What’s Next for Koji Igarashi?

The Castlevania pioneer explains his craft, tests the indie waters… and maybe the Nintendo waters, too.

By Jake Shapiro. Posted 03/26/2014 09:00 2 Comments     ShareThis

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night creator Koji Igarashi gave a talk at last week’s Game Developers Conference in San Francisco entitled “There and Back Again: Koji Igarashi’s Metroidvania Tale.” In his speech, Igarashi detailed his team’s approach to the Castlevania series and to Metroidvania game design in general. He concluded his talk by stating his desire to get back into the Metroidvania genre after years away:

“I know I’ve been away from games in this genre for a while, but I hope things made sense. I want to believe one of the reasons why this speaking opportunity came up is because we’re seeing less of these types of games and many fans are waiting for the next one. And now that I’ve gone independent, I can create things as I wish and not adhere to the company’s wishes. If there is a desire, I believe I will be able to turn that into reality.”

Of course, Igarashi’s GDC speech comes mere days after the announcement he would be leaving his longtime employer, Konami. In the Japanese games industry, and in Japanese business culture in general, it’s common for employees to spend their entire professional career with one company. It had been rare to see a high-profile figure like this break out on their own… until, of course, Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune split with Capcom in 2010 to work on his own Kickstarter-funded title, Mighty No. 9. Igarashi has mentioned Inafune’s bold move in multiple interviews as inspiration to make his split from Konami this year.

Igarashi said that with the huge boom in mobile and social gaming in Japan right now, Konami has been changing to capture that market. As a result, Igarashi was moved from making traditional games to working on more casual titles. At the end of the day, he parted ways with Konami so he could make the games he wants to make.

So what comes next? Igarashi says he wants to make games that connect with his core fanbase… Metroidvania games. These could be indie crowdfunded games that closely resemble his previous work, à la Inafune with Mighty No. 9, but you know what everyone here at Nintendojo has been thinking…

METROID?

It turns out Igarashi might be thinking it too. In an interview with IGN:

“Whether it’s possible or not comes down to the [intellectual property] holder, which in this case would be Nintendo, and whether they want to work with me. But, if they did want to work with me, I would love the chance of doing that.”

Metroid hasn’t seen an entry in the series since 2010’s controversial Metroid: Other M, helmed by Team Ninja. There hasn’t been a well-received Metroid since the conclusion of Austin developer Retro Studios’ trilogy with Metroid Prime 3: Corruption in 2007. And there hasn’t been a classical 2D entry in the series since Nintendo R&D1’s Metroid: Zero Mission in 2004.

Considering his pedigree, Koji Igarashi is the perfect pick to revive Metroid. It seems fitting that he would come full circle and complete the “Metroid” half of the Metroidvania portmanteau. It’ll be interesting to see him go from vampire hunting to atmospheric science fiction, and regardless of how he approaches Metroid… it can’t be worse than Other M. Nintendo has shown with its outsourcing of the series to Retro and Team Ninja that it’s willing to take risks with Metroid. In fact, with its origins as the brainchild of overlooked game designer Gunpei Yokoi, Metroid has always had its roots as an outsider’s series. It’s perfect for Igarashi. If we could get a new first-person Metroid game from Retro Studios on Wii U and a new 2D Metroid game from Koji Igarashi & co. on 3DS, I’d be in heaven.

That’s only wishful thinking, though. It’s great that Igarashi has publicly stated an interest in working on Metroid, but we have no idea what the likelihood is of it actually happening. If he makes an indie game first, it’ll be interesting to see if he makes a Castlevania clone, or if he creates an entirely new Metroidvania-style experience. I hope he goes with the latter. I debated the definition of “Metroidvania” on my blog last month, and I basically came away realizing there aren’t nearly enough Metroidvania games out there aside from actual Metroid and Castlevania titles. Toronto indie dev DrinkBox Studios’ Guacamelee! (which is coming to Wii U!) was a fantastic Mexican twist on the Metroidvania concept last year, which just goes to show there’s still plenty of room for the genre Igarashi pioneered to grow. Hopefully we’ll find out what he’s doing next by the time E3 rolls around in June.

2 Responses to “What’s Next for Koji Igarashi?”

  • 1249 points
    Robert Marrujo says...

    Nice piece! Igarashi is right up there with Kojima, as far as I’m concerned. Castlevania might not sell as crazy as Metal Gear, but I think the quality of titles that Iga and company put out on GBA and DS are pretty dang good and deserve just as much respect. Heck, some of the games are equal to Symphony of the Night, as far as I’m concerned. Who lets a talent like him get away? Crazy!

    Thumb up 0
  • 849 points
    ejamer says...

    Great read. I would be thrilled if Nintendo signed Iga to deliver a 2D Metroid game for Wii U. Is that just a pipe dream? Maybe… but he really does seem like the perfect candidate to put something out on a console that needs more games.

    Thumb up 0

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