Shinichi Kameoka

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Shinichi Kameoka Gallery

Just like movies and manga have done in the past, I would like to continue working hard until the day everyone can confidently think of games as “culture”."
― Shinichi Kameoka, Brownies company greeting

Shinichi Kameoka[a] is one of the founders of Brownie Brown (presently 1-Up Studio), the other three being Kōji Tsuda, Tomoki Anazawa, and Nobuyuki Inoue. Kameoka is responsible for the character designs, pixel art, animations, and production of the Magical Vacation series. In 2012, he retired from 1-Up Studio to form a new studio called Brownies later that year, and is currently its president.[1]

Beyond the Magical Vacation series, Kameoka has done artistic work for titles such as SaGa Frontier, various Mana series instalments (most notably Secret, Legend, and Sword of Mana), and more recently, Brownies' original EGGLIA series. He is also in the credits of Mother 3 as a producer. As an artist, he publishes his work under the pseudonym "Kameoka Shinta" (かめおか慎太).

Biography[edit | edit source]

Not much about Kameoka's life before 1991 has been made public, but he is known to have graduated from Tama Technical High School in Fussa, Tokyo, around 1990.[2]

Early career (c. 1991-1999)[edit | edit source]

Circa 1991, Kameoka joined Square Co., Ltd. after working as a manga artist for Monthly Shōnen Magazine and Big Comic Spirits, in which he illustrated comic strips influenced by yankī subculture. His first known contribution to a Square video game was debugging for Final Fantasy IV. He originally applied to the company as a graphics artist, but by the time he was recruited, Final Fantasy IV was nearing the end of its development.[3]

Kameoka's debut as a game character designer and sprite artist started with the second Mana series title, Seiken Densetsu 2, known in English as Secret of Mana. He was given this position when Hiromichi Tanaka saw his concept art of the player characters Randi and Primm. This also took place following the cancellation of the Super Famicom CD-ROM extension, and after Chrono Trigger's development was extended due to Akira Toriyama's preoccupation with Dragon Ball. During this hiatus, the team behind Chrono Trigger — under the working title "Maru Island" — was tasked with the production of Secret of Mana. They borrowed many concepts that were left behind from the original Maru Island project, mainly those that had been scrapped on account of the CD-ROM's cancellation. Roughly two years later during the development of the third Mana title, Trials of Mana, Kameoka reprised his role as lead character designer and sprite artist, though he mostly provided draft artwork that would be handed off to Nobuteru Yuki for finalization.

Later on, Kameoka was tasked with being an art director for SaGa Frontier. Kōji Tsuda was paired alongside Kameoka soon after, as he rejected working on art direction for Final Fantasy VII. While working on SaGa Frontier, Tsuda and Kameoka had difficulty understanding the principles of series creator Ashitoki Kawazu, who let the creative team do what they wanted with little direction or consistency.[3]

Legend of Mana (1999)[edit | edit source]

Kameoka (bottom right) with members of the Legend of Mana development team.

By the time SaGa Frontier was completed, Tsuda talked with Mana series creator Koichi Ishii about wanting to produce another Mana title, that being Legend of Mana. According to Tsuda, he and Ishii felt as though Legend of Mana was a way to express ideas that were not feasible during the production of Final Fantasy VII or SaGa Frontier. Kameoka was also relieved by the Legend of Mana team's foundation, being able to draw characters to his liking once again. The game prioritized visuals over game mechanics, opposite of SaGa Frontier, and Kameoka has alleged that many features and mechanics were last-minute decisions. He considered the game's completion to be a miracle, satisfied that the non-linear and sundry storylines managed to fit into place by the end.[3]

Leaving Square and Brownie Brown's creation (2000)[edit | edit source]

Before and after the release of Legend of Mana, Square was seeing excellent sales in Final Fantasy VIII, and planned on using its profits to increase the production costs for its full CG movie, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. In January 2000, the company responded to the commercial success of Final Fantasy VIII by focusing development resources on its Final Fantasy series and 3D graphics software. According to Kameoka, he was told that if Legend of Mana hit a certain number in sales, his team could begin working on a sequel. However, due to internal circumstances within the company, Kameoka was ultimately relocated to the Final Fantasy XI team. Alongside the relocation of employees, Square announced a policy that reduced the development of 2D games in favor of 3D Final Fantasy titles. Having contributed to 2D Mana games up until that point, Kameoka left Square with Tsuda, Anazawa, and Inoue to form their own company, Brownie Brown, in February 2000.[4] With the investment of Nintendo Co., Ltd., who were about to release the 2D handheld Game Boy Advance, Brownie Brown Co., Ltd. was established on June 30, 2000. Kameoka would become the president and representative director of Brownie Brown, while also upholding his passion for character design.[3]

Magical Vacation (2001)[edit | edit source]

Kameoka (middle) at the Let's Amigo Event in Akihabara, Tokyo.

Using Square's policy of "Create Something New" as a creative template, Kameoka and the other members frequently held meetings to discuss the mechanics of their upcoming title, Magical Vacation. He would be the lead character designer, pixel artist, and animator for the game. At this time, Brownie Brown did not have its own headquarters, so plannings sessions were held in family restaurants. Due to the ten-person staff and limited resources, the team's main goal was to release their game on schedule to earn some credibility. In retrospect, Kameoka believed these complications made the final product look rather uninteresting. He compared it to Camelot's RPG Golden Sun, since its combat featured dynamic angles and flashy effects.[3]

In January 2002, Brownie Brown hosted two venues called the Let's Amigo Events, the first in Osaka and the second in Tokyo. The venues were both to promote Magical Vacation, and for players to register each other as amigos via Communication. Kameoka and other Brownie Brown personnel attended the Let's Amigo Events to link up with players, photograph cosplayers, and give away Nintendo GameCubes over games of rock-paper-scissors.

Sword of Mana (2003)[edit | edit source]

Those who stayed with SquareSoft, which became Square Enix in 2003, were merged with the planners behind games such as Chrono Cross to produce Final Fantasy XI. In turn, Square chose to outsource the production of the fifth Mana series instalment, Sword of Mana (an expanded remake of the original Mana series title, Final Fantasy Adventure/Mystic Quest) to Brownie Brown. Kameoka was the lead character designer, scenario arranger, and production producer for this title.

Mother 3 (2002-2006)[edit | edit source]

An early development screenshot of Mother 3, with characters designed by Kameoka.

Brownie Brown assisted HAL Laboratory in the development of the third Mother series title, Mother 3, wherein Kameoka was one of the producers. The June 2013 issue of Nintendo Dream revealed that in 2002, Kameoka had drawn prototype designs for the game's twin protagonists Lucas and Claus, the appearances of whom were drastically different from their present designs. A second photo in the issue showed concept screenshots of in-game locations, with a graphical style that was near identical to Magical Vacation.[5] According to Kameoka, Mother fans among the staff thought the pastel style strayed too far from the previous instalments' distinctive visuals, which compelled him to give the final designs solid colors and black outlines.[3][6]

Although Mother 3 was never localized outside of Japan, Kameoka has supported the idea of an overseas release in recent years.[7]

Magical Starsign (2006)[edit | edit source]

During the development of Magical Vacation's successor, Magical Starsign, Brownie Brown staff brainstormed several ways in which they could utilize both screens of the Nintendo DS. As for character design, Kameoka opted to make the main cast appear "as cool as possible", while side characters were given more distinctive and varied designs which suited their personalities. Much of Magical Vacation and Sword of Mana's design philosophies were carried over to Magical Starsign, especially the predominant usage of 2D sprite-based graphics, since Kameoka believed that sprites better captured the original artistry.[8]

1-Up Studio and Brownies (2012)[edit | edit source]

By 2012, Nintendo wanted Brownie Brown to become a company that focused less on original projects, and instead develop for the Super Mario series. According to Kameoka, some of the staff admitted to wanting to make Mario games, which he had no problems with. This culminated in Brownie Brown being renamed to 1-Up Studio, and after twelve years as Brownie Brown's president, Kameoka decided to go independent once more. He founded a new company called Brownies alongside other former Brownie Brown personnel, including Tsuda, on November 15, 2012, and publicly announced his resignation on January 31, 2013.[1] Brownies would go on to collaborate with Level-5 to produce Fantasy Life LINK! for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013, and with GungHo Entertainment Online for Seventh Rebirth on mobile devices in 2016, among other smaller projects.[3]

EGGLIA and beyond (2017-present)[edit | edit source]

As Brownies became more self-sufficient as a company, Kameoka pieced together ideas for their first original title, EGGLIA: Legend of the Redcap. He wrote up drafts and proposals for the staff, believing that publishing the game on smartphones would make it more appealing to a general crowd. With this new project in motion, Brownies reached out to Michiyo Okiyama of Powerchord Studio and offered to collaborate, upon which Kameoka asked that he have full creative authority.[3] While he was once again in charge of character design, the game's abundance of spirits were illustrated by artists within and outside of Brownies.[9] In 2021, Brownies released an enhanced console version of EGGLIA: Legend of the Redcap titled EGGLIA Rebirth, discontinuing the former title and renaming it to EGGLIA Offline[b] on February 1, 2019. Rebirth allowed the development team to include characters and events that, due to time constraints, were not present in the original mobile version.[9]

In 2021, Kameoka illustrated box art for the HD remaster of Legend of Mana, which would be his most recent Mana-related contribution to Square Enix since Sword of Mana. His original designs were adopted by HACCAN, which were then incorporated into the Legend of Mana remaster's opening movie and in-game art gallery, and later The Teardrop Crystal anime adaptation. In the case of The Teardrop Crystal, Tarō Ikegami managed character designs based on HACCAN's renditions; Kameoka was unmentioned in the anime's credits.

On December 1, 2022, Brownies came out with box collections of hanafuda trading cards and acrylic keychains titled CARTA de FLOR,[c] which depicted various exotic creatures, including brownies, and other painterly imagery. They would later promote the game at the Japanese pop culture convention "Japan Fiesta" in Christchurch, New Zealand, in October 2023.[10]

Art style[edit | edit source]

月夜の海岸にて (On the Moonlit Beach) by Kameoka.

Shinichi Kameoka's art style is widely recognized for its ornate fantasy fashion, coloring style, and anatomical proportions. In his earlier years as a character designer, especially during his time working for Mana titles in the 1990s, Kameoka's main artistic medium was watercolor and ink on paper, plus hatching for volume and texture. The line art in his final drafts incorporated black and colored lines to distinguish and emphasize particular parts of the body, mostly in a character's hair and facial regions. Between late 1999 and 2003, he would sometimes employ digital art programs to finish off his drawings, mainly for lighting effects and composite pieces. Kameoka has also stated that he designs characters in reverse when drawing full-body artwork, since he believes a character's role within a game's setting can be determined by the style of their shoes.[11]

In the mid-2000s, Kameoka began producing concept art digitally, as seen in the scrapped Game Boy Advance remake of Secret of Mana,[12][13] Magical Starsign, and Friends of Mana. During this era, his line art was predominantly black, with both coloring and shading being presented through flatter, bolder tones. Additionally, the head and limb ratios took a slightly realistic approach, thus making the character appear more mature. Following Brownies' inception in 2012, he has steered back towards producing art traditionally for EGGLIA, as well as artwork for the 2021 Legend of Mana remaster. Although Kameoka is no longer affiliated with Square Enix, he occasionally draws Mana series characters with a realistic, painterly touch. He also doodles Mana, Magical Vacation, and EGGLIA characters on cards for new Brownies employees.

Works[edit | edit source]

Game Release Role(s)
Final Fantasy IV 1991 Debug (credited under Special Thanks)
Secret of Mana 1993 Player Character Design
Trials of Mana 1995 Graphic Design: Character
SaGa Frontier 1998 Art Director
Legend of Mana 1999 Character Illustration & Character Design Chief
Chocobo Stallion 1999 Character Illustration
Magical Vacation 2001 Art Director, Object Graphics, Character Design, Producer
Sword of Mana 2003 Production Producer, Character Design, Scenario Arrangement
Mother 3 2006 Producer
Magical Starsign 2006 Character Design, Producer, voice of Pico (uncredited)
Friends of Mana 2006 Character Illustration & Character Graphic Design Chief
Heroes of Mana 2007 Animation Director, Producer
Blue Dragon Plus 2008 Animation Director, Producer
Professor Layton's London Life 2009 Producer
A Kappa's Trail 2009 Director, Producer
Livly Garden 2010 Director, Producer
Fantasy Life 2012 Producer
Shooting Hero 2013 [TBA]
EGGLIA: Legend of the Redcap/EGGLIA Offline 2017 Director, Character Designer, Art Director, Scenario Writer
Seventh Rebirth 2017 Special Thanks
Doraemon Story of Seasons 2019 Producer
Legend of Mana Remastered 2021 Box Art
EGGLIA Rebirth 2021 Director, Character Designer, Art Director, Scenario Writer

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • He voiced Pico's battle shouts in Magical Starsign.
  • His preferred Magical Vacation element is blade.
  • Peche, Kirsche, and Candy are his favorite characters in the Magical Vacation series; Peche for her design, Kirsche for his personality, and Candy for her character arc.
  • For his artwork, Kameoka takes great inspiration from Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, Leiji Matsumoto, Fusako Kuramochi, and Makoto Kobayashi.
  • Mother series scenario writer Shigesato Itoi gave Kameoka the nickname "T-shirt President" (Tシャツ社長) during Mother 3's development. This is because he exclusively wears a rotation of black Paul Smith T-shirts.
  • One of his favorite foods is condensed milk. At a Brownie Brown anniversary party in 2009, he was given a condensed milk cake with "T-shirt President" written on it.
  • Although Kameoka has stated he does not play video games much, his favorite is Dragon Quest II, which he claims introduced him to the RPG genre.[14]
  • Kameoka first met Akira Toriyama shortly after joining Square. The two would meet again to work on Blue Dragon Plus, in which Kameoka designed sprites for the characters Shu and Kluke. In response to Toriyama's passing in March 2024, Kameoka tweeted about these fond memories.[15]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Japanese: 亀岡 慎一, Hepburn: Kameoka Shin'ichi
  2. Known in Japan as EGGLIA~最期のたまご~ (EGGLIA~The Last Egg~)
  3. "Flower card" in Spanish. It is derived from 花札 Hanafuda, which also translates to "flower card".

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "ご報告でっせ!つい先ほど株式会社ブラウニー・ブラウンの代表取締役社長を退任致しました。12年半、応援していただいたみなさん、本当にありがとうございました!そして、ありがとう任天堂。" @ShintaKameoka on Twitter, January 31, 2013. Retrieved April 28, 2023.
  2. Shin'ichi Kameoka on
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 Tomari, Yuichiro (April 11, 2017). "【特別企画】ブラウニーズ・亀岡慎一氏本人に聞く「亀岡作品ヒストリー」". Game Watch. Archived from the original on March 27, 2023. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  4. ”Nirbion” et al. (May 22, 2018). "Straight from the Source – Shinichi Kameoka (Mana-series)". Source Gaming. Retrieved March 22, 2023.
  5. NOKOLO, Kody (October 9, 2020). "Brownie Brown’s MOTHER 3 Concepts & Itoi Release Interview". Mother Forever. Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  6. "あのほぼ日で糸井さんと伊集院光さんの生配信の日から18年経ったのですね。
    先日のNintendo Switch Online配信から新しい令和ユーザーが増えてるのかな?
    " @ShintaKameoka on Twitter, April 20, 2024. Retrieved April 21, 2024.
  7. Tu, Trumann (February 12, 2022). "Mother 3 Producer Wants To See English Release". Game Rant. Retrieved March 13, 2023.
  8. Bozon, Mark (September 28, 2006). "Nintendo Talks Magical Starsign". IGN. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gordon, Sam-James (March 22, 2022). "Secrets, Legends, and Brownies: An Interview With Shinichi Kameoka". RPGFan. Archived from the original on April 2, 2024. Retrieved April 2, 2014.
  10. "10月14日にニュージーランドはクライストチャーチで開催される『ジャパンフェス2023EX』にブラウニーズがオリジナル花札『CARTA DE FLOR』を持って参戦します!お近くにお住いの皆様(?)是非足を運んで下さいね!会場でお待ちしております!" @brownie_games on Twitter, August 3, 2023. Retrieved April 4, 2024.
  11. "I think how the shoe material looks helps inform the story's world, so I'm trying to draw it based on the design of the shoes. Next, I designed the clothes by trying to imagine what kind of fashion wouldn't look strange when worn with the shoes."–Shinichi Kameoka, Art of Mana, pg. 105
  12. "とある目的で描いたやや大人っぽい聖剣2の3人の絵が出て来た。いろいろ記憶が蘇って来たけど、もう10年以上前に描いたやつやね。(*^▽^*)" @ShintaKameoka on Twitter, July 13, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  13. "そしてゲーム画面。うん、これは正しく『聖剣伝説2』のゲーム画面だね!" @ShintaKameoka on Twitter, July 13, 2018. Retrieved March 1, 2024.
  14. "俺をRPGの世界に引き摺り込んだ『ドラゴンクエストⅡ』チラシが見つかった。
    " @ShintaKameoka on Twitter, October 9, 2023. Retrieved April 15, 2024.
  15. "スクウエア入社してすぐに鳥山さんが来るからデザイナーは鳥山キャラをドット絵におこせ令が発令してその時に初めてお会いして、のちブラウニーブラウン時代に『ブルードラゴンPlus』で実際にシュウやクルックたちをドット絵におこしたのは大切な思い出。
    " @ShintaKameoka on Twitter, March 8, 2024. Retrieved March 14, 2024.

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