blowing piece of design that proved to be a smash hit across the world, not only would it popularise 3D gaming, but it also set the scene for yet another game that would overshadow even its success.
Virtua Fighter emerged into arcades across the world at the end of 1993, featuring eight polygon constructed, 3D characters, it would lay the ground work for almost every other fighting game that would follow it. With stunning graphics, a gorgeous soundtrack from B-Univ and Takayuki Nakamura, and an immense amount of depth to its gameplay, Virtua Fighter was not only a smash hit with gamers, but it was also later recognised by the famous Smithsonian Institution as a vital piece of art that helped to propel interactive entertainment on to new levels.
The incredible Virtua Cop was soon released on the greatly enhanced Model-2 hardware, inevitably followed by sequels to both this and Virtua Fighter, with a third entry into the illustrious fighting series arriving to show off the power of the subsequent Model-3 board. Suzuki would later return to his love of cars, and especially the Italian powerhouse, Ferrari, with the driving simulator Ferrari 355 Challenge. This was made in conjunction with the famous car manufacturer, and was unsurpassed in terms of its uncompromising realism and attention to detail for several years, a three screen arcade unit was even created which would analyse the player’s driving style and provide them with a data printout designed to help them improve. This particular unit is said to have been powered by four of the enormously powerful Naomi arcade boards, which were based on the technology used for Sega’s next, and ultimately final, home console, the Dreamcast.
It would, of course, be for the Dreamcast that Yu Suzuki would create his crowning achievement with the mesmerising, ground breaking extravaganza that was Shenmue. Whilst he has continued to produce many more games for the arcade and even mobile devices, the legacy of his most beautiful and ultimately tragic creation, would dwarf the majority of his output and cement his place as arguably the most important game designer that the now booming video games industry has ever known.