The creator of Castlevania, Hitoshi Akamatsu, is a notoriously difficult person to track down. Despite creating one of Konami's most well-known franchises, the director of the three main NES / Famicom games has all but vanished from the industry. Never prone to interviews even back in the day, Akamatsu is shrouded in mystery.
However, in the latest issue of Wireframe magazine, the team has managed to track the life and works of the creator, as well as interview some of the staff members who worked with him at Konami and beyond. We've taken a few excerpts from Issue #62, but we highly encourage you to check the entire article and the entire magazine out for some fascinating insights into the game industry, past and presents.
Thanks to the efforts of those at Wireframe, we now have a more thorough picture of Akamatsu's credits. While we already know he worked on The Goonies II as director, and as a programmer on the non-canonical Metal Gear sequel, Snake's Revenge, few other projects were known of until now.
One person Wireframe spoke to was a former producer at Konami, Masahiro Inoue. He revealed that Akamatsu worked on Finalizer - Super Transformation, which launched in Japanese arcades in 1985, as an uncredited programmer.
Masahiro Inoue is a former producer who worked at Konami on arcade games like Gyruss, Crime Fighters, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He first met Akamatsu in 1983 at Konami’s original headquarters in Osaka, where they were both working on arcade games, and was able to provide us with a little more information about the mysterious developer. According to Inoue, for instance, before Akamatsu worked on Castlevania, he worked on a game called Finalizer - Super Transformation, a vertical shooter released in Japanese arcades in December 1985. This makes Finalizer the earliest title we know of that Akamatsu worked on at Konami.
While we don't know if Akamatsu worked on anything between Finalizer and Castlevania, we do know the extent of his work on the classic NES title thanks to tweets from Sonna Yuumi, which shmuplations organised and we summarised back in 2019:
After the release of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, and its disappointing sales when compared to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he moved to Konami's arcade division, where he assisted on the side-scrolling arcade game Surprise Attack, and 1992's arcade beat 'em up Astérix.
Following the French comic book-inspired game, Akamatsu was supposed to work on another arcade game, Slam Dunk, but co-director Masaaki Kukino confirmed he left the project mid-way through production.
It’s clear from our conversations with former staff, though, that he had difficulties when he rejoined Konami’s arcade division. As Kukino told us: “I respected him when [we] worked on the same team, because of what he and the Castlevania team accomplished and because he’d been in the business two years longer than me. But as development progressed, I realised he wasn’t fit to be a team leader because he couldn’t decide on anything. He’s credited as the director on the [Astérix] game that he and I teamed up for, but in reality, I’m the one who really made all the decisions and directed the game.”
Akamatsu did work on two more games after this but has since departed from the industry. Wireframe has filled in a lot of the blanks in the Castlevania director's history, but if there's anything else, it remains to be seen. We haven't mentioned all of the games the father of Castlevania has worked on here, but the amount Akamatsu shifted between projects sheds some light on his turbulent time at Konami.
You can download Issue #62 of Wireframe at the link below. If you've tried any of the games that Akamatsu has worked on in Japanese arcades (or other methods), let us know!
Poor indecisive man.
Wow. That's crazy
Dang I feel bad for the dude who was interviewed... He deserves the credit instead of the cool albeit indecisive man.
Hopefully that backhanded quote will get him to speak up more about his time there, if he’s still alive.
I would love to know more about his process creating Castlevania and how it felt to learn that Castlevania III, one of the all time greatest games on the NES / Famicom, didn’t sell well enough. Konami poured their heart into that game.
Yeah sure, “I’m the one that directed the game, not him.” Sounds like potential slander more than anything.
What is a man? A miserable little pile of indecisions. But enough talk, have at you!
Maybe he developed anxiety problems. Also, I can't believe Castlevania III sold poorly, that game is one of the best on NES, hands down.
@Branovices I find it odd too. Maybe the Genesis had something to do with it.
@BloodNinja What leads you to believe it’s slander? Given what happened to this guy and he was never really successful again and just faded into the night, it sounds like it could very easily be true. Generally people don’t say something egregiously untrue when there are people who can easily verify it. If he was giving direction then there’s a whole team of Konami programmers who know whether that’s true or not. It wouldn’t make sense to lie about this when the lie could easily come crashing down.
@VinylCreep Generally, I would agree with you. Something feels off about this story. I can't put my finger on it, but that's the vibe I get off it.
I'd be very dubious to take one man's word over another and base my viewpoint on it. Especially on that last quote which sounds pretty self indulgent, sounds like there is some bad blood and bias there.
I tried to complete castlevania last year the first half is do able but the second seems crazy unfair to me xx
Didn’t sell well perhaps, but has deservedly become a stone cold classic over time. Banger.
Okay I just found this when I was Googling the directors name after watching that 7 hour documentary on YouTube.
I got into software developing as, as the joke goes, my uncle worked at a games company in Japan in the 1980s. Not Nintendo though but I was a fan of the company back then (I was 16). Age 19 I started working at a different company to him but also in Japan and also not Nintendo. I learnt a good chunk of Japanese in those 3 years.
I met the guy. I know roughly what might have happened. I know he came from a rich family that lived out in the countryside. I know that he used to spend time out there a lot. They had a lucrative business, hence the family riches.
So I’m guessing he chose to work for the family business? It sounds like to me. Though I would love to know what happened after that. If one lived in Japan they could likely do some good investigative work and at least track down the family. It wouldn’t be too difficult as you tended to not get rich people in the countryside in Japan back then. It was cities that were booming, forgot what they called it… the bubble I want to say?
(I used to do art on graph paper before pixel art, game art was a thing. It came in handy and I got my first jobs doing art. A very close friend of mine went in the opposite direction, to Texas, and was the only British person who worked on duke3d.exe ^_-;; god I miss the days where you had to draw your own emoticons and how there were two schools - the Japanese one ^^; and the British one )
Removed - trolling; user is banned
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