Isamu Kamikokuryo

Last updated
Isamu Kamikokuryo
Isamu Kamikokuryo.jpg
Born (1970-07-31) July 31, 1970 (age 47)
Residence Tokyo, Japan
Nationality Japanese
Occupation Video game artist

Isamu Kamikokuryo(上国料 勇,Kamikokuryō Isamu, born July 31, 1970) is a Japanese video game artist who worked at Square Enix until his resignation on March 31, 2017. He is known for his work on the company's role-playing video game series Final Fantasy , for which he designed locations and characters. Among others, he was involved in the Ivalice Alliance and Fabula Nova Crystallis franchises. Kamikokuryo had initially planned to become an oil painter and illustrator but was inspired to join the video game industry by the release of Final Fantasy VII . His influences as an artist include realist painter Andrew Wyeth and photojournalist Steve McCurry. Kamikokuryo draws inspiration from his photography hobby and world travels.

Game art design is a subset of game development. It is the process of creating the artistic aspects for video games. Video game art design begins in the pre-production phase of creating a video game. The video game artists are visual artists involved from the conception of the game and they make rough sketches of the characters, setting, objects, etc. These starting concept designs can also be created by the game designers before the game is moved into actualization. Sometimes these are concept designs are called “programmer art”. After the rough sketches are completed and the game is ready to be moved forward those artists or more artists are brought in to bring these sketches to life through graphic design.

Square Enix Japanese video game developer, publisher, and distribution company

Square Enix Holdings Co., Ltd. is a Japanese video game developer, publisher, and distribution company known for its Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Kingdom Hearts role-playing video game franchises, among numerous others. Several of them have sold over 10 million copies worldwide, with the Final Fantasy franchise alone selling over 115 million. The Square Enix headquarters are in the Shinjuku Eastside Square Building in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The company employs over 4300 employees worldwide.

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.


Biography and career

Kamikokuryo was born on July 31, 1970. [1] He originally aspired to become an oil painter and illustrator, but his hobby of playing video games had him interested in their emerging industry early on. [2] [3] With the increasing use of 3D computer graphics and the release of Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation console, Kamikokuryo began to study design. [2] After about three years, he applied at Square with a resume containing a photographed oil painting of his and was hired by the company in 1999. [2] [4]

An illustrator is an artist who specializes in enhancing writing or elucidating concepts by providing a visual representation that corresponds to the content of the associated text or idea. The illustration may be intended to clarify complicated concepts or objects that are difficult to describe textually, which is the reason illustrations are often found in children's books.

3D computer graphics graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data

3D computer graphics or three-dimensional computer graphics, are graphics that use a three-dimensional representation of geometric data that is stored in the computer for the purposes of performing calculations and rendering 2D images. Such images may be stored for viewing later or displayed in real-time.

<i>Final Fantasy VII</i> 1997 video game

Final Fantasy VII is a 1997 role-playing video game developed by Square for the PlayStation console. It is the seventh main installment in the Final Fantasy series. Published in Japan by Square, it was released in other regions by Sony Computer Entertainment and became the first in the main series to see a PAL release. The game's story follows Cloud Strife, a mercenary who joins an eco-terrorist organization to stop a world-controlling megacorporation from using the planet's life essence as an energy source. Events send Cloud and his allies in pursuit of Sephiroth, a superhuman intent on destroying their planet. During the journey, Cloud builds close friendships with his party members, including Aerith Gainsborough, who holds the secret to saving their world.

Kamikokuryo started working at the company back in 1999, beginning with concept art for Final Fantasy X. Kamikokuryo's first assignment was directing the background art for Final Fantasy X . [3] [5] In July 2001, he joined the Final Fantasy XII project team and took a high fantasy approach to creating the game's fictional world. [6] [7] Kamikokuryo designed large cities with varied architectural styles as he wanted to convey the feeling of walking through a real-life metropolis. [7] His early illustrations for the game were based heavily on the concept of floating continents but could not be fully realized during development. However, they eventually wound up as the principal setting for the Nintendo DS sequel Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings whose art was also supervised by Kamikokuryo. [2]

<i>Final Fantasy X</i> video game

Final Fantasy X is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square as the tenth entry in the Final Fantasy series. Originally released in 2001 for Sony's PlayStation 2, the game was re-released as Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita in 2013, for PlayStation 4 in 2015, Microsoft Windows in 2016, and will be released for the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One in 2019. The game marks the Final Fantasy series transition from entirely pre-rendered backdrops to fully three-dimensional areas, and is also the first in the series to feature voice acting. Final Fantasy X replaces the Active Time Battle (ATB) system with the "Conditional Turn-Based Battle" (CTB) system, and uses a new leveling system called the "Sphere Grid".

<i>Final Fantasy XII</i> video game

Final Fantasy XII is a fantasy role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 2 home video console. A part of the Final Fantasy series, the game was released in 2006. It introduced several innovations to the series: an open world, a seamless battle system, a controllable camera, a customizable "gambit" system, which lets the player control the artificial intelligence (AI) of characters in battle, a "license" system, which determines what abilities and equipment can be used by characters, and a hunting side quest, which allows the player to find and defeat increasingly difficult monsters in the game's open world. Final Fantasy XII also includes elements from previous games in the series, such as Chocobos and Moogles.

High fantasy sub-genre of fantasy fiction defined by a fantastical setting

High fantasy or epic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy, defined either by the epic nature of its setting or by the epic stature of its characters, themes, or plot. The term "high fantasy" was coined by Lloyd Alexander in a 1971 essay, "High Fantasy and Heroic Romance".

For Final Fantasy XIII , he again assumed the role of art director. Kamikokuryo and his team spent almost one year on pre-production for the game. [8] While he was still working on Final Fantasy XIII, he was asked to create illustrations for The 3rd Birthday . He accepted the offer because Aya Brea was one of his favorite characters and he wished to participate in the revival of the Parasite Eve series. Kamikokuryo eventually became the game's art director and went through a long period of trial and error while trying to conceive a unique graphical style. [9] The visuals started to come together once he had drawn an illustration of a monster hive centered around the concepts of "fear" and "sensuality". [9] [10] While Kamikokuryo did not personally design the characters' costumes, he gave specific instructions to the artist in charge of them. [11]

<i>Final Fantasy XIII</i> 2010 role-playing video game

Final Fantasy XIII is a science fiction role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles and later for the Microsoft Windows operating system. Released in Japan in December 2009 and worldwide in March 2010, it is the thirteenth title in the mainline Final Fantasy series. The game includes fast-paced combat, a new system for the series for determining which abilities are developed for the characters called "Crystarium", and a customizable "Paradigm" system to control which abilities are used by the characters. Final Fantasy XIII includes elements from the previous games in the series, such as summoned monsters, chocobos, and airships.

Pre-production is the process of planning some of the elements involved in a film, play, or other performance. There are three parts in a production: pre-production, production, and post-production. Pre-production ends when the planning ends and the content starts being produced.

<i>The 3rd Birthday</i> Square Enix third-person shooter video game

The 3rd Birthday is a third-person role-playing shooter co-developed by Square Enix and HexaDrive, and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation Portable. It was released in Japan in 2010 and in North America and Europe in 2011. The game is both the third entry in the Parasite Eve video game series, based on the titular Japanese novel, and a spin-off, having only a loose connection to events from past games. The game features a third-person shooter-based combat system with role-playing mechanics. A key mechanic is the Overdive ability, which allows the player to possess pre-positioned human allies and inflict damage upon enemies.

Afterwards, Kamikokuryo worked as art director on Final Fantasy XIII-2 . As he felt that the tone of the story was much darker than that of its predecessor, he decided on surrealism as the main theme for the visuals. [12] The works of Salvador Dalí and Giorgio de Chirico were used as references and helped Kamikokuryo strike a balance between photorealism and fantasy-like surrealism. [13] Unlike Final Fantasy XIII, the game had a much tighter schedule allowing for little pre-production. Kamikokuryo hence used photographs instead of self-drawn pictures to explain his setting ideas to the other staff members. [12] For example, a photograph of ruined buildings in the Cuban capital Havana inspired the look of Valhalla, the afterlife of Final Fantasy XIII-2. [14] Kamikokuryo gave his artists more freedom to include their own ideas in the game's locations, intending to rectify the shortcomings of the more artificial seeming settings in Final Fantasy XIII. [12] In addition to adjusting models, camera angles and lighting effects, he also drew the final version of the character Lightning based on a silhouette sketch by Tetsuya Nomura. [14] [15] Kamikokuryo's first character design, he received suggestions from Nomura and finished Lightning's costume in one to two months. [14]

<i>Final Fantasy XIII-2</i> video game

Final Fantasy XIII-2 is a role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Released in 2011 in Japan and 2012 in North America and PAL regions, it is a direct sequel to the 2009 role-playing game Final Fantasy XIII and is part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries. A port to Microsoft Windows was released on Steam in December 2014 followed by iOS and Android in September 2015. XIII-2 includes modified features from the previous game, including fast-paced combat and a customizable "Paradigm" system to control which abilities are used by the characters, and adds a new system that allows monsters to be captured and used in battle. It features a heavy time travel element, allowing the player to jump between different times at the same location or different places at the same time. Lightning, the protagonist of the original game, has disappeared into an unknown world. Her younger sister Serah Farron, a returning character, and a young man named Noel Kreiss, journey through time in an attempt to find Lightning.

Surrealism international cultural movement that began in the early 1920s

Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for its visual artworks and writings. Artists painted unnerving, illogical scenes with photographic precision, created strange creatures from everyday objects, and developed painting techniques that allowed the unconscious to express itself. Its aim was to "resolve the previously contradictory conditions of dream and reality into an absolute reality, a super-reality".

Salvador Dalí Spanish artist

Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, 1st Marquis of Dalí de Púbol, known professionally as Salvador Dalí, was a prominent Spanish surrealist born in Figueres, Catalonia, Spain.

For Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII , the conclusion of the trilogy started with Final Fantasy XIII, Kamikokuryo again was the art director. For the game's art style, he suggested a blend between mechanical designs, fantasy elements and gothic art. As such, he and his team used 19th century gadgets and London at the time of the Industrial Revolution as visual references. [16] Kamikokuryo designed two of Lightning's costumes, among them the "Nocturne" garb. [17]

<i>Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII</i> 2013 video game

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII is an action role-playing video game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was released in November 2013 for Japan and February 2014 for North America, Australia and Europe. A port to Microsoft Windows through Steam was released in December 2015 followed by iOS and Android in Japan during February 2016. The game is a direct sequel to Final Fantasy XIII-2, concludes the storyline of Final Fantasy XIII, and forms part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis subseries. Lightning Returns employs a highly revamped version of the gameplay system from the previous two games, with an action-oriented battle system, the ability to customize the player character's outfits, and a time limit the player must extend by completing story missions and side quests.

Gothic art Style of Medieval art developed in Northern France

Gothic art was a style of medieval art that developed in Northern France out of Romanesque art in the 12th century AD, led by the concurrent development of Gothic architecture. It spread to all of Western Europe, and much of Southern and Central Europe, never quite effacing more classical styles in Italy. In the late 14th century, the sophisticated court style of International Gothic developed, which continued to evolve until the late 15th century. In many areas, especially Germany, Late Gothic art continued well into the 16th century, before being subsumed into Renaissance art. Primary media in the Gothic period included sculpture, panel painting, stained glass, fresco and illuminated manuscripts. The easily recognizable shifts in architecture from Romanesque to Gothic, and Gothic to Renaissance styles, are typically used to define the periods in art in all media, although in many ways figurative art developed at a different pace.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of both England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

Kamikokuryo resigned from Square Enix on March 31, 2017. [18] His last game at the company was Final Fantasy XV , to which he served as art director. He thanked Square Enix for giving him so many opportunities to both work with great people, as well as deploy his skills. Kamikokuryo now aims to start writing again in addition to doing freelance art and diction work. [18]

Style and personal life

Isamu Kamikokuryo (left) and Yoshinori Kitase (middle) at a Final Fantasy XIII launch event in London hosted by Alex Zane (right) Final Fantasy XIII Launch.jpg
Isamu Kamikokuryo (left) and Yoshinori Kitase (middle) at a Final Fantasy XIII launch event in London hosted by Alex Zane (right)

Before he joined the game industry, Kamikokuryo had created figurative art of people and landscapes. [14] His primary influences are realist painter Andrew Wyeth, industrial designer Luigi Colani, comics artists Alex Ross and Frank Frazetta as well as photojournalist Steve McCurry. [2] [3] Kamikokuryo also gives Hajime Sorayama, Katsuya Terada, Range Murata, Akira Yasuda, Ryuichiro Kutsuzawa and Alphonse Mucha as his favorite artists. [19] Some of the tools and programs used by Kamikokuryo are a Vaio computer, an Intuos graphics tablet and the applications Adobe Photoshop and MetaCreations Painter. [1] He explained how his style differs depending on the teams he works with: Yoshinori Kitase's staff would normally ask for "catchy and original" designs while Yasumi Matsuno's would request something "highly artistic in nature" and "faithful to [the] sound foundation" of the team. [2]

Kamikokuryo lives in Tokyo. [1] [2] He is an avid hobby photographer and world traveler, taking pictures of scenery and buildings for future reference. [2] [3] For example, he had visited New York City, the Grand Canyon and ancient ruins in Italy before he started working on Final Fantasy XIII. [8] He likes playing video games that demand deliberate judgments, such as those in the simulation and real-time strategy genre. [2] Kamikokuryo's preferred titles include Grand Theft Auto , The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion , Red Dead Redemption , Dragon Warrior III and Final Fantasy VII . [2] [14] His favorite musicians are Japanese singers Ringo Sheena and Lisa. [1] [19]


Game Released System(s) Credit(s)
Final Fantasy X 2001 PlayStation 2 Gadget art designer, background art director [3] [5]
Final Fantasy XII 2006 PlayStation 2 Art direction
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings 2007 Nintendo DS Art supervisor
Final Fantasy XIII 2009 PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Art director
The 3rd Birthday 2010 PlayStation Portable Art director
Final Fantasy XIII-2 2011 PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Art director, character designer [14]
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII 2013 PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 Art director
Final Fantasy XV 2016 PlayStation 4, Xbox One Art director
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age 2017PlayStation 4 Promotional illustrator

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