Rieko Kodama, the legendary Japanese game developer who is also known as Phoenix Rie, has sadly passed away at the age of 58. Her cause of death has not been specified but her legacy lives on in fan art and online tributes.
The game industry has suffered a terrible loss. Rieko Kodama, the legendary Sega developer also known as Phoenix Rie, has died at age 58. Her death has not been explained.
Source reported that Kodama died sometime in May of this year, but her death wasn’t made public until this week. Rumors started when a memorial message was found in the credits of Mega Drive Mini 2. Sega producer Yosuke Okunari later confirmed that she had died earlier this year. “As you understand it,” Okunari replied to a tweet asking if Kodama had died. “We had respect for her.”
Sega didn’t say anything else out of respect for the family. A translation from IGN Japan reads: “We pray that the deceased will rest in peace, and we thank her for her huge contributions to Sega.”
Kodama was a well-known game designer at Sega and one of the first people to work on role-playing games. In 1984, she started her career as an artist on classic shows like Alex Kidd and Fantasy Zone. She later worked on games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Skies of Arcadia, but she is probably best known for her work on the Phantasy Star series, where she worked her way up to director by Phantasy Star 4.
Kodama was also known as “The First Lady of RPGs” because she was one of the first women to create a lot of games. Her designs for characters were colorful and varied, making heroes for everyone. In an interview, she once said, “As a woman, when I make games, I try not to make them all about male fantasy figures who need to be saved” (opens in new tab).
“I like making female characters that both men and women can understand. But more and more, strong-willed women are showing up in games for girls.”
Yuji Naka, who helped make Sonic, wrote a tribute to Kodama on Twitter. “The news that Rieko Kodama has died has finally been made public. I’ll always remember how much fun it was to work with her on Phantasy Star and Sonic.
I went to the wake and funeral, and I couldn’t believe how quickly everything happened. I hope that your soul finds peace.” Hirokazu Yasuhara, who was also a co-creator of Sonic, said he was “proud” to have worked with Kodama and added, “I still can’t believe it, it’s so sad.”
Spelunky’s creator, Derek Yu, called her “a pioneering artist and game designer.” 8-4’s creator, John Ricciardi, said she was “always very kind” and “a true legend in Japanese game development.” The director of Necrosoft, Brandon Sheffield, was on the panel that gave Kodama the Pioneer Award at GDC 2019.
He said, “She was and still is one of the best,” and he talked about the award. “We gave her an award for a lifetime of work at GDC, but she was sick and couldn’t be there. I’m glad that she got it while she was still alive. I hope she knew how important her work was to everyone around the world.”
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