by Marcus Estrada
[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here are innumerable great creators over all artistic disciplines, but there are always those who stand as incredibly unique amongst their peers. In the video game world, Kenji Eno was one such figure. As a teenager, he created his first game and continued to create for years. KAKEXUN, a game currently seeking funding on IndieGogo, was meant to be his last work. It was in more ways than one as he passed away after having shared the initial proposal with others. But many video game fans have never heard of Eno before. If you are one of them then here’s your chance to learn more about this innovative developer.
The first game Eno ever created was Towadako Murder Case for a contest. Regardless of the result, he seemed excited to pursue this creative outlet and joined Interlink. Although he had no huge roles while there, he did aid with the creation of multiple titles. Of course, it wasn’t enough to simply polish off others’ games so he went and founded EIM, Ltd in 1990. This company produced a number enjoyable titles such as Parallel Worlds and Panic Restaurant. However, it still wasn’t the right fit. After all, they were only producing games based off contracts rather than creating brand new concepts. This time Eno dissolved a company… only to start up another.
It seems that games could never quite lose their hold on Eno. Despite leaving the scene for a few years, he soon found himself enamored with it again after a fateful visit to two conventions in 1994: MacWorld and Be-In. There he found the inspiration to try again – to really do something with this fantastic new CD technology. So, for the second time he devised a new video game developer. This latest studio was christened WARP, Inc which lasted until 2000. Most people who are fans of Eno’s work became so thanks to the projects which came out of WARP.
Initially, the development studio gravitated toward upstart console 3DO by Panasonic. Of course, any gaming fan will tell you that was one truly unfortunate system in regards to mainstream popularity. When looking at the console’s library the main standouts are basically all WARP titles. It may be said they chose the “wrong” console – but would any other console manufacturer allow these truly unique and sometimes odd works? It’s impossible to know.
WARP’s contributions to the 3DO library include: D, Oyaji Hunter Mahjong, Totsugeki Kikan (Karakuri) Megadasu!!, Short Warp, Trip’d.
Trip’d was the first WARP release to land in North America. Although it was just a simple block-matching puzzler it was a start. Mahjong games are huge in Japan but somehow the development team managed to make something completely unique with Oyaji Hunter Mahjong. Oyaji means old man, in the “old man hunter” in this case is you! Apparently your goal was to stop this lecherous old man from continuing in his perverted ways – by beating him at mahjong. Short Warp was its own sort of oddity which now is sought after by collectors. Each of the 10,000 units produced of this minigame collection were signed by Kenji Eno himself and came with the lovely (?) addition of a condom with every copy. Yep, that distinct freewheeling personality of WARP was now in full swing.
At this point WARP continued with their interesting “virtual actress” concept. Heroine Laura was the star of D, D2, and Enemy Zero in the same way that a famous actor would play roles in various films. The idea is one that still hasn’t really been explored fully in gaming but unfortunately Laura was unable to star in any further games since WARP closed up shop in this era.
One of the most interesting games from this time frame was Real Sound: Kaze no Regret. It was perhaps the first video game ever which offered no visuals at all. No static art, even! Only the later Dreamcast port included visuals, though the gameplay still relied entirely on audio. How did this come about? Apparently it was thanks to Eno getting in contact with blind and visually impaired fans of his games. Only recently have we seen other developers attempt to create pure audio gameplay experiences.
Leading up to D’s release in 1995, gamers were outrageously excited. After all, this impressive 3D horror adventure looked to be one of the most astonishing on consoles. Tons of players pre ordered copies on the PlayStation. Unfortunately, with WARP not being a priority developer to Sony, they were unable to print even half the discs required to meet demand. Angry, Eno ensured none of his future releases would ever come to a Sony platform. So if you’re wondering why they stuck around with Sega despite that dying brand, well, that’s why.
Unfortunately in 2000 WARP disbanded. Shortly after, Superwarp was founded but this company produced no video games despite the similar naming. Where Eno did continue to create games was with another company called FYTO (From Yellow to Orange). Their big release was You, Me, and the Cubes on Nintendo Wii. Along the way he also did a bit of contract work with Fieldsystems Inc. and Studio-Kura. Despite all that happened over the years, creation always seemed to be at the forefront of Eno’s world.
And that about brings us up to the present. Despite a sometimes harsh relationship with video games, Kenji Eno was willing and ready to do one last project – KAKEXUN. The many coworkers and friends he made over the years through these various game studios joined together to make this happen. Although the driving creative force of Eno himself is no longer around, this team is still hungry to make his game a reality. It was fantastic to see the alpha release funded in Japan, but it seems that perhaps Western fans simply aren’t aware of all that Eno and co. did over the years. Hopefully regardless of the IndieGogo turnout, KAKEXUN will still become a reality.
[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg”]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]