Although he probably wouldn’t embrace the title, Hidetaka Miyazaki is nothing short of an auteur. He almost single-handedly took an ailing fantasy game, stuck within development hell under the foot of Sony, and turned it into one of the most influential modern video games in existence: Demon’s Souls.
The story of From Software, the studio of which Miyazaki is now President, is told through the book ‘You Died,’ written by Jason Killingsworth and Keza MacDonald. Over the course of roughly 300 pages, the veteran writers tell the story of how Miyazaki took the reigns of Demon’s Souls, and was only able to get it made by deceiving Sony with regards to the difficulty of the title.
While Demon’s Souls somewhat floundered in Japan upon release, it gained a cult following overseas, attracting players almost purely through word of mouth. The tales people have of their adventures within the game are recounted in You Died, and I’d strongly urge anyone with even the slightest interest in the Souls series to pick up a copy.
But the lukewarm reception of Demon’s Souls didn’t stop Miyazaki. In virtually no time at all (in development terms, anyway) work on Dark Souls, the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, had begun, with Miyazaki once again undertaking the role of director for the project.
The Souls series has defined not only Miyazaki as both a designer and a person, but also From Software at large. Having now sold well over 8 million copies worldwide since the start of this month, From Software have clearly found their tentpole franchise, with some helpful direction from the man in command.
So why would Miyazaki, and the entire studio, walk away from the series?
The answer is a decidedly simple one: Miyazaki clearly feels the need to do something new, and different. It’s not dissimilar to how Hideo Kojima felt the need to move on from the storied Metal Gear Solid series, except where Kojima kept on saying he would make the leap, Miyazaki has already jumped ship.
And I have nothing but the utmost respect for Hidetaka Miyazaki, for making the aforementioned decision. It’s hard to walk away from something that you personally created, and it’s even harder when that thing just happens to be one of the most influential, enigmatic video games series’ ever made.
Again, as with the Kojima comparison, it’s not hard to find parallels to Miyazaki’s decision elsewhere within the video game industry. In my mind the Witcher series finally reached peak performance with the release of the third entry in the series last year, and although I rate the Witcher 3 as one of the greatest video games ever made, I can entirely sympathise with developer CD Projekt RED moving on from the series.
Miyazaki and CD Projekt RED have been left with a unique situation, upon the latest release of their respective video games. They have the opportunity to walk away from a series they created, while it’s still held in astronomically high regard by both critics and fans alike.
I can only imagine how the Metal Gear Solid series would be looked back on if Kojima had chosen to walk away after Snake Eater. Yes, people would’ve probably rioted in
the streets their homes, but the Metal Gear Solid series was never able to top the emotional gut punch that the ending of Snake Eater inflicted in players, even if Paz’s final scene in the Phantom Pain did reduce me to tears.
Hidetaka Miyazaki is leaving behind one of the most intricate, obsessive video game series, and striking out a brand new path with a brand new IP (I assume). He’s leaving the Souls series on a high note, and after everything he’s given players to endlessly pour over, I’d say he’s more than earned the right to walk away.