Saturday, December 24, 2011

Nintendo Key Figures - Takehiro Izushi (出石武宏), inventor of Custom Gunman

Over the lasts months, many posts on this blog covered the creations and innovations by Nintendo master engineer and inventor Gunpei Yokoi. And rightly so, as his imagination has been a key force in shaping Nintendo to what it is today. But it has never been a complete solo effort by Yokoi. Great designers work in great teams, with people who help shape, hone, extend and execute ideas.

In future posts, I will also spotlight some of Yokoi's collaboraters and colleagues from Nintendo's Research and Development department.

We will start with the inventor of two of my personal all-time Nintendo favorites: Custom Gunman and Custom Lion (カステム ガンマン, カステム ライオン). These light gun targets were the last toys in the successful Kousenjuu Custom (光線銃 カスツム) series.

Kousenjuu Custom Gunman and Lion (1976)

The initial Kousenjuu series concept (toy guns, riffles and targets produced between 1970 and 1971) was conceived by Gunpei Yokoi, together with Masayuki Uemura.

However, the credits for coming up with the Custom Gunman and Custom Lion targets go to Takehiro Izushi (出石武宏), in one of his first assignments after joining the Nintendo R&D team in 1975.

Custom Gunman US Patent 4,090,714, by Takehiro Izushi

The US patent for Custom Gunman (patent title is "Rope Controlled Photo Target") give a nice impression of the inner workings of the ingenious electromechanical toy Izushi created.

The lever (#23 in above drawing) keeps the cowboy figure upright by pulling down a metal rope (#10), when the lever is pushed up by the pin (#24) on the motor driven wheel (#21). This wheel automatically stops when it is in its highest position, and the cowboy is ready to be shot.

When the electric sensor detects a hit by the light gun, the engine (#20) starts, and the pin releases the lever, causing the cowboy to fall instantly.

The motor then continues a full cycle, until the cowboy is erect again.

The patent shows some additional designs, which never made it into production, like this china man below.

Another idea in the patent is an elephant, which is similar to the Custom Lion release.

The strangest of the three, is a target in the form of a collapsing house. Shooting a house with a gun was probably a bit too farfetched, and it never made it beyond the ideas stage.

Takehiro Izushi was responsible for the concept and design of the mechanics of Custom Gunman and Custom Lion. In his own words (April 2010):
"I made targets for the Kousenjuu Custom series. If you hit the target on a doll, it would fall over. Kano-san was the one who designed the dolls. [...] I became involved with the mechanical aspects, and [...] did everything from designing the chassis to working on the packaging and throwing out ideas that I thought would be neat."

In the above quote, Izushi refers to Makoto Kano, another Nintendo legend (but more on him later).

[photo (c) Nintendo]

To this day, Takehiro Izushi works for Nintendo. After the Custom targets, he designed hardware for the Color TV Game series and Game & Watch series. He was also involved in an unusual project that Nintendo did in commission for American company Telko, and that resulted in the Bassmate Computer.

Later he contributed to many video game titles for arcade, Famicom and various Nintendo consoles and handhelds; moving into management of software development. He also sports co-inventor-ship of the Virtual Boy with Gunpei Yokoi (and Masatoshi Okuno).

In 1996, when Gunpei Yokoi left Nintendio, Izushi took over as head of Research and Development department R&D 1.

Takehiro Izushi [photo (c) Nintendo]

The quote and photos above are taken from an interview conducted by Nintendo company president Satoru Iwata as part of his 'Iwata asks' interview series, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Game & Watch game Ball.

Iwata's interviews are always worth reading, but this interview in particliar provides a rare and intersting insight the company's history before the Famicom. You can find it on Nintendo's website (here for Japanese version).

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