Sega has confirmed today the passing of Rieko Kodama. Rumors of her passing began to swirl online after Retro Gamer editor Nick Thorpe shared a memorial to the developer found in the credits for the recently released Mega Drive Mini 2. The Ares Arcadia Twitter account reached out to Sega producer Yosuke Oskunari to see if this might have been a mistranslation, but Oskunari revealed that Kodama has indeed died. Sega went on to confirm that Kodama passed at 59-years-old back in May, but the company opted not to publicly announce her death out of respect for her family.
Kodama has a long history with Sega, dating back to 1984. Kodama started with the company as a graphic designer, eventually taking on roles as a producer and director. In the company's early days, Sega did not allow real names to be used in the credits of its games, so Kodama was often credited under the name "Phoenix Rie." In her 35-year-career, Kodama worked on a number of major projects for Sega, including some of the company's most beloved titles.
As you understand it. We respected her.— Yosuke Okunari /奥成洋輔 (@okunari) October 27, 2022
While Kodama's work can be found in a number of different games, she was an avid fan of RPGs, and played a hand in some of the company's most notable genre entries. Kodama was the main artist on the original Phantasy Star and Phantasy Star II, contributed on Phantasy Star III's planning stages, and directed Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium. In the late '90s, Kodama would return to the genre when she led development on Skies of Arcadia. The game released on the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, and is widely considered one of the system's very best games. In a 2010 profile of Kodama, Nintendo Power magazine referred to her as the "First Lady of RPGs."
It's impossible to overstate the impact Kodama had on Sega during her time with the company, and on the industry as a whole. In more recent years, Kodama was the lead producer on the Sega Ages series of games, which can be found on Nintendo Switch. Her passing is a sad moment for the industry, but it is much richer for having had her in it.