Kadoman Otsuka, assistant editor-in-chief for Japan's Famitsu magazine, has a weekly column page in the mag where he talks about...mostly game-related stuff, although (like a lot of other video-game editors that need to fill up space on a deadline) he veers off-topic a lot of the time. This week's Otsuka piece is worth paying attention to, though: While drinking with some of his game-dev pals, he decided to ask them what their top three all-time games are.
First up was Daisuke Yamamoto, creator of Puzzle & Dragons and, as a result, the most profitable game designer in Japan at the moment. "It's easy to come up with a top two," Yamamoto told Otsuka. "That would be Street Fighter 2 and the original Pokemon. As for the third, if you forced me to pare it down from a large number of candidates...maybe it would be Tetris.
"Keep in mind, though, I've gotten a lot of influence from arcade games too," he added. "The game design's oriented entirely around giving players a measure of satisfaction with a single coin, and a lot of that philosophy applies to smartphone games, too -- how you have to provide something fun in a compact matter for limited free time."
A lot of Japan's upper game-dev echelon grew up in the 8-bit NES era, something you can tell right off by the responses in this column. "The first one I'd say right off is the original Mega Man," said Kaname Fujioka, producer on the Monster Hunter series. "There's just no measuring how much influence I've received from that game. After that would come SF2, which I spent ages playing with against other people at the arcades, and after that I'd put the original Castlevania, which really amazed me in terms of graphics, environment, music...pretty much everything."
For Keiichiro Toyama, producer on Siren and Gravity Rush, the arcades dominate his top three (or so). "Being in the generation I am," he said, "I've gotten a ton of influence from arcade games. Among those, I'd say that Space Harrier, Xevious and Virtua Fighter are the three that really just changed my life the first time I saw them. Really, though, I could probably list about ten other titles beyond those."
Otsuka closed the column by speaking with Yasumi Matsuno, fabled designer of the Ogre Battle series - a game that goes into Otsuka's personal top three, as he wrote. "If I remember right, I was asked the exact same question a decade or so ago for one Famitsu article or another," he laughed. "Back then, I think my answers were the arcade Xevious, the first Legend of Zelda, and SimCity, which I played on the Mac."
As for now? "I'd say Zelda, Ultima Online and Red Dead Redemption," he replied. "Zelda is the perfect example of getting every aspect of a game's design just right, and I still think it's really the standard that other people learn by. UO, including all the multiplayer-oriented events, really reminded me what real RPGs are all about, though the core game design is something that influenced me as well. Finally, RDR is a game that reminded me all over again about the charms of an open-world title. It was the first time in a while when I thought to myself 'I wish I could make a game like this'."