In the latest installment of the toco toco TV, the beautiful and melancholy documentary series about Japanese game makers, Yoshiro Kimura talks about the experiences that have led to his small oeuvre of lovely, idiosyncratic games including the PS2's Chulip, Little King’s Story for the Wii, and most recently Million Onion Hotel.
In the beginning he recounts his journey to becoming a game developer including how he created an RPG during his senior year of college and was hired by Square Soft after sending it to them out of the blue. It was the first year the company had decided to take on recent graduates and after accepting Kimura they set him to work on Akitoshi Kawazu’s Romancing Saga 2 (only released in the West for smartphones last year and expected to come to the Vita sometime in December).
Kimura was responsible for the game’s maps. “It was my first project,” he says. “I had to draw game maps. I drew a tone of them. At some point I thought that this wasn’t the place for me to create my own games.” That’s when the designer decided to travel and try to liberate himself from the limits her perceived at the larger studio.
It was during this time that he apparently stumbled by a particularly odd sort of arcade somewhere in the mountains of Peru. “I found a place where an old man was lining up Super Nintendos on his stand, he would let children play for one cent,” says Kimura. “I was surprised to see that children were also playing video games on the other side of the world.”
It relates to the designer’s own experience with the Mikado Game Center in Shinkuku, Japan. Still full of the retro games, it’s a place Kimura talks about returning to throughout his work. “Mikado was somehow the best place to go to,” he says. “I came here really often. I can come hear during my lunch break or on my way back to home. There are plenty of games that I loved to play during my childhood. When I play them, I remember the fun I used to have playing before. I come here to cheer myself up. I think that’s what games should be for.”
It’s clearly a philosophy and sentiment that factored into all of his games. 2007's Chulip was literally a game where you navigate the world by kissing people, while last month’s Million Onion Hotel was a quirky phone game is every bit as whimsical.
You can watch the entire mini-documentary below. (Full disclosure: Kotaku’s video creator Tim Rogers worked for Kimura for a time, including on Million Onion Hotel).