Condoms, cannibalism, and a true original: Kenji Eno will be deeply missed
Kenji Eno passed away February 20, at the young age of 42, but not before leaving behind a diverse, strange, and influential legacy in the world of video games. The condoms are only part of the story.
Gaming’s bad boy of the ‘90s
When he made the mini-game collection Short Warp, not only did Eno hand-number each of the 10,000 copies individually, but also packaged in a special surprise with the game: a condom. Judging from game play, a condom may have been one of the least strange things about the game.
Eno liked to twist people’s expectations of him. When 1UP asked him about the development process for Oyaji Hunter, a game where you use mahjong to save girls from middle-aged perverts, he said one reason he made it was simply because people didn’t think he would. He also tapped Ichiro Itano, animator of Macross/Robotech, to create the animations for the game.
D, an adventure / puzzle / survival-horror game was another sneaky surprise from Eno. The game was full of violence and gore, which wasn’t often acceptable from games in the mid-90s, but Eno wanted the scenes intact. He purposefully submitted the game late, so that he would have to travel to the US and hand-deliver a master copy of the game. Before he did so, however, he swapped out the clean version of the game with the uncut version. The game was released with the cannibalism, and other grisly scenes, intact.
(A quick note from Ben: D was one of my favorite PlayStation titles. The way the game was paced, and the adult nature of the content, stuck with me in a way that even Resident Evil can’t match. It may seem slightly silly now, but when it was released it stood apart, and I faithfully tried to find all the beetles to see the best ending.)
Eno took several breaks from game development, but he always came back. In 1989, he founded his own company, EIM. EIM only produced sequels and spin-offs, which left Eno unhappy. He dissolved the company in 1992 and left gaming for two years before returning with another company, WARP, Inc. Eno steered WARP to create games for the 3DO and SEGA, with D2 on Dreamcast being the company’s final release.
Eno once again retired from the gaming industry after D2, keeping mostly silent with regards to his new company, Fyto, and what would eventually be his final game, You, Me and the Cubes, released in 2009 for the Wii.
The world outside
Eno produced music not only for his own games, but the mainstream market as well. Eno was a collaborator for The Cinematic Orchestra’s album, Remixes 98-2000. You can download Remixes 98-2000, as well as the score from the game newtonica, on iTunes.
Despite his bravado and bad boy image – he stomped the hell out of a doll of Muumuu, a Sony mascot at the time, at a 1996 press conference, and also announced his SEGA Saturn game, Enemy Zero, at a Sony event by having the PlayStation logo transform into the SEGA Saturn logo – Eno struggled with the mental stress of his work.
“Toward the end [of WARP], there was a period where I wouldn’t even go to my office because I was so upset,” Eno told 1UP. Thankfully, this was the time Eno created Short Warp, and the insanity of the game helped balance him out. “I was thinking, ‘If I’m going to create a game like this, I should do something really crazy,’” he said. So remember, if you’re ever feeling stressed, make a video game and package in free condoms. It worked for Eno.
Eno leaves behind a legacy, not just for his personality or games, but for his profound effect on the gaming industry. Fumito Ueda, creator of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, got his start at Eno’s WARP. Oddly enough, Eno admitted that Ueda failed the initial application, but his ideas were so strong that Eno hand-picked him for the team. Eno believed in people.
Ueda eulogized Eno on Twitter, where he regretted that he never properly thanked Eno for giving him his start. “I am praying with all my heart for his happiness in the afterlife,” he wrote.