Interview: Rieko Kodama Feature - The Next Level

Interview: Rieko Kodama

World-renowned Sega director talks to us about her past, present and future work and other exciting industry insights.

Article by Hasan Ali Almaci & Heidi Kemps (Email)
December 13th 2004, 06:00AM

GotNext: You have worked on a lot of great games for Sega which have been played by millions of people, yet your name by the public in the west is not that well known. Could you tell our readers a little bit about yourself, like when you started working for Sega, what games you have worked on, etc?

Kodama: I started at Sega almost 20 years ago, around 1984. At the time, the Mark III (Master System) wasn't even out yet...I was making stuff for the hardware that came before that (the SG-1000 and SG-3000).

I initially started as a graphic designer. After that, I began to think about game planning, and went into that. The first game I acted as director for was Magic Knight Rayearth for the Sega Saturn. Later on, I was the producer of Eternal Arcadia for the Dreamcast and Gamecube. I've also done design work for Phantasy Star, Sonic 1 and 2, and Altered Beast on the Megadrive.

GotNext: What are your hobbies and interests outside of gaming?

Kodama: I like watching soccer. I follow European soccer in particular. I also enjoy reading fantasy books, like The Lord of the Rings. I like the movies, too. I have a particular fondness for Western style-fantasy.

GotNext: Your breakout game was undoubtedly Phantasy Star. What did you have in mind when you created the characters and setting for that title?

Kodama: We wanted a game unlike any other consumer RPG out there. We thought the 3D dungeons in PC games were interesting, and that detailed event scenes would be especially unique way to convey the story. They weren't in any console RPGs at the time. The game's mix of sci-fi and fantasy setting was also a part as this desire to create a unique RPG.

GotNext: Phantasy Star III was a major change for the series, and a lot of peoples' opinions are divided on the game. What are your thoughts about the game?

Kodama: Most of the planning staff for the game were from PS2. When we were in the planning stages for PS3, we thought that we wanted to make something that could be played without being familiar with the first two games, instead of being a direct continuation. I think it's an interesting game in its own right.

GotNext: Why did you decide to create a story that diverted quite far from the first two games? Were you happy with the result?

Kodama: Well, I think I answered a little of that before, but...the reason why the story was so radically different was that the dev team wanted to create a different Phantasy Star. I think it's a unique little piece of the series' history and I am happy with thte outcome.

GotNext: Early screens of Phantasy Star IV showed the game in 3D dungeons similar to the first installment. Why did you go with overhead view dungeons in the end?

Kodama: We really wanted to use those 3D dungeons in the game. The ideas we had proved to be a little too much for the MegaDrive hardware to handle. We just couldn't convey the sort of setting we wanted, so we went with [the] overhead view in the end.

GotNext: The core Phantasy Star series officially came to an end with the fourth game, although Phantasy Star Online continues in a sort of separate continuity. Have you ever considered going back and revisiting the original series with new games?

Kodama: Yes, I have. After 4, the team had thoughts about a fifth installment. In fact, the team still talks about it. The characters and setting are very near and dear to my heart, so I think it would be wonderful to do.

GotNext: You were credited as "Phenix Rie" in a lot of your early works. The other staff, too, often went under pseudonyms. Why was that? How were these names chosen?

Kodama: Back in the day, Sega said we couldn't show our real names, thus everyone went under nicknames in the game credits. As for the reason behind the name...agh, it's so embarassing! It's a secret! [laughs]

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