Yoshiaki Koizumi is an Executive Officer at Nintendo and one of the Deputy General Managers of Nintendo EPD. A long-time veteran at the company, Koizumi has worked as producer, director, animator and story writer on some of Nintendo's best selling and critically acclaimed video games, including various titles in the Mario and The Legend of Zelda series.
In recent years, he served as the main producer of Nintendo EPD Tokyo, which was behind the main 3D Mario titles. Currently he has the title of Deputy General Manager of Nintendo EPD, which he shares with Katsuya Eguchi. He was also involved as the General Producer of the Nintendo Switch console. His success as a producer led him to be promoted to an Executive Officer for Nintendo's board of directors.
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. According to him Nintendo was a perfect place to work due to it being close to his university, Osaka University of Arts.
His initial position at Nintendo was an illustrator for game packaging and instruction manuals, under training from Yoichi Kotabe. In the first video game he worked on, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, he conceived the title's backstory and the design of the Golden Goddesses that appeared in the game's manual. 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 where he would 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 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 rumored that Shigeru Miyamoto refused to use CG in the gameplay of Yoshi's Island, as he wanted make the game distinct from 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. After Koizumi showed Miyamoto some designs he made with an Amiga computer, he was brought into the project. 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 until late hours in the night discussing how Mario would perform his motions in the game, like swimming. 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. In Ocarina of Time, he worked with other directors, including Toru Osawa, Yoichi Yamada, and Eiji Aonuma. Koizumi's role in the game was environment construction, camera design, creating the 3D models of Link (both in child and adult form), Epona and Navi, making items and assisting with some events. He was also involved with the design of the Z-Targeting system, which would become a standard for 3D action titles. In Majora's Mask, he was director along with Aonuma; in this title, he came up with the basic scenario of Termina being threatened by the falling Moon and the stories of the inhabitants of Clock Town; his contributions for the story of Majora's Mask have been lauded as unique and distinctive in the whole franchise. Koizumi also came up with the various transformations of link via masks.
After work on Majora's Mask, he parted ways with Eiji Aonuma, as he went to head the Zelda team with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. 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. Koizumi also worked as one of nine assistant directors on Wind Waker.
After his work on Sunshine, Nintendo opened Nintendo EAD Tokyo, a development studio in Tokyo to find new employees, particularly those who lived in Tokyo who didn't want to move to Kyoto. Nintendo sent Yoshiaki Koizumi and Takao Shimizu 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.
After Super Mario Galaxy, Koizumi led the development team of Flipnote Studio, which was done in collaboration with Hatena; this application allowed users to create flipbook-style animations on the Nintendo DSi. Later, in 2010, Nintendo EAD Tokyo developed a sequel to Super Mario Galaxy, 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).
Yoshiaki Koizumi then became producer of Super Mario 3D Land, a 3D Mario game for the 3DS, which would release in 2011. In 2013, Yoshiaki Koizumi was the producer of Flipnote Studio 3D (a "sequel" of Flipnote Studio), Super Mario 3D World (the next main 3D Mario game for the Wii U and a spiritual sequel of Super Mario 3D Land) and NES Remix. In 2014, he was the producer of NES Remix 2, the sequel to the original NES Remix.
In 2015, Yoshiaki Koizumi was the supervisor of the remake of Majora's Mask, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D. In 2016, he was the producer of Miitopia. It was later revealed by Nintendo that Yoshiaki Koizumi was the General Producer of their first hybrid console, the Nintendo Switch, as well as the producer of the next 3D Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey, both releasing in 2017. In 2018, Yoshiaki Koizumi, Shinya Takahashi and Satoru Shibata were promoted to the position of Executive Director.
List of games
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991) - Printed Artwork
- Super Mario Kart (1992) - Illustrator
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (1993) - Script Writer
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island (1995) - CG Designer
- Super Mario 64 (1996) - Assistant Director, 3D Animator
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) - 3D System Director / Character Design
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (2000) - Game System Director
- Super Mario Sunshine (2002) - Director
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002) - Assistant Director
- Soulcalibur II (2003) - Nintendo Staff
- Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (2004) - Director
- Super Mario Galaxy (2007) - Director & Game Design
- New Play Control! Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (2008) - Producer
- Flipnote Studio (2008) - Producer, Director
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010) - Producer
- Super Mario 3D Land (2011) - Producer
- Flipnote Studio 3D (2013) - Producer
- Super Mario 3D World (2013) - Producer
- NES Remix (2013) - Producer
- NES Remix 2 (2014) - Producer
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D (2015) - Supervisor
- Super Mario Odyssey (2017) - Producer
- The Stretchers (2019) - Producer
- Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training for Nintendo Switch (2019)
- Super Smash Bros. (1999) - Original Game Staff (Mario, Lugi, Link, Yoshi Source Model)
- Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001) (Original Game Staff)
- Super Smash Bros. Brawl (2008)
- Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010)
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)
- Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS/Wii U (2014) - Supervisor (Original Games)
- Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (2014)
- Dillon's Dead-Heat Breakers (2018)
- Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Switch) (2018)
- Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (Switch / 3DS) (2018)
- Luigi's Mansion (3DS) (2018)
- Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (2018) - Original Game Supervisor
- The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Switch) (2019)
- Ring Fit Adventure (2019)
- Luigi's Mansion 3 (2019)
- Super Mario 64 – 1996 Developer Interview (translated by Shmuplations)
- 1101: Majora's Mask (translated by Glitterberri)
- N.O.M.: Super Mario Sunshine
- N.O.M.: Donkey Kong Jungle Beat
- Wired: Super Mario Galaxy
- Verge: Super Mario Odyssey