We’ve covered Seaman frequently throughout the years on Destructoid with overflowing hearts. And it’s under tragic circumstances that we get confirmation: Seaman 3DS was a planned project that fell through.
I first met Iwata-san back in 1996, so it was a time before you would typically see him in a suit. It was at HAL in Kofu. I remember that he always carried around a Mac (PowerBook), which was quite rare in the games industry. I think that formed a bit of connection between us—a feeling that we shared the same interests. It was around the year after that when I saw him with a G3 PowerBook, which even I had hesitated to buy, and I remember thinking, ‘this guy really loves Macs.’
It wasn’t until a bit later that I got a chance to work with him. It was around the time when Seaman was taking the world by storm and I was really busy working on planning for the sequel and taking interviews and such.
Iwata-san got in touch and asked if we could meet, and he even came all the way out to the apartment I was renting in Tokyo to see me.
As anyone who has met him probably understands, Iwata-san always has this aura about him that makes you feel happy and at ease. When you’re around him, you just feel good, even if you’re talking about work. That day, Iwata-san wasn’t in his typical casual garb, but had donned a blazer that he didn’t look quite comfortable in. He handed me his business card and awkwardly said, ‘this is what I’m up to these days.’ I looked at the card and he had a title that named him as part of the Office of the President. He said that he had distanced himself from HAL (the company at which he got his start in the games industry) and was now helping out at Nintendo (HAL was under the umbrella of Nintendo).
‘I’ve been given a special assignment to go out and get new types of games that haven’t been on Nintendo platforms before.’ That’s the reason Iwata-san gave me for why he wanted to meet that day. He told me that Seaman was the kind of thing he was looking for. Thinking about it now, his role at this time was probably given to him as preparation for taking over management of Nintendo down the road, but it didn’t look like that was on his mind at all at the time.
It’s worth reading in full for the interesting tidbits, such as Saito’s confirmation that his suggestion led to the Wii controller’s speaker, or Saito and Iwata’s experimentation with StreetPass sort of technology back in the Game Boy days. I was so bright eyed over the sincerity and passion of this nostalgia I almost forgot how Saito’s blog post had to end.
When Iwata-san came to ask me to create Seaman for the 3DS, I like to think he was in the same frame of mind as when he first came to visit me at my apartment back in 1999. I did start working on the project, but things got really complicated and I eventually let go of it. Unfortunately that brought an end to our relationship, where I could just casually visit him in Kyoto and have fun exchanging new ideas. I felt like we needed some time before we could go back to the kind of creativity-filled relationship.
It was early last summer that I first heard about him taking some time off to recover from an unfortunate illness. I distinctly remember it, because I was actually sharing a taxi at the time with two super famous people: Yuji Horii-san of Dragon Quest fame and Takafumi Horie, otherwise known as Horiemon.
Iwata-san, when I later saw you appear before the press, I was really happy to see that you had recovered, but it looks like the gods aren’t that lenient… Tezuka-san (from Nintendo) suggested that I make an appointment to see you, but I couldn’t find the nerve to do so. Now, after all my hesitation, I’ve learned that we truly passed each other by, and I’ll never be able to see you again. I wish I had a StreetPass feature that could connect with heaven. I would run out and buy a DS with that feature right now just so I could send you my thanks. Yeah, I know that sounds a bit too convenient for me. When I left the Seaman project, I sent you a book and a letter. Whether you actually read them or not has been on my mind ever since. Also, I’m really sorry for being late with Odama, causing it to completely miss the window for it to be a success. There’s so much more I want to tell you, but I really don’t know what to do with myself after hearing about your sudden departure in the news.
Life is always just a succession of regrets.
Iwata-san, thank you for everything. I don’t typically look up to a lot of people, but I really respected you. I would always be thinking from afar just how amazing of a person you are.