Rieko Kodama – most famous for co-creating Sega's iconic Phantasy Star series – has passed away aged 58.
Kodama joined Sega in 1984 and was still employed by the company at the time of her passing. She died in May of this year, but the news has only just surfaced due to the release of the Mega Drive Mini 2, which contains an 'in memory of' tribute to her in its credits.
This was spotted by Retro Gamer's Nick Thrope:
Sega producer Yosuke Oskunari confirmed the news, and this was subsequently confirmed by Sega itself, as translated by IGN:
We pray that the deceased will rest in peace, and we offer our gratitude for her enormous contributions to Sega.
Following this confirmation, Yuji Naka – who worked with Kodama on several projects, including Phantasy Star – added his own tribute:
One of the first notable female game developers, Kodama was credited as Phoenix Rie in several of her early games – many Japanese developers at this time used pseudonyms – and her first job at Sega was character designer for the 1984 arcade title Champion Boxing. She did the art for Alex Kidd in Miracle World, and served as the main artist on the first Phantasy Star, which she worked on with Yuji Naka and Kotaro Hayashida.
She would become even more associated with Sega's futuristic RPG series as time went on; she was in charge of graphics for 1989's Mega Drive sequel Phantasy Star II, would help during the planning of 1990's Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom and would direct 1993's Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium, which is regarded by some fans as the zenith of the franchise.
However, it's important to note that Kodama contributed art to a wide selection of notable Mega Drive / Genesis titles, including Sonic, Sonic 2, Revenge of Shinobi, Altered Beast and Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle.
Outside of Phantasy Star, Kodama also directed the 1995 Sega Saturn adaptation of Magic Knight Rayearth, and a few years later would produce the legendary Dreamcast RPG Skies of Arcadia.
She would then lead the development of Sega's 7th Dragon series, which had entries on DS, PSP and 3DS, before taking on a lead producer role on the Sega Ages series.