03
Dec
07

Shinji Mikami

Shinji Mikami is a Japanese video game designer best known for creating the Resident Evil survival horror series (known as Biohazard in Japan), and has also contributed in the creation of some of Capcom’s most popular post-32-bit franchises, including Viewtiful Joe and Devil May Cry as a producer.

Mikami first joined Capcom in 1990 as a planner for the company after graduating at the Doshisha University. His first title within Capcom was a quiz game for the Game Boy titled Capcom Quiz: Hatena hatena no Daibôken, which took over three months to develop. His following three games were all based on Disney-licensed properties; Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1991, Game Boy), Aladdin (1993, SNES) and Goof Troop (1994, SNES). Between the release of Roger Rabbit and Aladdin, Mikami also worked on an untitled F1 game that was cancelled by the company after eight months of development.

After the release of Goof Troop, Mikami began development of a horror-themed adventure game for the PlayStation set in a haunted mansion, an idea loosely based on Sweet Home (an earlier Famicom game by Capcom based on the Japanese horror movie of the same name). The resulting game became Biohazard, an action-adventure game which combined 3D polygonal characters and objects with prerendered backgrounds and featured zombies (among other monsters) heavily influenced by George A. Romero’s Dead movies. The game was retitled Resident Evil during its English localization under Capcom USA’s suggestion and was released in Japan and North America on March 22, 1996 and became one of the PlayStation’s first successful titles. It was the first game to be dubbed a survival horror, a term Capcom coined to promote the game (though many credit the Resident Evil series for creating the 3D survival horror game genre, Alone in the Dark was actually the first 3D survival horror game when it first appeared for the PC in 1992).

After the success of Resident Evil, Mikami was promoted from planner to producer, becoming more involved in the business side of the company. As producer, he oversaw the development of the Resident Evil sequels (Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and also directed another survival horror title, Dino Crisis in 1999.

Shortly after the release of Resident Evil 3 in Japan, Capcom Production Studio 4 was established in 1999. The studio’s staff were mainly the key developers in the company’s survival horror projects. Mikami was appointed as the general manager of the studio, and worked as executive producer for various games, including the original Devil May Cry (originally conceived as a Resident Evil game).

In the year 2000, Mikami became involved as producer of a new Biohazard game. Biohazard Code: Veronica. This game was designed from the ground up for the Sega Dreamcast. More powerful than the PlayStation, the Dreamcast allowed the team behind the game to add for the first time, 3D environments instead of the usual pre-rendered backgrounds. Biohazard Code: Veronica was released in the year 2000 and went on to sell 1.140.000 units. That same year, another of Mikami’s brainchild’s got a sequel. Dino Crisis 2 would retain its charm among Playstation users and thanks to them, 1.190.000 copies of DC2 would sell worldwide.

In 2001, a special edition of Biohazard Code: Veronica was developed for the Dreamcast and also for Sony’s brand new game console, PlayStation 2. This edition of the game was created to fill some plot holes and add some more in the process. Regardless, Biohazard Code: Veronica Complete Edition, as the special edition was known in Japan, went on to outsell the original. In the States and elsewhere, it was known as Resident Evil Code: Veronica X. The PS2 version went on to sell 1.400.000 units, according to Capcom’s sales data for March 2006.

In 2001, in what was to be one of his most controversial business decisions, Mikami formed an exclusivity agreement with Nintendo in which the main Resident Evil games would be sold only for the Nintendo GameCube. The GameCube would receive, in addition to ports of previous PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast installments, three new games in the series; a remake of the original Resident Evil, Resident Evil Zero and Resident Evil 4 (the deal did not include spinoff titles, such as the Gun Survivor and Outbreak games). Resident Evil and Resident Evil 0 were both released in 2002.

The remake of Resident Evil, was released in Japan on the 6th anniversary of the release of the original: March 22 2002. The remake was billed as the definitive version of the game. According to November 2002 reports from Bloomberg and gaming site the-magicbox.com, the remake actually surpassed Capcom’s sales expectations. Capcom had expected it to sell 250,000 units in the US. However, it sold 490,000 copies in that country. In Europe, the game sold 360,000 copies. A sales figure that was well beyond the 180,000 units it was expected to sell. In total, Resident Evil managed to sell 1,250,000 units during its first year of release. The remake’s sales data was made public by Capcom during its Financial Review Report for the year 2002.

On November 12, 2002, Resident Evil Zero was released. Gaming site gamefront.de reported that 138,855 copies of the game were sold on its first day of release. Capcom expected Resident Evil Zero to sell 1.42 million copies, but sold only 1.12 million. The fact that Resident Evil Zero did not match or surpass the remake’s sales figures, spread fear among Capcom executives and share holders. They worried that Resident Evil 4 would not sell well enough on GameCube.

In spite of Resident Evil Zero‘s underwhelming sales, Mikami remained confident in his support for Nintendo and announced four exclusive titles for the GameCube under development by Production Studio 4 in addition to Resident Evil 4; P.N.03, Viewtiful Joe, Killer7 and Dead Phoenix. This lineup became known as the Capcom 5.

The first of these games to be released was the Mikami-directed P.N. 03. The game was both a commercial and critical failure, receiving lukewarm reviews from the press and selling below expectations. As a result, Mikami stepped down as manager of Production Studio 4, while remaining as one of the head producers within the team.

After his failure with P.N.03, Mikami decided to concentrate instead on the creative aspects of the Capcom 5. He eventually took over directioral duties for Resident Evil 4 from previous director, Hiroshi Shibata. Under his direction, Resident Evil 4 went through some substantial changes.

Resident Evil 4 was released in 2005 and was one of the GameCube’s top-selling titles, selling 1.250.000 million units worldwide within a year. The game was critically praised, winning many game of the year awards.

Shinji Mikami touted the game as a GameCube exclusive. In an interview with a Japanese magazine, Mikami even claimed that he would “cut [his own] head off” if Resident Evil 4 came to the PlayStation 2. This claim was parodied in God Hand, which featured a racing dog named “Mikami’s Head.” Recently in an interview he gave apologies for Resident Evil 4 going multiplatform. He felt quite bad, believing some people bought a GameCube just to play the Resident Evil 4 without knowing that it would finally be made available for PlayStation 2.

After the success of Resident Evil 4, Mikami left Studio 4 and was transferred over to Clover Studio in 2004. Originally established in July 2004, Clover Studio employed an all-star lineup of Capcom development talent, including Atsushi Inaba (producer of Steel Battalion and Viewtiful Joe), and Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry director).

At Clover, Mikami supervised the development of God Hand, a beat ’em up genre game that parodies American and Japanese pop culture. It was released in Japan on September 14, 2006, and on October 10, 2006 in North America.

On October 12, 2006, Capcom announced plans to dissolve its wholly owned Clover Studio after a decision made at the publisher’s Board of Directors meeting. The company was officially dissolved at the end of March 2007.

After the dissolution of Clover Studio, Mikami joined Seeds Inc, the newly formed successor of his former studio. Seeds Studio is composed of several artistically praised game designers including Hideki Kamiya (creator of Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe), Yuta Kimura (artist on projects such as Shadow of the Colossus and Okami), Nao Ueda (game developer on Resident Evil 4 and Okami), as well as Mari Shimazaki (responsible for the character design of Okami), and Masami Ueda (composer on several Resident Evil and Viewtiful Joe, in addition to musics of Devil May Cry and Okami). 

Mikami recently revealed that he formed a private development studio called Straight Story in 2006, shortly before the fall of Clover Studio. The name of the studio is taken from the 1999 David Lynch movie. Their works will be under the SEEDS branding and he is a contract employee (“external board member”) of SEEDS Inc. He is also collaborating with Grasshopper Manufacture’s Suda 51 on a new project about which he is expected to shed light on in summer 2007.  Based on an interview with Suda51, it will be in some way similar to killer7.

Games Credited

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations (2007), Capcom Co., Ltd.
God Hand (2006), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All (2006), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Devil May Cry 3: Dante’s Awakening (2005), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Resident Evil 4 (2005), Capcom Entertainment, Inc.
Gyakuten Saiban 3 (2004), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Dino Crisis 3 (2003), Capcom Co., Ltd.
P.N.03 (2003), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Viewtiful Joe (2003), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Gyakuten Saiban 2 (2002), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Resident Evil (2002), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Resident Evil Zero (2002), Capcom Entertainment, Inc.
Devil May Cry (2001), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Gyakuten Saiban (2001), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Onimusha: Warlords (2001), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Resident Evil: Code: Veronica X (2001), Capcom Entertainment, Inc.
Resident Evil: Gaiden (2001), Capcom Entertainment, Inc., Virgin Interactive Entertainment, Inc.
Dino Crisis 2 (2000), Capcom Entertainment, Inc.
Dino Crisis (1999), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (1999), Capcom Co., Ltd.
SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighter’s Clash – SNK Version (1999), SNK of America
Resident Evil 2 (1998), Capcom Entertainment, Inc.
Resident Evil (1996), Capcom Co., Ltd.
Goof Troop (1993), Capcom U.S.A., Inc.

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