Shenmue creator steps down at Sega

Yu Suzuki, designer behind OutRun, Virtua Fighter, and more, has vacated position of R&D creative officer; will stay with company in diminished capacity.

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By 2003, Sega designer Yu Suzuki had already left a mark on the gaming industry worthy of induction into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame. Best known as the creator of the Virtua Fighter and Shenmue series, Suzuki was until that point a prodigiously successful developer, responsible for many of Sega's biggest franchises.

Virtua Fighter was among Suzuki's biggest successes.
Virtua Fighter was among Suzuki's biggest successes.

Since the time of that AIAS honor, the designer has been out of the industry limelight, most recently appearing to promote Shenmue Online, the now-shelved massively multiplayer online role-playing game counterpart to his series of adventure games. So low was his profile that last year, Sega of America CEO Simon Jeffrey mistakenly told Gamasutra that Suzuki was no longer an employee of Sega at all.

Suzuki's retreat from the gaming world is apparently continuing, given that this week Sega parent company Sega Sammy announced that the designer has stepped down--the publisher used the word "retired"--from his position as a R&D creative officer with the company. However, he isn't departing Sega entirely.

A Sega of America representative confirmed for GameSpot that Suzuki will stay on with the publisher in a diminished capacity, continuing on as manager of the R&D department for Sega's AM Plus division. To date, AM Plus has released a pair of Japanese arcade games, the touch-screen fighter Psy Phi and the character-driven racer Sega Race TV.

Ferrari F355 was an eye-catching--but unforgiving--arcade driving game.
Ferrari F355 was an eye-catching--but unforgiving--arcade driving game.

The early part of Suzuki's career was marked by a succession of arcade classics including Space Harrier, Afterburner, and OutRun. However, the developer grew more experimental in later years, devoting time to projects such as the Ferrari F355 Challenge arcade game. The monstrous machine was eye-catching, with three screens to provide players with better peripheral vision, but its laser-like focus on simulating driving a single model of car in painstaking detail limited its mass appeal.

Then there was the wildly ambitious Shenmue series. Although it attracted a hardcore fan base, the first two Shenmue installments were not commercially successful, and a planned third game in the series never materialized. Although it has been more than six years since the North American release of Shenmue II, rumors of a new third game in the series pop up from time to time.

For more on the creator's work, check out GameSpot's 2002 video review of Shenmue II for the Xbox:

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