The original Metroid on the Famicom Disk System and Nintendo Entertainment System had a small development team, each of whom played a special role in the creation of our favorite series. We decided to look into where they are now, and what they’ve accomplished since the first game.
Makoto Kanoh (“Kanoh”) deserves the most praise, because he’s the creator of Samus! He had a role in all three games of the original trilogy – Kanoh wrote the story of the first Metroid, designed Metroid II: Return of Samus, and produced Super Metroid. He now works as a supervisor at Nintendo.
Hiroji Kiyotake (“Kiyotake”) was the designer for Samus on the original Metroid. He came up with the Screw Attack and Samus’s last name, Aran, which comes from the birth name of the famous Brazilian football player Pelé – Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Kiyotake went on to direct Metroid II and make concept art for Metroid: Other M. He gave an interview with Yoshio Sakamoto about Metroid for the release of the NES Classic Edition in 2016.
Hirofumi Matsuoka (“New Matsuoka”) was a background designer (we assume this means the environments, since Metroid has no backgrounds) for the original game, and he was later a graphics artist for Super Metroid too. In a Japanese interview for that game, he joked that Samus was a transgender woman, but the games haven’t made any reference to this. He now works at Creatures Inc. as a game designer and planner.
Yoshio Sakamoto (“Shikamoto”) is the co-creator and a frequent director of the Metroid series, involved with every traditional Metroid title outside of the Metroid Prime series, except Metroid II: Return of Samus. Sakamoto also supervised and edited the Metroid manga in Magazine Z that told the story of Samus’s origins. He wrote the story of Metroid: Other M, and led the development of Metroid: Samus Returns, and is likely to be involved with any future titles.
Hirokazu Tanaka (“Hip Tanaka”) only composed the original Metroid game, but he left a lasting legacy. He created the methodology that all Metroid games have used for their music: a sombre, dark score that only releases the player during the credits with an uplifting melody. He also came up with the names of the areas on Zebes. Tanaka is now the president of Creatures Inc. In 2018 we had the pleasure of publishing an interview with Tanaka-san, who told us about his time composing Metroid, and reflected on his work’s lasting legacy. The interview can be found here.
Hiroyuki Yukami (“Hai Yukami”) was a programmer at Nintendo in the 80s and 90s. In addition to the original Metroid, he programmed classic NES titles like Devil World, Soccer, Famicom Wars (which features Samus’s earliest cameo in a non-Metroid game) and Wario’s Woods. He was last credited in Pokémon Puzzle Challenge in 2000.
Yase Sobajima (“Zaru Sobajima”) was another programmer for Metroid, Wrecking Crew, Soccer and Famicom Wars, but he hasn’t been credited in a game since then.
Toshio Sengoku (“GPZ Sengoku”) was a programmer for Metroid as well, but hasn’t been involved with the series since. He is now a producer at Intelligent Systems, where he oversees the WarioWare and Pushmo series. He recently produced Paper Mario: Color Splash.
Mitsunari Tani (“N. Shiotani”) was another programmer for Metroid, Famicom Wars, and Mario’s Tennis on Virtual Boy. Tani hasn’t been credited in any games since.
Kenji Imai (“M. Houdai”) was the last programmer for Metroid, and he also programmed Super Metroid. For that game, he engineered Kraid, Crocomire and the Map. In the Japanese strategy guide, he said he was able to clear Super Metroid in three hours. Imai, now a production manager at Intelligent Systems, oversees the Fire Emblem series.
Kenji Nishizawa (“Ken Zuri”) was credited under special thanks in Metroid; he helped to develop the password system for the North American release of Metroid. Nishizawa later debugged Metroid II. Nowadays he takes on support and coordination roles for games and was an executive at Marigul Management, a now defunct subsidiary of Nintendo. He most recently provided technical support for Star Fox 64 3D.
Toru Osawa (“Inusawa”) was credited under special thanks in Metroid, and he also created the Kid Icarus series. He later worked as a graphic artist for Super Metroid, where he designed small enemies, Kraid, Mother Brain, the Map and the Samus Screen/inventory. In the guide he recalled the long and intense hours that the development team worked on the game without sleeping, showering or going home. Humorously, he said his first drawing of Mother Brain looked like his elderly neighbor. Today, Osawa is a producer and has overseen the newer Fatal Frame games.
“Sumi”, “Kacho”, “Hyakkan”, “Goyake” and “Penpen” were nicknames for members of R&D1 staff at the time of development. To date, we have not been able to identify them, or know if they are still working for Nintendo or not. We continue to discover more about them. If you know anything about these people, please contact us!
Takahiro Harada (“Harada”) is a former programmer who was credited under special thanks in Metroid, as well as Super Metroid and Metroid Prime. He was Metroid II’s main programmer and helped with tool programming and coordination for Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission. Today, he acts as a coordinator for Nintendo-published third-party titles.
“Tohryu Mako Benkei” is a credit in the original Japanese version. According to Sakamoto, this is an amalgamation of Tohryu, Benkei Dining and Sometime Mako, the names of three nearby restaurants in Japan that the team frequently ordered from in the last three months of development. Tohryu has apparently closed, Benkei Dining has definitely closed, and Sometime Mako is apparently still open.
Tohru Narihiro (“Tohru T.Narihiro”) was the one who converted Metroid from the Famicom Disk System to the Nintendo Entertainment System. He is now a producer at Intelligent Systems, where he is the main producer of the Fire Emblem and Advance Wars series.
Masao Yamamoto (“Yamamoto”) was R&D1’s first lead programmer and directed Metroid’s programming. He was later a programmer for Metroid II. In recent years, Yamamoto has supervised the development of handheld Nintendo games.
Satoru Okada was the chief director of Metroid. He was the general manager of Nintendo Research & Engineering, which is the division that develops Nintendo’s handheld consoles, before retiring in January 2012.
Last but not least, Gunpei Yokoi was the producer of the first three games in the Metroid series. Before he took on the franchise, Yokoi designed the Game & Watch and Game Boy, the earliest and two of Nintendo’s most important handheld consoles. Tragically, Yokoi-san lost his life in a car accident in October 1997, but he will always be remembered for the timeless experiences with Samus that he delivered to us.