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!