The quirky Japanese developer, Kenji Eno, recently passed away.
Kenji fell in love with videogames at an early age and decided to move into the industry after constantly playing Space Invaders and Pac-Man as a child. Fuelled by a passion for programming and music, he entered a regional competition and won a prize. Ten years later he was applying for a job at Interlink and despite early concerns over his coding, soon convinced them to let him compose music.
It wasn’t long before Eno formed his own company, EIM, in 1989 and began developing games on the NES for publishers ranging from Sunsoft to Sigman. One particularly interesting project was Super Man, but it was eventually cancelled when Eno came into conflict with the owners, who wanted a game where Super Man couldn’t die, get damaged, or suffer from other maladies that were prevalant in videogames at the time. The game morphed into Sun Man (right down to the Super Man font) but it was never released, althogh a prototype ROM was subsequently leaked onto the internet.
Eno had formed EIM because he wanted to create independent games, but he soon realised that original IP was a hard sell unless it was attached to a popular licence. he soon left EIM and began doing freelance work, predominantly on a popular car magazine, before he was eventually lured back into the world of videogames.
Eno quickly set up Warp, Inc, the company that would go on to feature his most significant games. In typical maverick fashion, Eno ignored the popular consoles and computers of the time, deciding to create his first piece of work for Trip Hawkins’ 3DO. After releasing Totsugeki Karakuri Megadasu!! and Trip’d, work began on D, one of Eno’s most famous games.
D was a survival horror game that had a number of distinct gameplay mechanics ranging from not being able to pause or save the game, to multiple endings. It also boasted a number of taboo themes including cannibalism, and went on to receive two follow-ups, Enemy Zero for Sega’s Saturn (which once again featured protagonist Laura Harris) and D2 for the Dreamcast, which was a standalone game, despite once again featuring Laura.
Music continued to play a big part in Eno’s life as well, with Warp releasing Real Sound in 1997 for the Saturn and enhanced update Real Sound: Kaze No Regret for Dreamcast. Both games are rather noticeable because they were specifically designed with blind players in mind. Unfortunately for Eno the games weren’t a commerical success.
Warp was disbanded in 2000, shortly after the release of D2, and Kenji formed a new company called Super Warp. Initially things went well, with Eno planning an innovative new music-based PC game, but difficulties with various investors meant that Super Warp closed down in 2005 and Eno once again moved back into over non-gaming jobs, only to return with FYTO (From Yellow To Orange) and a new game You And Me And The Cubes for Nintendo’s Wii Ware service.
Eno’s last known game project was Newtonica for iOS, which he helped develop and score. It was revealed by The Asahi Shimbun that Eno had passed away from heart failure, induced by high blood pressure. He was aged just 42.