Yoshiaki Koizumi
Full Name
Yoshiaki Koizumi (小泉 歓晃)
Video game designer/producer, Nintendo

Yoshiaki Koizumi (born April 29, 1968 in Mishima, Shizuoka) is a Japanese video game designer, director and producer. He is best known as the producer of Flipnote Studio. He graduated from Osaka University of Arts as a filmmaker and has been working at Nintendo since 1991. Koizumi is manager of Tokyo Software Development Group No. 2 within the company's Entertainment Analysis & Development Division.


Work at Nintendo in Kyoto

After Koizumi had joined Nintendo in April 1991, he was assigned to work on the manual for the action-adventure The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, for which he did the art, layout and writing. In the process, he conceived the game's backstory and the designs of the three goddesses and the star sign associated with them. For the sequel, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, he was again tasked with designing the manual. However, since work on the game had just begun, Koizumi wound up creating its entire story and came up with plot ideas such as the island in a dream. He also worked on the event design for the interactions with the villagers, wrote the owl's and the Wind Fish's lines and designed the bosses' behavioral patterns. Koizumi later experimented with a polygonal, side-scrolling remake of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Developed for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, the prototype was based on chanbara action, a type of Japanese sword fighting. With Super Mario 64, Koizumi became assistant director and animated the 3D models, among others working on Mario's swimming movements in cooperation with director Shigeru Miyamoto.

While developing Super Mario 64, Nintendo's employees devised rough concepts of a three-dimensional The Legend of Zelda game with a bigger focus on puzzles and less pronounced action elements. Koizumi wrote several notes on sword battles and combat with multiple opponents. When he joined Toru Osawa and Jin Ikeda, he was the third staff member to work on the game that would become The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Koizumi consulted his earlier notes and tried to inject leftover ideas from Super Mario 64 into this new Zelda installment. On the lookout for inspiration on chanbara action, Osawa suggested a visit to Toei Kyoto Studio Park, a film studio theme park. There, Osawa, Koizumi and Ikeda entered a playhouse where several ninjas and a main samurai were staging a show. Koizumi observed how only one of the ninjas would attack the main samurai at a time while the others remained in a waiting pattern, which proved to be the solution to designing battles with multiple opponents. Osawa noticed how a ninja using a kusarigama weapon would move around the main samurai in circles and never lose track of his opponent. Both of these observations became the basis for the Z targeting system used in Ocarina of Time. Koizumi replaced the simple triangle the team had implemented to mark the player's focus with a fairy that would change colors based on the friendly or hostile nature of the Z target. Furthermore, he was in charge of the player character Link and designed other characters such as the horse Epona. He also worked on the 3D environments, the camera system, the items and some of the event design, such as the scenes where the player overhears the conversations of other characters.

Following Ocarina of Time, Koizumi was designing a "cops and robbers"-style board game that had the player catch a criminal over the course of a week in-game, or roughly equivalent to an hour in real time. However, he was pulled off the project and asked to help develop the sequel to Ocarina of Time, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Koizumi carried over his "cops and robbers" idea with the time limit and expanded it into a world threatened by a falling moon after he had daydreamed about such a scenario. The concept was corroborated by Miyamoto's wish to have a "compact" Zelda that could be played over and over again, and the ideas eventually evolved into a system with a three-day time loop. Koizumi was again placed in charge of the game's player characters. He also wrote many of the scheduled events involving the villagers of Clock Town, for which he tried to depict the characters' lives as realistically as possible. Many of the serious elements in Majora's Mask came from Koizumi, which his coworker Eiji Aonuma countered by introducing more lighthearted portions in the areas he was in charge of.

Work at Nintendo in Tokyo

In 2003, Koizumi switched to Nintendo's Tokyo Software Development Department and directed the 2D platformer Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat. The game's side-scrolling nature sprang from Koizumi's attempt to overcome problems with complex camera controls in 3D titles. These efforts continued in his next title, Super Mario Galaxy. The game's spherical levels eliminated the possibility of the player getting lost or the need for adjusting the camera when reaching the end of a flat surface. Koizumi directed Super Mario Galaxy and was heavily involved in the creation of its story, deciding on the inclusion of the optional fairytale book that tells the characters' backstory. Following this, he was promoted to producer and is currently manager of Tokyo Software Development Group No. 2 within the company's Entertainment Analysis & Development Division.

Game design

Koizumi is a protégé of Shigeru Miyamoto and often draws his ideas from real-world influences such as hiking. When creating fictional worlds, he tries to surprise players with visually impressive environments and difficult gameplay mechanics while still ensuring "ease of use," that is effortless navigation and control. He said that most of his time on a video game is spent working on player characters and their abilities in order to strike a balance between "fun and complexity" in control. Koizumi mentioned tempo and rhythm as some of the most important elements of a Mario game, whereas he gave anticipation of the awaiting challenges as a crucial factor in a Zelda title. Unlike Miyamoto, Koizumi often tries to introduce story elements to the video games he works on. He trains his staff by hinting at the direction they should take rather than just giving them the solution to a problem.



Game Release System Credit(s)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 1991 Super Nintendo Entertainment System Printed art work, manual
Super Mario Kart 1992 Super Nintendo Entertainment System Illustrator
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening 1993 Game Boy Script writer, story, event design, boss design, manual
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island 1995 Super Nintendo Entertainment System CG designer
Super Mario 64 1996 Nintendo 64 Assistant director, 3D animator
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 1998 Nintendo 64 3D system director, game design, character design, event design
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX 1998 Game Boy Color 1993 staff: script writer
Super Smash Bros. 1999 Nintendo 64 Original game staff: Mario, Luigi, Link, Yoshi source model
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 2000 Nintendo 64 Game system director, game design, character design, event design
Super Mario Sunshine 2002 GameCube Director
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker 2002 GameCube Assistant director
Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat 2004 GameCube Director
Super Mario Galaxy 2007 Wii Director, game design, story
Super Smash Bros. Brawl 2008 Wii Special thanks
New Play Control! Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat 2008 Wii Producer
Flipnote Studio 2008 Nintendo DSi Producer
Super Mario Galaxy 2 2010 Wii Producer
Donkey Kong Country Returns 2010 Wii Special thanks
Super Mario 3D Land 2011 Nintendo 3DS Producer
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword 2011 Wii Special thanks
Super Mario 3D World 2013 Wii U Producer
Flipnote Studio 3D 2013 Nintendo 3DS Producer
Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker 2014 Wii U Special thanks

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