I had the rare pleasure to interview Haruhiko Shono, the ex-Synergy game designer who created milestones like Alice: Interactive Museum, L-Zone and one of my all-time favorites, Gadget: Invention, Travel & Adventure. His reputation has withered in the last years on account of the deep transformations that the videogame industry has suffered. In his early career he was influenced by the techniques of Video Art and Photography. In an unforgettable live performance in 1985, he and Ryuichi Sakamoto created one of the highlights of the Tsukuba Expo, at a time when the mixture of video, computer graphics and electronic music was an exciting novelty. His games have sold thousands of copies worldwide and have been quoted as influential pieces to movie directors such as Guillermo Del Toro, Alex Proyas, The Wachowsky Brothers and David Lynch himself - who at a certain point was so adept of Shono’s games he thought about creating his own CD-ROM title. Even today, copies of his earliest and exceedingly rare Alice are sold for over two thousand dollars, quite possibly the highest price for a non-limited game edition of all time.
In later years, the use of pre-rendered imagery ceased to be a main element of games and the industry took a turn to the real-time 3D. Because the methods of game design were suddenly changed, Shono explored the area of video and special effects where he could still be involved with the latest CGI technologies. His work in the creation of recent games can be seen in the horror sound novel Imabikisou, although in the role of CGI director. Having browsed dozens of Japanese webpages, I was shocked to find that little or no mentions to his work were available. However it is true that we live in an age of true revivalism: for some reason, the life and work of Haruhiko Shono remained unknown to most players today, with no substantial reference available anywhere that could renew the interest for his exceptional games. Such was precisely the objective of my article.
Apart from a sizeable interview, translated by my friend Sorrel Tilley, the article lists most of the published and unpublished materials designed by Shono, with a high resolution picture gallery of Gadget; it also includes a number of unseen gameplay videos from some of the rarest titles, namely L-Zone and Alice - games I think were never recorded into video before, and surely not in the quality I now document them. There is also a complete review of his video works, from the early Radical TV and TV War music performances to his CGI animation projects. May this be the starting point to your own research about this fascinating personality.
And since this is Eastern Mind’s one year old birthday I thought that throwing in a little present wouldn’t do any harm. The following file contains the full soundtrack entitled “Resonances of Gadget”, composed by Koji Ueno, without a doubt one of the rarest videogame soundtracks of all time which I had the pleasure to obtain from the author himself some months ago. I know there are many out there who have been searching for this album - my only hope is that they can somehow find it in this little corner of mine.