Rieko Kodama

From Sega Retro

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Rieko Kodama
Place of birth: Kanagawa, Japan
Date of birth: 1963-05-23
Date of death: 2022-05-09[1] (age 58)
Employment history:
Role(s): Designer, Director, Producer
Twitter: @phoenix_rie

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Rieko Kodama (小玉 理恵子) was a major designer for the original Phantasy Star series. By the time her work on the Phantasy Star games had concluded, Kodama had taken on directorial roles within her department (for Phantasy Star IV and later Magic Knight Rayearth) and would later act as a producer for titles including Skies of Arcadia and the 2005 incarnation of Altered Beast.

Kodama credited herself as Phoenix Rie, Phenix Rie, or some close variation in many of her early works. This was because at the time Sega did not allow developers to place their real names in their games.[6] The pseudonym was based on the manga character Phoenix Ikki from Saint Seiya.[7][8] It is also a commonly believed theory that she used the pseudonym La-Rie.

She was mentored by Yoshiki Kawasaki in her first year at Sega.[9]


SG-1000/Master System

Kodama was hired by Sega in 1984 through one of her colleagues who was already employed there. [10] She originally thought she was going to be working on advertising and graphic design, but after seeing the game development department, she felt that would be fun as well.[10][11] At the time, the research & development department, was split into 3 sections: design (art in the west), programming (which also housed sound designers) and planning (game design/direction in the west). Her art section was responsible for in-game art, packaging and advertisement, and arcade cabinet designs.[11]

Her first job was as character designer for the arcade game Champion Boxing,[12][13] released about 6 months after she joined, and during development she learned how to create graphics from senior artist[11] Yoshiki Kawasaki, the sprite artist behind Flicky. [14] She continued to work on other arcade games such as Sega Ninja. Because development times were short and Sega was low on design staff, Kodama would sometimes work on five to six games at once. She designed the art for Alex Kidd in Miracle World[10] was "deeply involved" with the arcade and Master System versions of Quartet,[15] and created art for Great Baseball[12] and the original Master System version of Fantasy Zone II: The Tears of Opa-Opa.[13] Kodama received small requests to design assets for other projects on a daily basis, such as the dragon from Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord and an enemy for the SG-1000 port for The Black Onyx.[10] Kodama served as editor for the Japanese Sega newsletter Sega Players Enjoy Club.[16][14]

Phantasy Star series

Rieko Kodama and Yuji Naka, posing with the original Phantasy Star for 2003's Sega Ages 2500 Series Vol. 1: Phantasy Star Generation: 1.

With the popularity of Enix's Dragon Quest role-playing game series on the Famicom in the mid-1980s, Sega formed a team of several people to develop a competing RPG for the Master System, titled Phantasy Star. Kodama served as the main artist for the game, designing the characters, the 2D environments, the battle screen backgrounds, non-playable characters, and other details.[10] Star Wars was one of Kodama's favorite film series and was a significant inspiration for her when designing artwork for Phantasy Star. She enjoyed the way Star Wars took elements from Japanese and Asian culture and infused it with a science fiction setting. Following this notion, she gave the science fiction world of Phantasy Star a Western folklore feel and gave the characters medieval clothes.[15][10]

One of the key design philosophies for Phantasy Star was to do things differently from existing RPGs, particularly the Dragon Quest series which she believed was too simple and pure of a fantasy world.[10] [17] One such challenge to differentiate Phantasy Star was to create a female hero.[17] The female protagonist Alis, and another character, Lutz, were designed by Kodama. Other characters, as well as the game's monsters, were designed by other people.[10] In the original story drafts, Lutz was written as intersex, and could become either male or female later in the game. She thought this was interesting, so chose to give Lutz an androgynous appearance in the final game.[14] In this game and later Phantasy Star games, Kodama enjoyed creating a cast of characters uniting for a common purpose, regardless of gender, species, or home planet.[17]

Phantasy Star was a critical and commercial success and a benchmark title for both the industry and the RPG genre. In later years, Kodama continued her work on the Phantasy Star series. She again led the graphic design for Phantasy Star II, helped during the planning stages of Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom.[6] and later directed Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium.[13][15] While she had some input on character and plot direction on previous titles such as the original Phantasy Star, this had only been within her job description, and for this title she wanted to be involved in all aspects of the game. She reprised her role as illustrator, but for the first, was involved with bug testing and sound supervision.[11] She also supervised the development of both Sega Saturn and Game Boy Advance compilations named Phantasy Star Collection as well as remakes of Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star II for the PlayStation 2.[6]

Mega Drive/Saturn

Statue of Liberty in Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi.

With the Sega Mega Drive approaching, Rieko Kodama became one of the developers assigned to the console before it was finalized, so was present for discussions of how many colours it would support. Her releases for the platform began with a port of Altered Beast and the Miracle World sequel Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle, both developed in 3 months.[11][18] This turn of the decade had the largest number of her works released, with up to 6 per year, gradually slowing down as games grew in complexity and size and she stopped working on Master System games.[11]

Although it may seem a small job without context, a single major contribution was to Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, where she drew the Statue of Liberty, drawn on several 2 meter (6.56 feet) sheets of paper lined up together. While easy enough to draw, it took a month to fully create. She has also joked about how she only had a single reference to photo to work off of, and would have liked to somehow be transported to America for research, maybe by helicopter.[19][12] Kodama also drew backgrounds for the game,[19] and this was followed up by working on Sonic the Hedgehog, where she drew the backgrounds for Labyrinth Zone and Star Light Zone.[11] She would return for the sequel to once again create zone art.[20]

After her success in directing Phantasy Star IV, she joined Sega RPG Production,[11] and in July 1994 was reported to be working on an RPG for the 32X[21]. This game was either cancelled or more morphed into Magic Knight Rayearth, an RPG she directed for the Sega Saturn based on the manga series of the same name.[13][15] She was involved in all aspects of the game including sales and marketing.[7] She could also make use of her art history to emphasize certain elements that would set the game apart, such as the character's facial expressions and lip synching during cutscenes or for the save system to use a a diary, illustrated by whicever character the player chooses to save with, which could further emphasize the character's personality.[22] Directly after Magic Knight Rayearth's release, RPG Production was dissolved, soon reforming as Sega CS2,[11][23] the department from where she produced Deep Fear.

Dreamcast & beyond

Rieko Kodama developing Skies of Arcadia.

Kodama continued as producer of CS2's director successors Sega Software R&D Dept. 7, Overworks and eventually Sega WOW. During the previous 2 iterations, she led the development of Skies of Arcadia, which released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2000.[24] As her first 3D RPG, Kodama felt her freedom of expression had expanded. The project began because her team wanted to create a completely 3D RPG for the Sega Saturn. The project was moved to the Dreamcast when the content became too large for the Saturn to process.[25] According to Kodama, a defining element during development was to not rely on advanced graphics and particularly the CGI movies that were popular in games at the time, which Kodama felt took control away from the player.[15][24] Kodama has stated that Skies of Arcadia along with the Phantasy Star series were her favorite projects she worked on.[15][6]

Rieko Kodama and other major developers behind Sega Ages (Nintendo Switch).

In the mid-2000s, Kodama served as producer on edutainment games for the Nintendo DS and PlayStation Portable.[17] Her last notable work was leading the production of the 7th Dragon series.[15] In 2018, she was the lead producer of the Sega Ages series.[26]


A memorial message dedicated to Kodama was included in the end credits of the Mega Drive Mini 2, which was released on October 27, 2022.[27] Addressing inquiries by IGN and Famitsu, Sega confirmed that Kodama had died on May 9, 2022, at 58 years old,[28][29] and initially refrained from a public announcement to respect her family's privacy.[30]

Production history



  • Naruhodo (2006-2008) — General credit for series

Magazine articles

Main article: Rieko Kodama/Magazine articles.


Some or all of the following content should be mirrored on Sega Retro (or Retro CDN).


Main article: Photos of Rieko Kodama

External links


  1. @nakayuji on Twitter (archive.today)
  2. https://sega.jp/fb/album/07_ps/interview1.html (Wayback Machine: 2022-04-07 07:41)
  3. File:Sega_Consumer_History_JP_EnterBrain_Book.pdf, page 58
  4. File:Sega_Consumer_History_JP_EnterBrain_Book.pdf, page 59
  5. Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 http://www.the-nextlevel.com/feature/interview-rieko-kodama (Wayback Machine: 2017-09-16 01:05)
  7. 7.0 7.1 https://www.destructoid.com/a-chat-with-sega-s-first-lady-of-rpgs-rieko-kodama-532348.phtml
  8. http://retronauts.com/article/1956/rieko-kodama-pioneering-sega-developer-dies-at-59
  9. https://shmuplations.com/phantasystar/
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 http://sega.jp/fb/album/07_ps/interview1.html (Wayback Machine: 2016-04-07 06:39)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 Sega Consumer History, Enterbrain
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Mega Drive Fan, "July 1991" (JP; 1991-06-08), page 75
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 http://www.sega-16.com/2004/08/sega-stars-rieko-kodama/
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 http://shmuplations.com/phantasystar/
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 ["Power Profiles: Rieko Kodama". Nintendo Power. No. 251. February 2010. pp. 80–82. "Power Profiles: Rieko Kodama". Nintendo Power. No. 251. February 2010. pp. 80–82.]
  16. Mega Drive Fan, "June 1991" (JP; 1991-05-08), page 83
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 http://www.g-wie-gorilla.de/content/view/161/18/ (Wayback Machine: 2013-12-12 11:15)
  18. Sega Saturn Magazine, "1998-11 (1998-04-10,17)" (JP; 1998-03-27), page 126
  19. 19.0 19.1 Sega Players Enjoy Club, "Vol. 7 Winter" (JP; 1990-11-30), page 9
  20. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Mega Drive)/Production credits
  21. Beep! MegaDrive, "July 1994" (JP; 1994-06-08), page 94
  22. Sega Saturn Magazine, "June 1995" (JP; 1995-05-08), page 101
  23. Sega Saturn Magazine, "1998-11 (1998-04-10,17)" (JP; 1998-03-27), page 125
  24. 24.0 24.1 http://archive.gamespy.com/tgs2002/skiesofarcadia/ (Wayback Machine: 2008-06-27 07:26)
  25. [Szczepaniak, John (2018). The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers Vol. 3. SMG Szczepaniak. pp. 338–339. Szczepaniak, John (2018). The Untold History of Japanese Game Developers Vol. 3. SMG Szczepaniak. pp. 338–339.]
  26. https://www.ndw.jp/2651-2/
  27. https://www.gameinformer.com/obituary/2022/10/27/rieko-kodama-pioneering-sega-developer-behind-phantasy-star-skies-of-arcadia
  28. https://www.famitsu.com/news/202210/27280651.html
  29. https://jp.ign.com/sega/63465/news/
  30. https://www.ign.com/articles/rieko-kodama-has-reportedly-died-sega
  31. File:Phantasy Star SMS credits.pdf
  32. File:Altered Beast MD credits.pdf
  33. File:Phantasy Star II MD credits.pdf
  34. File:Kujaku Ou 2 MD credits.pdf
  35. File:Mystic Defender MD credits.pdf
  36. File:Sorcerian MD credits.pdf
  37. File:Phantasy Star III MD credits.pdf
  38. File:Shadow Dancer MD credits.pdf
  39. File:Advanced Daisenryaku MD credits.pdf
  40. File:Sonic the Hedgehog MD credits.pdf
  41. File:Riddle Wired MD credits.png
  42. File:Tougi Ou King Colossus MD credits.pdf
  43. File:Super Monaco GP II MD credits.pdf
  44. File:Sonic the Hedgehog 2 MD credits.pdf
  45. File:Sonic CD MCD JP credits.pdf
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 46.3 46.4 File:Phantasy Star Sennenki no Owari ni MD credits.pdf
  47. File:Psiv md us manual.pdf, page 42
  48. File:Hybrid Front MD credits.pdf
  49. File:Mahou Kishi Rayearth Saturn credits.pdf
  50. File:Sonic CD PC DirectX good ending credits.pdf
  51. File:Deep Fear Saturn credits.pdf
  52. File:Phantasy Star Collection GBA manual.pdf, page 19
  53. File:SonicGenesis GBA US manual.pdf, page 18
  54. File:EternalArcadiaOST CD JP Booklet.pdf, page 7
  55. File:7thDragonOriginalSoundtrack CD JP Booklet.pdf, page 8