TOKYO--In news that was largely overlooked in the US, as well as in Japan, Shinya Nishigaki, creator and producer of the Sega Dreamcast titles Blue Stinger and Illbleed, has died. Nishigaki died at his home from an apparent heart attack. He was 42 years old. His death was confirmed by a family member and Cavia Incorporated vice president Masamichi Someno. Mr. Nishigaki had been employed as a producer at Cavia Incorporated in Tokyo, Japan, at the time of his death.
Nishigaki was born in 1962 and raised in Osaka, Japan. He was the son of Masao, a movie studio advertising executive, and Keiko, a homemaker. Nishigaki moved to Tokyo at the age of 18 to attend Aoyama Gakuin University where he earned a bachelors degree in economic management. Nishigaki was a member of the university film club, where he directed his first short film Limitless Game.
After graduating at the age of 22, he began working as a promotion consultant for the video game industry at the Daiko Advertising Agency (currently known as Asatsu-DK) in Tokyo. In 1989 at the age of 26, Nishigaki joined Enix Corporation where he worked in business development on the English localization of Dragon Quest 2 and Dragon Quest 3. Nishigaki entered the field of game production when he joined Climax Entertainment and became a producer and planner of LandStalker for the Sega Genesis and Dark Savior for the Sega Saturn.
Nishigaki then became owner, president, and CEO of Climax Graphics, a development house started by Tokyo-based Climax Entertainment in 1998. One year later, Climax Graphics released its first title as part of the official launch of the Sega Dreamcast. Titled Blue Stinger, the game went on to sell over a half-million copies worldwide. A year and a half later, in 2001, the company changed its name to Crazy Games and released Illbleed, its final Sega Dreamcast game. Shortly afterward, the company assisted Sega game studio Hitmaker in designing its Maze of the King arcade release. After Sega Corporation announced its decision to end production of its Dreamcast console, Crazy Games suspended business and closed its doors in December of 2002. In an interview conducted one month before his death, Nishigaki explains the closing. To me, Crazy Games is not closed, its only sleeping. With the economic situation in Japan the way it was, it was better to close Crazy Games, he said.
Hisao Oguchi, then president of Sega development studio Hitmaker, recommended Nishigaki and his 25-member team from Crazy Games to Cavia Incorporated president and CEO Hayao Nakayama. In the same month Crazy Games closed, Nakayama hired Nishigaki and his entire team to begin work on new gaming projects at Cavia. Nishigaki credited his love of movies for helping him to create and produce video games. My father worked for a movie studio that is now called Toho-Towa, so for many years I never had to pay admission to see a movie. I would go with my Dad, and I would see them all the time. I would see European and American movies, and the movies were free!
His Sega Dreamcast games Blue Stinger and Illbleed had enormous and colorful environments. When asked about his inspiration for such environments, Nishigaki simply credits his imagination and his love of movies. Movies have big budgets, like Titanic, for example. The big video game companies can throw lots of money at the programming aspect and try to make impressive graphics and special effects. My imagination is like a big-budget movie, he said.
Despite his passing, the work of Shinya Nishigaki lives on. The earlier Dreamcast creations of Nishigaki are tentatively scheduled for release in Japan on the Xbox console in late 2004. Cool Net Entertainment of Tokyo, Japan, has its development departments working on bringing Illbleed and Blue Stinger to the Xbox console, each complete with an added level, according to Coolnet President Shigeo Kamata. According to Kamata, no decision has been made on whether the games will receive distribution outside of Japan.
Almost three years after its release, the Sega Dreamcast version of Illbleed has a cult following on the Internet. Fans of the game maintain a Yahoo discussion group, and one devoted fan, Jeff Kern, an amateur programmer, started Lucky S Designs in an attempt to produce an unauthorized sequel called Illbleed 2: Reynolds Revenge.
When asked about the unauthorized sequel to his game, Nishigaki said he welcomed the idea. I like this energy, so its ok with me," he said. "If I had to choose money or energy, I would choose energy. Nishigaki was never one to dwell on sales figures and once commented, If one person likes Illbleed, then to me, its a success.
According to Cavia vice president Masamichi Someno, Nishigaki was working on one project before his death. The project will still continue and members of the Crazy Game staff will remain at Cavia working on different projects for the company.
Nishigaki, who passed away in Japan shortly before E3, is survived by his wife Mayumi of Saitama Prefecture, Japan; his mother Keiko of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan; and sister Izumi of Los Angeles, California.