Former Konami employees talk about the work of the elusive Castlevania creator

Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

Castlevania’s creator, Hitoshi Akamatsu, is notoriously difficult 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 disappeared from the industry. Even then, Akamatsu was never inclined to interviews and is shrouded in secrets.

However, in the latest issue of Wireframe magazine, the team managed to follow the life and work of the creator and interview some of the employees who worked with him at Konami and beyond. We’ve taken a few excerpts from issue #62, but we strongly encourage you to read the entire article and magazine for some fascinating insights into the gaming industry, past and present.

Thanks to the efforts of the Wireframe staff, we now have a more accurate picture of Akamatsu’s merits. Although we already know that he worked as a director on The Goonies II and as a programmer on the non-canon sequel Metal Gear, Snake’s revengefew other projects were previously known.

One person Wireframe spoke to was former Konami producer Masahiro Inoue. He revealed that Akamatsu continued to work Finalizer – super transformationwhich was introduced in 1985 as an uncredited programmer in Japanese arcades.

Masahiro Inoue is a former producer who worked at Konami on arcade games such as Gyruss, Crime Fighters, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He first met Akamatsu in 1983 at Konami’s original headquarters in Osaka, where they both worked on arcade games, and was able to give us a little more information about the mysterious developer. For example, according to Inoue, before working on Castlevania, Akamatsu was working on a game called Finalizer – Super Transformation, a vertical shooter that was 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, who organized shmuplations, which we summarized in 2019:

After the release of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse and its disappointing sales compared to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, he moved to Konami’s arcade division, where he assisted with the side-scrolling arcade game surprise attackand Arcade Beat ’em Up from 1992 asterix.

After the game inspired by French comics, Akamatsu should work on another arcade game, slam dunkbut co-director Masaaki Kukino confirmed that he left the project mid-production.

However, from our conversations with former employees, it appears that he encountered difficulties when he rejoined Konami’s arcade division. As Kukino told us, “I respected him back then [we] worked on the same team because of what he and the Castlevania team have achieved and because he’s been in the business two years longer than me. But as development progressed, I realized that he wasn’t cut out to be a team leader because he couldn’t make up his mind. He is considered the director of [Astérix] Game he and I teamed up to make, but really I’m the one who really made all the decisions and ran the game.”

Akamatsu worked on two more games after that, but has since retired from the industry. Wireframe filled in a lot of the gaps in the Castlevania director’s story, but whether there’s anything else remains to be seen. We haven’t mentioned all the games Castlevania’s father worked on here, but the amount Akamatsu has shifted between projects sheds some light on his turbulent time at Konami.

You can download issue #62 of Wireframe from the link below. If you’ve tried any of the games Akamatsu has been working on in Japanese arcades (or otherwise), let us know! Former Konami employees talk about the work of the elusive Castlevania creator

Fry Electronics Team

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