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Yu Suzuki's five finest moments

Today is a sad day for Sega fans, as 50-year-old creative genius Yu Suzuki has stepped down from his post as R&D Creative Officer at Sega, taking up a much-diminished role as R&D manager at a smaller arcade division, AM Plus.

Maybe that doesn't bother you. Maybe you don't even know who he is. Well, as a comparison, if Nintendo fans heard that Shigeru Miyamoto was retiring (erm... despite all that Wii Fit/Music nonsense), the reaction would likely be the same.

So, as a tribute to one of the greatest visionaries the industry has seen (or is ever likely to see), and as a history lesson for anyone too young to remember, here are five of Yu Suzuki's greatest moments.

5) Creating the first proper 3D racing game
Back in 1992, the console wars were raging between Genesis and SNES. 2D games were getting really good, but in the arcade there was something new. Something exciting. Something so goddamn unbelievable we stood slack-jawed in awe as we saw the camera whoosh down through the rollover bar of an F1 racer, emerging behind the wheel without the slightest break in gameplay. It was the dawn of proper 3D gaming. And it was Yu Suzuki who made it wonderful.


Above: Not a patch on the graphics of GT5: Prologue, but plays better

Sure, we'd had some 3D games before, like Hard Drivin', but never like this. Never with ultra fast-moving 60 frames per second graphics. Never with eight players linked up over huge cabinets that incorporated extra monitors with TV-style camera views so spectators could enjoy the action too.

What's even more amazing is that the game still plays like a dream. While the pop-up in the distance, total absence of texturing (everything's flat-shaded with colour) and blocky scenery may look basic by today's standards, the track design, car handling and crash animations are still superb.


Above: Can you believe we got excited about a forest of triangles?

4) Coupling simplicity with cutting edge technology in Virtua Fighter
The same hardware that powered Virtua Racing was used for another of Yu Suzuki's games before the Model 2 arcade board superceded it, giving us the likes of Daytona USA (another of Suzuki's creations) and Sega Rally from AM#3. But before it was done, it gave us a real first. A 3D fighting game.

The impact this had on the gaming landscape cannot be underestimated. What you're looking at in the image below isn't just the face of Akira - it was the face of the future. Suddenly the pipe dream of 3D gameplay was here, and all the doors were flung wide open. Tekken and Soul Calibur would likely not exist as we know them if Yu Suzuki hadn't created Virtua Fighter.


Above: Akira is still the main man in Virtua Fighter, only less pointy

But the game won't only be remembered for its 3D graphics. No, another of Suzuki's other gameplay features became a mainstay of Sega arcade games over the years - simplicity of control. It doesn't sound like much, perhaps even restrictive to give a fighting game just one punch button, one kick button and a button to block, but that's why the series was so successful.

The depth lies underneath, accessible through complex timing, directional inputs and combination strikes, yet the interface is so simple anybody can play and have fun - and that's exactly what Sega was all about.


Above: The Virtua Fighter 2 arcade cabinet. Seems 3 is a magic number

That formula may have worked just fine when we played home conversions on our Saturns and Dreamcasts, but it was the arcade where Suzuki truly excelled...

17 comments

  • boondocks50 - February 11, 2010 10:51 a.m.

    @ twishart: thats one of the saddest things ive ever heard, shenmue is one of 2 games that made me fall in love with video games, the other being grandia 2, goodbye Yu Suzuki and thank you!
  • JoelyFletcher - April 16, 2009 2:40 p.m.

    Shenmue...Wow
  • aktirak - April 12, 2009 5:40 p.m.

    We can't also forget Space Harrier,Virtual-Cop and Power Drift.Its incredible to see the power house that Yu Suzuki was along side Yuji Naka (Sonic creator) and still SEGA could not survived any of the console wars they fought. @d0x: SEGA had it coming when thay decline selling the company to Microsoft back when the DC was giving sings of dying. dont get me wrong I used to own Master System,Genesis,Saturn and Dreamcast(with I still own the Saturn and DC specially with all the import games that could be found over the net) and I love them but buisness are buisness.
  • drunation - April 7, 2009 6:12 p.m.

    This is great, can anyone suggest websites or cd's that might have some of these tracks? I have been looking for like a zelda, mega man, earthbound kind of cd for a while now.
  • Thequestion 121 - April 7, 2009 4:42 p.m.

    Man, it's a shame someone so influential stepped down in Sega.
  • zeden - April 7, 2009 10:02 a.m.

    "The game also introduced QTE events to the world" Sorry to pull the pedant card, but I'm a bit bored of seeing this idea trotted out. Have you by chance heard of Die Hard Arcade? The fantastic and mostly forgotten 3d Streets of Rage type arcade game? That featured QTE between stages years before Shen Mue hit shelves.
  • Montag - April 6, 2009 11:44 p.m.

    I have always told people Virtua Racing is one of the best drivers out there!!! The first game where you could drift, loved it in the arcade, loved in on the Megadrive and outrageous on the Saturn! Still to this day the only fighter I have ever really played is Virtua Fighter. Bet you didn't know it even appeared on the Master System. I was a sega bod, never a nintendo
  • Red - April 6, 2009 10:30 p.m.

    I'll be the first to admit the games haven't aged well, but nobody can deny the quality they both had. I loved the Shenmue games. They felt like an alternate reality to me when I was a kid. It really is depressing the game will never be concluded.
  • twishart - April 6, 2009 9:47 p.m.

    Shenmue was the first game my wife beat the FUCK out of before I even got near it. She still asks me on a regular basis if I've heard anything about any sequels. I don't have the heart to break it to her, I just say I don't know... :(
  • MisterAdequate - April 6, 2009 5:42 p.m.

    Yu Suzuki is arguably the reason I moved from thinking videogames were a fun pastime to them being my primary hobby that I love above all others. Here's to Yu.
  • JohnDD - April 6, 2009 4:57 p.m.

    Yu Suzuki is a God: cannot and will not forget - EVER - playing 8-Player Daytona in the arcades. Sega arcade games were sublime - something that Nintendo only very rarely entered, which means that, to me, Sega wins.
  • earthvampire - April 6, 2009 4:53 p.m.

    i remember playing outrun as a child and thinking gaming couldent get much better, even now when im in an arcade that still has an outrun cabinet left there as a reminder of the good old days i have to get on it and play it^^. we will miis you yu
  • kenny disco - April 6, 2009 4:35 p.m.

    blimey, thats most of my formative years there..
  • d0x - April 7, 2009 6:22 p.m.

    This breaks my gamer heart. It was so damn sad when Sammie bought Sega and shelved Suzuki. Some of my best gaming memories were playing his games. Whether it was the first time seeing Daytona USA at the arcades, playing any of his Saturn fighting games, or having my mind blown away by Shenmue. This is truly terrible news and if it wasnt for Sammies mismanagement of everything Sega he would still be making incredible games for the world to play. Sammie...go to hell and burn.
  • TehKnuck - April 7, 2009 1:31 a.m.

    I cry myself to sleep every night I don't get to play Shenmue III.
  • ssj4raditz - April 6, 2009 7:50 p.m.

    Shenmue was my second Dreamcast game. Such fond memories! You will be missed, Mr. Suzuki.
  • iluvmyDS - April 6, 2009 4:55 p.m.

    I was there for all of this. I can't believe he's stepping down.

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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