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Yoshiaki Koizumi is a Nintendo veteran who has worked on some of Nintendo's best selling and critically acclaimed video games, from his beginning on The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past to his role as director in games like Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy. He has yet to work on a game that is critically panned; all of his video games are beloved by both critics and fans alike.
Yoshiaki Koizumi went to college hoping to become a movie director. His first video game experience was that of Super Mario Bros. on the Famicom. He explained that he was terrible at it, and that he had a hard time getting past the first level. He explained that he found The Legend of Zelda, also on the Famicom, much easier due to the fact that you don't automatically die after being attacked by an enemy. In college he was studying film, drama, animation and storyboarding. While he desired to be involved with movies, he ended up going to Nintendo after gaining the opportunity. He had always wished to make drama, and thought that games could potentially offer this. Though his first video game he worked on, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, would offer this desire he had since he had only worked on the game's manual and some of the game's artwork. According to him Nintendo was a perfect place to work due to it being close to his university, Osaka University of Arts.
After A Link to the Past Koizumi went on to create the artwork for Super Mario Kart. As before his role wasn't very large, though he took it anyway. It wasn't until the Game Boy game The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening would he do any actual in-game work. For this game he played the role of script writer along with co-worker Kensuke Tanabe. Needless to say both went on to become prominent figures within Nintendo. According to Koizumi, he did the entire story for the game, including the dream and island concept. He said that he pretty much had the freedom to do what he wanted as long as it "didn't make [Mario creator Shigeru] Miyamoto angry". Koizumi was told by his superiors that story shouldn't play a major role in a video game, though because of Koizumi's background he sneaked in bits of story elements without them knowing.
After Link's Awakening was released, Koizumi played a minor role in the SNES title Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, though one that is ultimately memorable to the player. This was the CG design that was incorporated in the game. It is widely known that Shigeru Miyamoto refused to use CG in the gameplay of Yoshi's Island due for his dislike of Donkey Kong Country, and instead opted for the cartoonish look that is featured in the game despite Nintendo wanting him to use CG. So, to incorporate some CG they went to Koizumi to make some of the characters and environments of a few movie segments using CG.
After Yoshi's Island Koizumi went on to his biggest role yet as assistant director for Super Mario 64 (Shigeru Miyamoto was the game director while Takashi Tezuka was, along with Koizumi, an assistant director). Super Mario 64 was an important title due to introducing millions of gamers to 3D gaming. Being assigned as assistant director, Koizumi would have to prove that he was up to the task of creating what would be one of the most astonishing titles of all time under the supervision of Shigeru Miyamoto (this would be Miyamoto's last game as director). Koizumi, who previously worked on 3D animation with Yoshi's Island, created the first 3D model of Mario for the game. Koizumi and Miyamoto found that they would be up after midnight discussing simple maneuvers that Mario would perform such as swimming. According to Koizumi, the two of them were up till 2 in the morning discussing how Mario would swim. Miyamoto couldn't explain in words what he was talking about, so he started to do the motions on his chair.
During development of Super Mario 64, Miyamoto, Tezuka and Koizumi worked tirelessly on deciding a perfect camera angle. There were two prominent options including behind Mario and to the side of Mario. While the latter seems confusing now, one must consider that 3D games were virtually unexplored at the time, and knowing which angel was right would prove to be a challenge that they overcame when they chose to position the camera behind the protagonist and have it follow Mario. This camera system would prove the be the most successful in later games released by virtually all companies.
Koizumi would next go on to direct, along with various others, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Ocarina of Time had multiple directors including Tora Osawa, Yoichi Yamada, Eiji Aonuma, and of course Yoshiaki Koizumi. In Majora's Mask, just the latter two would direct. Ultimately the two would separate come the following games as Eiji Aonuma headed the Zelda team while Koizumi headed the Mario team when Super Mario Sunshine and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker were in development (though Koizumi was one of nine assistant directors on Wind Waker).
After work on Majora's Mask, Koizumi's next task was to be the lead director of Super Mario Sunshine along with Kenta Usui. Super Mario Sunshine featured one prominent theme - water. This theme was the basis for what all of the game's stages would be based off of. Along with this theme came a new device that Mario would use called F.L.U.D.D.. In development there were around 10 different models for the device, and the one they ultimately chose was one that the developers didn't exactly favor over the bunch, but felt that it was the one that would fit most in the Mario universe.
After his work on Sunshine, Nintendo opened up a development studio in Tokyo to find new employeees, particularly those who lived in Tokyo who didn't want to move to Kyoto. Nintendo sent Yoshiaki Koizumi to work at this new Tokyo branch, as the new company needed someone from Kyoto who's experienced with game development. The first game they would work on would deliver to fans what they wanted: a classic 2D title with major innovations. It would come in the form of Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. Koizumi would direct the title which made use of the DK Bongos used in Donkey Konga. It would only require two buttons to be used, and due to this interesting interface it became a hit with critics, though didn't fare as well as they might have hoped once it reached the market. EAD Tokyo's next game, however, would soar to the top of the charts and send Mario to an unexplored area: the outer reaches of space.
Super Mario Galaxy was confirmed and shown during the steady onslaught of announcements during 2006's E3, and pretty much got lost in the bunch. However, upon it's late 2007 release date, it became the highest rated game of they year, winning multiple awards and becoming a best seller. Koizumi, who directed the game, had to overcome many hardships while directing this new title, and had to make sure that it was up the the players' expectations. It was, and to date the game is the third highest rated title of all time.
A few years later in 2010, Nintendo EAD Tokyo developed a sequel to the game, under the title Super Mario Galaxy 2. Yoshiaki Koizumi was the producer of this title, which upon release was just as critically acclaimed as the first. In its first week on sale, Super Mario Galaxy 2 performed better than Super Mario Galaxy did (however, it has yet to exceed or match its predecessor's sales).