Shinesparkers Feature:

Super Metroid: Where Are They Now?

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Super Metroid was developed by Nintendo R&D1 in collaboration with Intelligent Systems for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The production team was small, and each person on it played a special role in the making of a masterpiece. To celebrate Super Metroid’s 30th anniversary on March 19, 2024, we decided to find out what the development team has been up to since. We’re also including unused credits that were discovered via hacking of the game, to ensure everyone is represented.

Note: all information is current at the time of writing.

Makoto Kanoh, the producer of Super Metroid, had been involved in all of the Metroid games up to that point. He authored the story of the first Metroid and designed Metroid II: Return of Samus. Kanoh later worked as a supervisor at Nintendo. He has since retired.

Yoshio Sakamoto is a man who needs no introduction if you’re a longtime Metroid fan. He directed the development of Super Metroid and all non- Prime Metroid games since. In the famous strategy guide developer interview, he claimed to have a special version of the ROM with the original Game Over sequence (more details below), and to know where Samus’s beauty mark was – which turned up in Metroid: Other M underneath her lip. The series is his greatest work, and he’s had a hand in almost every title barring the original Metroid II. Today, Sakamoto-san is still producing the Metroid series, including Metroid Dread most recently.

Yoshio Sakamoto and Kenji Yamamoto during an interview for the SNES Classic Edition in 2017.

Hirofumi Matsuoka, an environment artist for the original Metroid, returned to design graphics for Super Metroid. He is best known for a claim he made in the developer interview that Samus was a transgender woman, which Sakamoto-san refuted in a later interview. In 2003, Matsuoka left Nintendo to work with their partner company Creatures Inc., as a designer and planner for the Pokémon franchise.

Masahiko Mashimo was a sprite artist for Super Metroid. You have him to thank for the backgrounds seen in Crateria, Norfair and the Wrecked Ship, and our favorite happy-go-lucky lava lizard, Crocomire. In the interview, Mashimo-san claimed that he drew Crocomire as “cute” and “charming”, and with input from Tomoyoshi Yamane, made him more menacing. He also joked that Toru Osawa’s original Mother Brain design looked like an old lady, into whose hands he wanted to put a shopping bag. In recent years, Mashimo coordinated Nintendo games developed by external partners. His last credit in a game to date was The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, for which he edited the game’s Miiverse stamps.

Hiroyuki Kimura was a graphics artist who drew Maridia’s backgrounds. He also co-directed Metroid II: Return of Samus. In the developer interview, Kimura-san revealed that Samus’s measurements were 106-60-90. These were his last contributions to Metroid to date; today, he is a Manager at Nintendo EPD Production Group No. 10, placing him in charge of the 2D Mario and Pikmin franchises.

Toru Osawa, also credited as Tohru Ohsawa, was a graphics artist for Super Metroid, who designed Kraid, Mother Brain, the Map, Samus Screen (Inventory) and smaller enemies. In the interview, he noted the pungency of the development office, as a result of the crunch time in the final months of production. He also revealed that Samus was originally nude in the Game Over sequence. Outside of Metroid, Osawa created Kid Icarus and directed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. He now produces games such as Fatal Frame.

Toru Osawa

Tomoyoshi Yamane is a graphic designer, responsible for the redesign of Samus’s Varia Suit in Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Game Boy screen. This appearance carried over to Super Metroid, and then Metroid Fusion and Super Smash Bros. up to Brawl. Besides that, Yamane-san created the opening and ending of Super Metroid, redesigned Mother Brain from Osawa-san’s “old lady” look, and gave Samus clothing in the Game Over when the development team decided against nudity. He supervised the design of Samus’s model in the Metroid Prime trilogy, and drew Samus for NST’s Richard Vorodi in 2004, which you can see in his interview here. Yamane-san is now an Art Director and Supervisor for games developed by subsidiaries and external partners, most recently the remake of Mario vs. Donkey Kong on Nintendo Switch.

Hiroji Kiyotake was Samus’s original designer for the first Metroid, and the director of Metroid II. During Metroid’s development, he created the Screw Attack and derived Samus’s surname Aran from the name of Pelé, Edson Arantes do Nascimento. Years later, Kiyotake-san was a concept artist for Metroid: Other M, and has been credited in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission as Samus’s original designer. It is currently unclear whether Kiyotake-san still works for Nintendo or if he has retired. He gave an interview with Sakamoto-san in 2016 about the original Metroid.

Kenji Yamamoto is one of the most recognizable names in Metroid’s development. After all, he composed the soundtrack for Super Metroid, and is responsible for many of its iconic music tracks that have returned in later sequels. This includes Lower Norfair, the Theme of Samus, Upper Brinstar, and more. Additionally, Yamamoto-san voiced Spore Spawn. In later years, he returned as composer for nearly all Metroid games, except for Other M and Federation Force. For Samus Returns and Dread, Yamamoto-san was the music director, supervising a new generation of composers.

Minako Hamano was the other composer for Super Metroid at only 24 years old. Her work includes both Maridia themes, the Wrecked Ship theme, Tourian (an arrangement of Hirokazu Tanaka’s version from the original Metroid), Mother Brain, and most significantly, Ridley’s battle theme, which has endured in all of his appearances since. Hamano-san later composed Metroid Fusion without Yamamoto-san’s assistance, as he was working on the Metroid Prime series. She was a sound coordinator for Samus Returns and Dread. Despite her monumental contributions, we felt that Hamano-san has not always received the same level of recognition as Yamamoto-san. For her 50th birthday in 2019, we organized a tribute to her with input from both the Shinesparkers team and Metroid fan community.

Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano with Metroid Prime’s Audio Lead Clark Wen.

Kenji Imai was a programmer for Super Metroid with Intelligent Systems. He also worked on the original Metroid. For Super Metroid, Imai-san built Kraid, Crocomire and the Map. In the developer interview, he said he was able to complete the game in about three hours. Imai has since moved into management, overseeing the Fire Emblem franchise. His last credit in a game was special thanks in Codename: S.T.E.A.M. (2015)

Kenji Nakajima was also a programmer at Intelligent Systems, who worked on system coordination and the attract mode for Super Metroid. In the interview, he highlighted the refined and polished details in the animations of Samus. Since his time in space, Nakajima has moved into management as well, supervising every installment in the Paper Mario series. He now works for Marino Systems.

Yoshikazu Mori was a programmer at Intelligent Systems. For Super Metroid, he engineered visual effects, enemy corpses, internal systems and background events, in addition to technical support. He considered the game his masterpiece, despite noting in the developer interview that he hadn’t had the time to complete it himself. Mori-san later worked for Jupiter Corp. He has not been credited in a game since Spectrobes: Beyond the Portals (2008), so he may have retired.

Isamu Kubota was another Intelligent Systems programmer responsible for Samus, Phantoon, smaller enemies, the title, opening and ending. He claimed in the interview that in Super Metroid, Samus is in her late 20s. Samus’s precise age has never been revealed, so the veracity of this statement is unclear. After Super Metroid Kubota-san was the lead programmer of Galactic Pinball, the Virtual Boy game which featured Samus’s Gunship in a cameo appearance. His last credit on a game was Pokkén Tournament in 2016. Whether Kubota-san still works for Nintendo or has retired is unknown.

Mitsuru Matsumoto was yet another programmer. He made event connections, and Mother Brain’s in-game artificial intelligence. Matsumoto-san has continued to work for Intelligent Systems on games in the Paper Mario, Advance Wars and WarioWare series, among other, most recently WarioWare: Get It Together! (2021).

Yasuhiko Fujii worked for Intelligent Systems as a, you guessed it, programmer. He was invited to join the Super Metroid team through his connection with the story writer, whom he worked with on The Frog For Whom the Bell Tolls. Unlike many of his colleagues, Fujii-san was unfamiliar with Metroid and had never played the first game, but quickly grew to like the series once he did. During Super’s development, he created a manual of style to ensure that everyone’s work remained consistent.

Fujii-san is perhaps best known for a secret tribute to his then-girlfriend that he secretly placed in the game. When the Evirs show up before battling Draygon, they are spelling out the English letters for “Keiko Love” (the name of his girlfriend) as they dance. He revealed this in a 2007 interview that was translated into English in 2018, and that Spore Spawn, Phantoon and Draygon had different names at first: Eriko Flower, Obakeen and Dankoon. By the 2000s, Mr. Fujii had left Nintendo to start his own studio, Future Creates, which developed Sky Odyssey and Wild Arms 3. Future Creates shut down in 2012, and he subsequently joined Freemind Inc. in 2016, a web, mobile and server development company that appears to have closed as well. Where he is working at the moment, or if he has retired, is unknown.

Yasuhiko Fujii

Motomu Chikaraishi programmed the map and more enemies for Super Metroid with Intelligent Systems. Of all the developers who partook in the interview, his clear time was the shortest at an hour and six minutes. Since then, he has worked extensively as a programmer on the Paper Mario and Fire Emblem series. He was last credited in Paper Mario: Sticker Star in 2012.

Kouichi Abe was a programmer who handled the fine-tuning of bosses and enemies. He beat Super Metroid in 1:26 according to his profile in the developer interview. Abe-san left Intelligent Systems and has since worked at other studios, including FromSoftware on Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon (2023).

Katsuya Yamano is a programmer and coordinator who has been involved with every 2D Metroid game, barring the first, since Metroid II. After serving as a coordinator for Super Metroid, he directed programming for Metroid Fusion, engineered Metroid: Zero Mission and was a Project Manager for Other M, Samus Returns and Dread. Additionally, he filed patents with Sakamoto-san in the United States for Zero Mission, to do with the Mother Brain and Ruins Test battles. You can see these patents on Yamano-san’s Wikitroid article. Aside from Metroid, Yamano supervises the WarioWare, Rhythm Heaven and Tomodachi Collection franchises.

Tsutomu Kaneshige is a software engineer who has worked for Nintendo since 1992. Like Yamano-san, Kaneshige was a coordinator for Super Metroid, which is the only Metroid game he has ever contributed to. His recent work includes ARMS, Nintendo Switch Sports and Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

Masafumi Sakashita is a former designer at Nintendo who only worked on a handful of games, including Metroid II and Super Metroid. He also designed for Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters and Galactic Pinball, both of which feature Metroid references. He was last credited under special thanks in Tetris Attack (1996). Sakashita-san most likely left Nintendo after this point, and what became of him is unknown.

Yasuo Inoue has been a logo, package and manual designer for Nintendo since 1991. Aside from Super Metroid, he designed artwork and packaging for Metroid II, Zero Mission and Metroid Prime Hunters. His most recent credit in a game was Xenoblade Chronicles X (2015), for which he edited the manual.

Mary Cocoma was a brand manager at Nintendo of America in the 1990s, and the only staffer credited under “printed art work” in Super Metroid who is not Japanese. Mary was likely a liaison between offices of Nintendo. She now works outside of the gaming industry as a freelance marketing and communications consultant.

Yusuke Nakano has been an illustrator for Nintendo since 1992, mostly for the Zelda series. He was an illustrator for Super Metroid, and much later an illustration supervisor for Metroid Prime: Federation Force. Nakano-san is also known for drawing the panoramic artwork for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate that features every fighter in the game, including the Metroid ones – Samus, Zero Suit Samus, Ridley and Dark Samus.

Shinya Sano is another longtime Nintendo illustrator. Sano-san illustrated for Super Metroid, and the boxart of Metroid Fusion, and later developed the Game Boy Camera. He is now a coordinator at SPD, being credited most recently in Another Code: Recollection and Princess Peach: Showtime! (both 2024).

Noriyuki Sato is an artist and game designer at Nintendo, and an illustrator for Super Metroid. He later worked on the WarioWare series, and directed Kiki Trick and Tomodachi Life, both of which were produced by Yoshio Sakamoto.

Dan Owsen

Dan Owsen is a longtime localization manager at Nintendo of America, who has worked there since the 1990s, except for a brief jump to Microsoft to manage their defunct Zune service. Owsen famously narrated the opening line of Super Metroid: “The last Metroid is in captivity… The Galaxy is at peace.” In 1998, he gave an interview to the Metroid Database, and the Head Quarantine Officer in Metroid: Other M bore a striking resemblance to him.

George Sinfield was a Nintendo Power writer credited under special thanks in Super Metroid. He helped to localize it, and later wrote the strategy guides for Metroid Fusion, Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid Prime Hunters. George has since left Nintendo and now works as a freelance video editor.

Keiko Tamura was a translator at Nintendo whose special thanks credit went unused. She translated Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge, EarthBound, Kirby’s Avalanche and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX, among others. Her last credit in a game was Warlocked (2000).

Masaru Okada was credited under special thanks, and debugged Metroid II. He also had special thanks credits in Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, Fire Emblem: Monshō no Nazo (Mystery of the Emblem), Mario’s Tennis and Teleroboxer. Okada-san has not been credited in a game since.

Takehiro Izushi was a producer at Nintendo who succeeded Gunpei Yokoi as General Manager of R&D1 in 1997. He was thanked in Metroid II, Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, and produced Fusion and Zero Mission. Izushi-san moved from Nintendo’s game development arm to general affairs. He retired in 2018 after working at Nintendo for over 43 years.

Takehiro Izushi

Takahiro Harada is a longtime developer and coordinator who has worked with Nintendo since the NES era. He was thanked in Metroid, Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, the main programmer of Metroid II, and a tool programmer and coordinator for Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission.

Kohta Fukui was a programmer at Nintendo that debugged Metroid II and programmed Fusion, and was thanked in Super Metroid and Zero Mission. He also engineered many other Game Boy titles. He left Nintendo in 2004 and has not been credited in a game since.

Keisuke Terasaki is a producer and project manager at Nintendo, where he has worked since April 1988. He was a debugger for Metroid II, a supervisor for Metroid Prime Pinball and Metroid Prime: Federation Force, and thanked in Super Metroid. Terasaki-san is now a director at Monolith Soft and Nd Cube, and Deputy General Manager of Nintendo’s Development Administration and Support Division.

Masaru Yamanaka was a former programmer at Nintendo R&D1 between 1988 and 2000. He programmed Metroid II and was thanked in Super Metroid. Yamanaka-san was last credited in Wario Land 3 (2000) and has likely retired or otherwise moved on from Nintendo.

Hitoshi Yamagami is a programmer and manager at Nintendo, where he has worked since 1989. He was thanked in Super Metroid’s credits and was a debugger for Metroid II. These days, Yamagami-san is the group manager of Nintendo EPD Production Group 1, and produces Fire Emblem and Xenoblade Chronicles. Additionally, he co-created Panel de Pon.

Isao Hirano is a former programmer at Nintendo that worked on both Metroid II and Metroid Fusion. He had a special thanks credit in Super Metroid, which went unused. Hirano-san worked for Nintendo until around 2006; what became of him is unclear.

Nobuhiro Ozaki was credited under special thanks in Super Metroid. A longtime programmer, he worked on Metroid II, Fusion and Zero Mission as well. He participated in an interview for Zero Mission with four other developers. He was last credited for programming in WarioWare: Touched! (2004)

Kenichi Nakamura was credited under special thanks in Super Metroid, as well as The Frog For Whom The Bell Tolls, Metal Combat: Falcon’s Revenge, Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, and Teleroboxer. He was later a coordinator for Virtual Boy Wario Land, and left Nintendo after 1995, before re-emerging in 2014 as a public relations manager for Azure Striker Gunvolt and Mighty No. 9.

Takehiko Hosokawa is a designer with Nintendo SPD Production Group No.1. He’s been extensively involved with the 2D Metroid series. Hosokawa had a special thanks credit in Super Metroid. Later, he was System Director and a Game Designer for Metroid Fusion, a Course Designer for Metroid: Zero Mission, a Director for Metroid: Other M and Metroid: Samus Returns, and an Assistant Director for Metroid Dread.

Takehiko Hosokawa

Satoshi Matsumura is a programmer who worked at Nintendo between 1988 and 2003. He had a special thanks credit in Super Metroid, and was a programmer for Virtual Boy: Wario Land, Tetris Attack and WarioWare Inc.: Mega Micrograme$!. Matsumura-san also provided technical support to Metroid Fusion. Mega Micrograme$! remains his last credited role to date, so he either moved into a higher role at Nintendo and no longer works directly on games, or he has left the company.

Kenichi Sugino was credited under special thanks in Super Metroid. He is best known for creating the Game Boy and designing the Nintendo DS handheld line. He was also a debugger for Metroid II. Sugino-san was a designer for the Nintendo 3DS, and took over Nintendo’s RED division from Satoru Okada. He may have retired.

Ryoji Yoshitomi was a sound engineer for Nintendo, and the composer of Metroid II. He was credited under special thanks in Super Metroid. Yoshitomi-san is now a sound supervisor at Nintendo, working primarily on the Mario franchise. When Metroid: Samus Returns, a remake of Metroid II was released, he received a legacy credit as the original composer.

Yoshinori Katsuki is a programmer with an unused special thanks credit in Super Metroid. He later programmed tools for Metroid Fusion, as well as Samus herself, and Metroid: Zero Mission as well. Katsuki-san has worked with Nintendo since 1992. His last credit in a game was Sleep Clock: Record and Analyze Your Sleep Patterns (2009).

Takeshi Nagareda is a hardware engineer at Nintendo. He too was credited under special thanks in Super Metroid. Nagareda-san went on to develop the circuitry in the DK Bongos, the motherboard and AV output circuits of the Wii, and lead development of the Wii Balance Board. His most recent credit in a game was Wii Fit (2007), as Hardware Director.

Masahiro Kawano is another R&D1 programmer who was credited under special thanks in Super Metroid. He too has been with Nintendo since 1992. He went on to program games such as Luigi’s Mansion, Mario Kart: Double Dash!!, Rhythm Tengoku and the Tomodachi Collection duology, among others.

Hiro Yamada was credited under special thanks in Super Metroid and Metroid II. He has supervised, coordinated or directed hundreds of Nintendo games, including Metroid Prime Pinball. His most recent game was The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD (2021).

Genji Kubota is a programmer who was credited under special thanks in Super Metroid. Datamining the game has revealed a hidden message that expands on his role. It says: “Special thanks 2 Genji Kubota & all debug staff.” He was a programmer for Mario Paint and Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, provided technical support to the original Paper Mario, and was last credited under special thanks in Mario Kart: Super Circuit. Kubota-san may have retired from Nintendo.

Gunpei Yokoi, credited under special thanks as Gumpei Yokoi in Super Metroid, was one of the most important people in the early history of Nintendo. Before his work on Metroid, he was an engineer for Nintendo’s hanafuda card line and an inventor of toys, namely the Ultra Hand and Game & Watch console. Moving into Nintendo R&D1 in the mid-1980’s, Yokoi designed the Game Boy and produced the original Metroid and Metroid II. In Super Metroid, he received a special thanks credit. Leaving Nintendo in 1996, Yokoi-san formed Koto Laboratory and developed the WonderSwan, a competitor to the Game Boy, a handheld game console. On October 4, 1997, Yokoi-san tragically lost his life in a car accident. As a creator of many of Nintendo’s most iconic products, Mr. Yokoi’s legacy in gaming is everlasting.

Gunpei Yokoi

Hiroshi Yamauchi, as the third President of Nintendo, was an Executive Producer for Super Metroid. His credit was unused. In his interview, Fujii-san remembered seeing Yamauchi-san, whose office was next to his, walk past wearing momohiki (traditional tight-fitting Japanese pants), and he could be heard playing a shakuhachi flute. He was succeeded as President of Nintendo by the late Satoru Iwata. Mr. Yamauchi died in September 2013, but his legacy lives on through the continued success of Nintendo and its games.

The year 2024 marks the thirtieth anniversary of Super Metroid’s release. We acknowledge and support the passion, work and dedication of the team behind it. Thank you, and see you next mission!

Written by Roy