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Know Your Developers: indieszero

by Neal Ronaghan - May 21, 2018, 9:08 pm PDT
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The team behind Sushi Striker has ties to Nintendo that date back to the Satellaview.

Coming out in June is one of Nintendo’s first new franchises on Switch - the bizarre action puzzle game Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido. It’s an anime-inspired game involving a world where sushi is hard to find and people are out to destroy it for some reason. You control a budding sushi striker who journeys through the world, engaging in battles that involve eating a whole bunch of sushi and throwing plates at enemies in frantic combos. It’s nuts.

But what’s the story behind Sushi Striker? Where did it come from? Well, Nintendo so far hasn’t been forthcoming about the game’s origins. We do know it was co-developed by indieszero, a familiar name to those circulating the Nintendo orbit for the past decade. The Japanese developer has been around for more than 20 years and all that has been linked to Nintendo. It all starts with their origins.

Masunobu Suzui formed the company at the age of 24 in 1997, teaming up with developers that just emerged from the progenitor of what is now known as the Nintendo Game Seminar, a Japanese program where Nintendo works with students on small game projects. Indieszero’s first games were with Nintendo for the Nintendo Satellaview - that weird peripheral for the Super Famicom that let you download games online in the mid-’90s, because of course Nintendo would be that far ahead of the curve. Their most notable project from that era was Sutte Hakkun, an action puzzle game that seems heavily inspired by Lode Runner.

From there, the studio mostly flew under the radar for their first decade, until the outfit paired back up with Nintendo for Electroplankton - a weird Nintendo DS game that was more artwork than video game and even showed up at GDC and E3 in 2005. Indieszero worked with Toshio Iwai, an installation artist who had long experimented with the intersection of art and games. Electroplankton was primarily a musical toy on DS, making use of the system’s features to make peculiar sounds and songs. The game doesn’t even have a save feature, primarily because the goal was for the game to be experienced and not won. The DS cartridge was released in North America and Europe in 2006, and then later split up into chunks for DSiWare in 2009.

Aside from Electroplankton, indieszero stayed active on the DS, working with Marvelous on the first two Retro Game Challenge games (though the second never made it out of Japan). They also made Personal Trainer: Cooking and continued working with Nintendo on weird app-like games as they helped with the Nintendo 3DS Guide: Louvre project.

Their ties to Nintendo came back in a big way around the Wii U’s early days. Suzui and Nintendo’s Koichi Hayashida both were a part of the Nintendo Game Seminar back in the day. When Hayashida and a small team at EAD Tokyo were working on NES Remix and needed some more help to finish it up, he reached out to his old friend at indieszero and then the studio came on board to help out. The series was a success, spinning off into a full-fledged Wii U sequel as well as a 3DS release that mixed elements of both of the other games.

Similar to NES Remix, indieszero was contacted by Square Enix to help out with a kernel of an idea. Square Enix’s Ichiro Hazama wanted to make a Final Fantasy rhythm game on DS, but the system wasn’t up to the task. When the 3DS came along, Hazama pushed for the idea to be revisited and soon enough, indieszero came on board to help make Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. The game came out on 3DS in 2012 with a sequel, subtitled Curtain Call, coming out in 2014. Curtain Call is more or less the definitive Theatrhythm Final Fantasy game and it’s fantastic. Check it out if you never did - it even has Chrono Trigger and Bravely Default DLC. Sadly, indieszero’s third Theatrhythm game, based on Dragon Quest, never made it out of Japan.

After their time with Square Enix, indieszero came back to Nintendo, this time not handling their classics but trying to make their own classic. Sushi Striker: The Way of Sushido was revealed at E3 2017 as a 3DS game and then in early 2018, it was announced that the game was hitting Switch as well.

We’ll have to wait until we see the game’s credits to see who exactly at Nintendo helped co-develop Sushi Striker with indieszero, but it’s reasonable to guess that Suzui paired up with his old friend Hayashida again to make a fun game, just like they did back in their days as a part of the Nintendo Game Seminar.

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