Born on May 8th, 1965, Keiji Inafune is a game producer who is often credited as the “father” of Mega Man. Inafune joined the Japanese game industry with Capcom in the late ’80s after graduating college with a degree in graphic design from Osaka Designers’ College, as an illustrator and artist.
In his early years at Capcom, he worked on some of the titles which are extremely influential to video games as they are today such as Street Fighter and Mega Man. Rather than working for Capcom, Inafune initially had ambitions to work for rival Konami. Inafune ended up choosing Capcom ultimately in the end because they were closer to home for him.
Almost everyone under the sun who knows video games would likely say that Inafune is the father of the legendary Mega Man. But, Inafune himself states that at best, he is only half of the creator of Mega Man due to the fact that the initial designer, Akira Kitamura, already had rough drafts of what Mega Man should look like.
For the Mega Man franchise, Inafune was tasked with making many of the smaller enemy characters that the Blue Bomber would face as well as the boss character “Elec-Man”. Elec Man was the first original video game character which Inafune would go on to design. At the advent of the Super Famicom, Inafune would be requested to create a Mega Man for the future, which then later became “Mega Man X”.
Inafune had an initial character design for Mega Man X but determined that it wouldn’t be accepted and requested another designer to create X while Inafune worked on the 2nd protagonist, Zero. Zero would go on to effectively take “all of the cool scenes in the Mega Man X series” as stated by Inafune himself.
Moving Up the Corporate Ladder – From Designer to Producer and Beyond
After close to 10 years at Capcom, Inafune was appointed to the Producer role after long time producer Tokuro Fujiwara had departed the company. The first title that Inafune was in charge of producing was the highly anticipated Mega Man 8 for Sony’s PlayStation console.
After working on multiple titles from Mega Man, Mega Man X, the ill-fated Mega Man Legends, and the critically acclaimed Resident Evil 2, Inafune decided that he wanted to do something different with the Mega Man franchise. Based on an idea he had from observing his son, he came up with the concept for Mega Man: Battle Network, an RPG style game set in the Internet which takes place outside of the main-line Mega Man stories.
This took some work to get over with higher-ups and artists but ultimately came to fruition as what I perceive as one of the best Mega Man series which has come out on any platform. From here, he was appointed as a Senior Corporate Officer and went to work on numerous other titles such as the Mega Man ZX series, Dead Rising, Street Fighter EX3, and even green-lighting Street Fighter IV.
Trials and Tribulations – The departure from Capcom
After his numerous successes and creations while he manned his various roles within Capcom, in October of 2010 Inafune announced that he would be leaving Capcom after 23 long years to “start his life over”. Shortly after in December of 2010, Inafune announced that he will be launching his own company based in Osaka, a design and production studio under the name of Comcept.
Then, in January of 2011, he launched yet another company called Intercept which focused on game development. In December of the same year, he became a Representative Director of smartphone game developer DiNg.
In 2013, Inafune’s company, Comcept, in partnership with Inti-Creates announced that they were working on a “spiritual successor” to Mega Man, titled Mighty No. 9, funded by a Kickstarter campaign.
After countless delays and issues, the game was finally released in 2016 to a less than welcome response. Inafune went on to state that he “will own the responsibility” for the issues with the game and attributed it to misjudging the difficulty of developing the main game as well as all of the ports for the game to multiple systems simultaneously.
Closing – Success leads to Failure
It’s without a shadow of a doubt that Inafune has had an immense amount of success in the video game industry while he was with Capcom. Upon starting his own ventures, the success has been few and far between. He wanted to kick start another spiritual successor to Mega Man Legends titled Red Ash which failed to get funded.
Sometimes, you need to know when to throw in the towel, and in June of 2017, that is exactly what seemed to happen as Comcept was purchased by Level-5 and became Level-5 Comcept. Regardless of his successes or failures, Inafune is a legendary creator in his own right and will likely go on to make even more hits with unique and engaging ideas for years to come.