Yu Suzuki

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Yu Suzuki.jpg
Yu Suzuki
Company(ies): Sega of Japan
Role(s): Programmer, Producer, Director, Executive

Yu Suzuki (鈴木 裕), AM2's star developer, is one of the most highly-regarded visionaries in the industry. He joined Sega in 1983 as a programmer, and two years later he created Hang-On, the first simulation arcade game. Suzuki has always tried to push the limits of arcade hardware. In the 1980s, he developed Super Scaler technology that manipulated sprites and backgrounds to produce three-dimensional graphics and gameplay for games like Hang-On, OutRun, Space Harrier, After Burner and Power Drift; these games also innovated in terms of gameplay, controls, and cabinet designs, such as the fully interactive Hang-On cabinet where the player sits on and controls a replica motorbike, and moving hydraulic cockpit cabinets with analog fight-stick controls. He was involved in developing the cutting-edge Sega Model 1 arcade board, and developed the first games for it. With the Model 1, Suzuki made his foray into the world of polygons, and the result was Virtua Racing; this F1 racing simulator was completely rendered in 3D, and allowed players to experience the action from four different camera angles.

Suzuki's next Model 1 masterpiece was the acclaimed Virtua Fighter in 1993. It was the very first 3D fighting game, and featured what is considered to be one of the deepest fighting engines ever. Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter helped popularize 3D polygon graphics, with their dynamic camera systems, polygonal human characters, and physics engines, while Virtua Fighter 2 on the Sega Model 2 took it further with texture-mapped characters and motion-capture animation. Virtua Fighter’s impact was such that it is housed in the Smithsonian Institution's Permanent Research Collection on Information Technology Innovation. He continued to advance 3D graphics and gameplay, working on the Model 2 and Model 3 systems, along with games for them.

In 1999, Yu Suzuki released Shenmue, the first major original title he directed for a home console. Five years in the making, Shenmue on the Dreamcast featured open-world 3D environments, a sweeping story, multiple gameplay elements, quick-time events, and an unprecedented level of detail. Shenmue marked the start of a new genre, dubbed by Suzuki as FREE, or Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment. The story, graphics, environment, and the innovative system, exceeded those of many previous games. Shenmue was the most expensive game to be developed, with the whole project costing $47-70 million (until it was surpassed by Grand Theft Auto IV, which cost roughly $100 million). The same year, he also produced the arcade game Outtrigger, the first hero shooter.

In 2003, Suzuki became the sixth person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences' Hall of Fame. On April 1, 2009, Suzuki retired from Sega. Since then he now runs his own game company, YS NET Inc. (established November 11, 2008), but still retains a good relationship with Sega. In 2014, The List named him as one of the top ten game designers of all time, for "striving towards realistic 3D gaming".


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Cited as one of the most influential game designers, he is often considered Sega's answer to Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto. Suzuki led the development for a number of important games at Sega AM2, helping to revolutionize the video game industry in several ways. Suzuki felt his three most important achievements were starting the trend of "Taikan" games (three-dimensional arcade games with motion-based cabinets) in the 1980s, his role in the game industry's shift from 2D to 3D during the 1980s to 1990s, and Shenmue's influence on modern games in the 2000s.[1]

Regarding his game design philosophy, Suzuki stated that the "difference between Miyamoto-san and I is that he takes the same game and takes it deeper and deeper, like with the Mario series," while "I like to work on different games and concepts. I don't like doing the same thing. The same goes for the hardware. I like to change the hardware I work with."[2] Suzuki mostly programmed his games in more difficult assembly language, as opposed to the less difficult, easier C language. According to Suzuki, "C was really slow back then. The fastest program that I used was 200 times faster than C."[3]


Suzuki joined Sega Enterprises in 1983 as a programmer. In his first year, he created a 2D boxing arcade game called Champion Boxing, which he designed and coded (Retro Gamer, №145, p22). It was later ported to Sega's first home game console, the SG-1000, and then ported to the arcades in 1984. He helped develop it along with Rieko Kodama.

Under the mantle of Sega's development studio AM2, Suzuki began working on an original arcade game, Hang-On, released in 1985 with a motion-controlled motorbike cabinet. Suzuki's intention behind the game's motion controls was to make arcade games more accessible to casual users. Suzuki and AM2 followed Hang-On with the 1985 third-person shooter Space Harrier, which featured an analog flight stick for movement of both the game character and the hydraulic arcade cockpit cabinet. Showing his interest in Ferraris, Suzuki created the street racing/driving simulator Out Run, which released in 1986 with a car-like hydraulic cabinet that moved with the player's racing wheel. He followed it with the jet fighting After Burner games, also running on hydraulic motion cabinets. The success of these games established Suzuki as the leading arcade game designer at the time.[4] This new emphasis on motion-based simulation experiences revitalized the arcade game industry in the late 1980s, helped keep the arcades alive decades later with dancing games like Konami's Bemani franchise, and laid the foundations for console gaming's much later motion control boom (led by Nintendo's Wii and then Microsoft's Xbox Kinect).

Suzuki had been interested in 3D technology since his days in college. Running on the Sega Hang-On hardware, Hang-On was the first game for Sega's Super Scaler arcade technology. His approach to three-dimensional sprite/tile/background scaling was handled in a similar manner to textures in later texture-mapped polygonal 3D games of the 1990s.[5] Suzuki stated that his "designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D."[6] Out Run, with its Sega OutRun hardware, introduced third-person road gradients to the engine, giving more depth to its racing gameplay. After Burner, with its Sega X Board hardware, introduced sprite/texture rotation techniques. The following year, the Sega Y Board games Galaxy Force and Power Drift (the first kart racing game) featured more advanced sprite/texture manipulation techniques. His Super Scaler technology was the basis for the sprite/texture/background manipulation technologies later developed for home systems, including the Neo-Geo's sprite-scaling, the SNES console's Mode 7, and the ray casting engines of computer FPS games like Wolfenstein 3D and Doom.


Suzuki brought out spiritual sequels to After Burner: G-LOC (1990) and Strike Fighter (1991). They were a culmination of his Super Scaler technology, featuring advanced sprite/texture scaling, rotation and manipulation techniques that anticipated the look of early 3D texture-mapping; similar techniques were later used by the Sega Saturn's VDP2 graphics processor. G-LOC was also a culmination of his work on arcade cabinet design, with its fully 360-degree rotating R360 cabinet.

In the early 1990s, he helped popularize 3D polygon graphics with the Virtua games, which began on the Sega Model series of arcade systems. Suzuki and AM2 were involved with the development of the Sega Model 1 arcade system. When they began developing the Model 1 development board, a piece of hardware capable of generating 3D polygon graphics, they began developing games for it. It debuted with the 3D Formula 1 racer Virtua Racing, which Suzuki began developing in 1991, before Sega released it in 1992. It introduced a dynamic 3D camera system, which can be changed between multiple angles/perspectives, and can pan and rotate around the environment during replays. It was also the first game to render humans (NPCs such as the driving teams and spectators) with polygons in a fully 3D environment. It helped popularize polygonal 3D gaming, and set the template for 3D arcade racers. In 1993, Suzuki built on the same engine to create Virtua Fighter, the first 3D fighting game. It introduced relatively detailed, recognizably human, 3D player characters, and a gameplay format that would become the template for 3D fighting games, in much the same way Street Fighter II was for 2D fighters. Next Generation, in 1995, stated Virtua Fighter "epitomizes Suzuki's skill of finding the perfect blend of state-of-the-art technology with solid gameplay".[7] Virtua Fighter was a breakthrough for 3D gaming, as the first game to implement 3D polygonal human characters in a useful way, with recognizable graphical details (such as the eyes, ears, nose and fingers), and with animations and reactions based on an early physics engine.

Yu Suzuki continued making significant advances in 3D gaming. He led the development of the Sega Model 2 arcade hardware. In 1993, he debuted the Sega Model 2 with Daytona USA, which featured the use of texture mapping and introduced texture filtering, producing graphics that were, according to IGN, "light-years ahead of anything anyone had seen."[8] In 1994, he created Virtua Fighter 2, which introduced filtered, texture-mapped characters, and motion capature animation technology. Suzuki noted that the game's texture-mapping technology was limited to the military and cost millions, which his AM2 team acquired and used to create a much cheaper affordable graphics chip for the Model 2 that could be mass-produced, making mass-produced texture-mapping possible for the game industry. Virtua Fighter 2 was also known for its character animations, which were produced using motion capture technology that had previously never been used by the game industry.[9] The same year, he produced Virtua Cop, which revolutionized the light-gun shooter genre with a new 3D first-person rail shooter format and also inspired first-person shooters such as GoldenEye 007. The next year, he produced the Model 2 fighting game Fighting Vipers (1995), which introduced destructible environments and destructible clothing. He was then involved with the development of the Sega Model 3 arcade hardware and its debut title Virtua Fighter 3 (1996), featuring a groundbreaking graphics engine with advances like specular shading, T&L lighting, cloth physics, particle effects, inverse kinematics, facial animation, eye movement and multi-sample anti-aliasing. Suzuki also oversaw most of the home console conversions of AM2's arcade games during this time.

In 1995, Suzuki began work on his first major original console project, The Old Man and The Peach Tree, which was intended to be the first 3D, third-person, open-world game, a role-playing game set in China, for the Sega Saturn. By 1996, this eventually project had evolved into Virtua Fighter RPG, a cinematic tech demo of which was produced for the Saturn. This project then moved to the Dreamcast and eventually developed into his magnum opus, Shenmue. With the game's 1998 demo, he described the game's open-world "FREE" gameplay, based on the interactivity and freedom he wanted to give to the player. Suzuki intended to achieve this by simulating aspects of real life through the game, such as the day and night system, real-time variable weather effects (unheard of at the time), hundreds of fully-voiced non-player characters with their own daily schedules, quick-time events, and various other interactive elements such as vending machines, mini-games at arcades, and convenience stores. The game also revived and modernized the Quick Time Event mechanic, and coined a name for it, "QTE". The mechanic has since appeared in many later titles, including popular action games such as Resident Evil 4, 'God of War,[10] Uncharted, Heavy Rain, and The Last of Us. Shenmue also influenced later Final Fantasy games. Suzuki's arcade game Ferrari F355 Challenge also released in 1999. Rubens Barrichello of the F1 Team Ferrari was quoted by Suzuki to "have considered to purchase one for practicing."[11][12] The same year, he also produced the arcade game Outtrigger, the first hero shooter.


Despite earning critical acclaim, Shenmue was unable to recoup its high budget. The commercial failure of Shenmue and its even larger sequel Shenmue II, led to the cancellation of Shenmue III and eventually led to Suzuki slowly fading away from the limelight of the video game industry. After the commercial failure of the Shenmue games, Suzuki returned to developing arcade games. He directed Virtua Fighter 4, which released in 2001. He was also involved in the development of its Sega NAOMI 2 arcade hardware.[13]

In 2003, Yu Suzuki, along with Hiroshi Kataoka, produced sequels for OutRun and Virtua Cop, entitled OutRun 2 and Virtua Cop 3, respectively. As sequels to classics, these games were well-received. He also worked on innovative projects that were eventually pulled. The Dreamcast game Propeller Arena was a multiplayer deathmatch based flight sim due for release in September 2001, but was cancelled following the 9/11 attacks. Suzuki left AM2 to form a new Studio eventually named DigitalRex in 2004.

At DigitalRex, Yu Suzuki worked on 4 games: Psy-Phi, Shenmue Online, Sega Race TV, and an unannounced fantasy sports game. Shenmue Online, which was a title in the MMO genre, along with the sports game, were cancelled during development, with Shenmue Online reportedly cancelled in 2007. PsyPhi, the first touch-controlled arcade fighting game, was initially delayed due to development shifting from Sega Chihiro to Sega Lindbergh arcade boards.[14] After some location testing in 2005, Sega eventually pulled Psy-Phi from arcades and never gave it a wide release. After numerous problems in development, Shenmue Online was also quietly cancelled.[15] After four years away from AM2, Yu Suzuki released his first game an arcade racing game titled Sega Race TV, which was released under the studio name AM plus. The game was given a limited release. After the release of the game, Suzuki resumed non-executive work as an adviser for AM2.

Production history

Song credits

Space Harrier (Arcade version)

  • Ida — Music & Arrangement
  • Valda — Music & Arrangement


Magazine articles

Main article: Yu Suzuki/Magazine articles.



  1. (archived: 2014-06-09 05:49)
  3. (archived: 2013-11-13 17:41)
  6. (archived: 2013-11-13 17:41)
  13. Next Generation, "May 2001" (US; 2001-04-17), page 61
  16. File:VirtuaF1_Saturn_JP_SSOpening.pdf
  17. File:Daytonausa sat us manual.pdf, page 18
  18. File:VirtuaC1 Saturn JP SSEnding.pdf
  19. File:VirtuaF2_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  20. File:VirtuaFR_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  21. File:Vfremix sat us manual.pdf, page 26
  22. File:VirtuaC2 Saturn JP SSOpening.pdf
  23. File:FightingV Saturn JP SSEnding.pdf
  24. File:VFCGP05_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  25. File:VFCGP06_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  26. File:VFCGP07_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  27. File:VFCGP08_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  28. File:VirtuaFK_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  29. File:VFCGP10_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  30. File:VFCGP09_Saturn_JP_SSEnding.pdf
  31. File:F355Challenge_PS2_JP_SSCredits.pdf