Adapted from BOX=ART
Susumu Matsushita is a Japanese legend of illustration known for his unique, American comic-influenced design, which shines through in his extensive catalogue of art for the video game industry.
Growing up in Tokyo and training in industrial design, Susumu would get his break in the late 1970s producing cover art for Japan’s Popeye and Young Jump magazines. The latter publication’s inaugural #1 issue would sport Susumu’s first popular character, Mac Bear, which would help cement his reputation for illustrating colorful, anthropomorphic animal characters.
In a 2009 interview with Japan Today, Susumu pointed to the opening of Tokyo Disneyland in 1983 as an explanation for why he often illustrates animal characters, commenting that Disney exposed Japan to anthropomorphic animals with which Japanese people could interact and fall in love, and from there clients began requesting more characters based on animals. In the same interview, Susumu would state that he was strongly influenced by American comics, noting that his aunt had married an American soldier in Japan and that he would often visit their house on a U.S. Army base to read her husband’s comics.
Susumu’s earliest known box art is Computer Othello (1983) for Sony’s HIT BIT range on the MSX platform. The box art would portray a busty vixen with overly large and engrossing eyes, a somewhat enduring character trademark of the artist. The MSX platform’s popularity would see many machines produced across Europe and Susumu’s box art would make it West intact. His art from this period was thus some of the earliest—if not the earliest—Japanese box art released in Europe, and Susumu would certainly become the first high-profile Japanese box artist to have art used overseas.
To coincide with the release of Nintendo‘s Famicom in 1986, Japan’s first and still most revered gaming magazine Famitsu would be published in June of that year. Susumu would become the main cover artist from issue #3 and from issue #7 he would create Necky the Fox, the magazine’s mascot and a character that remains recognizable in Japan more than three decades later. Necky’s popularity would establish the artist as one of Japan’s premier character designers. Indicative of the success he was having, that same year, Susumu established the Susumu Matsushita Enterprises Company, bringing on board assistant artists to help with his demanding workload.
Also in 1986, Susumu designed the box art for the first Adventure Island game. The box art would be a wonderful explosion of characters, color, and chaos that would be replicated on not only all subsequent series box art but in the majority of the artist’s designs.
The artist’s next big series would be the Japan-only Derby Stallion (1991), followed by Motor Toon Grandprix (1994). More modern gamers though will probably remember the concept work Susumu did for Capcom’s Maximo series (2001–2004). The art is darker than his usual work and would be used to portray the in-game characters also. Susumu was additionally responsible for the game’s logo.
Well known as a traditional media artist, Susumu will normally sketch out a design in acrylic paint before applying oils by airbrush. The process of designing a composition is a complex one of layering paint using delicate stencils in order to achieve crisp lines. Susumu places great importance on the attention given to characters' expressions.
Outside of video game box art work, the artist is well known for producing promotional characters for Japan’s Space World resort, character and logo designs for Japanese sporting teams, as well as his continuing work with Famitsu magazine.
OVGA has included below Susumu Matsushita 松下進's full known box art catalogue:
- Computer Othello (Sony Corporation | MSX | 1983)
- Alibaba and the 40 Thieves (Sony Corporation | MSX | 1984)
- Backgammon (Sony Corporation | MSX | 1984)
- Chess (Sony Corporation | MSX | 1984)
- Game ABC game Programming Master (Sony Corporation | MSX | 1984)
- Shogi (Sony Corporation | MSX | 1984)
- Adventure Island (Hudson Soft | Game Boy Advance, MSX, NES | 1986)
- Ikinari Musician (Tokyo Shoseki Co. | NES-JPN | 1987)
- The Best Play Baseball (ASCII Corp. | NES-JPN | 1988)
- The Best Play Baseball Special (ASCII Corp. | NES-JPN | 1988)
- The Best Play Baseball II (ASCII Corp. | NES-JPN | 1990)
- The Best Play Baseball ‘90 (ASCII Corp. | NES-JPN | 1990)
- Navy Blue ‘90 (Use Corp. | Game Boy | 1990)
- Adventure Island II a.k.a. Adventure Island: Part II (Hudson Soft | NES-EUR/JPN | 1991)
- Derby Stallion: Best Race (ASCII Corp. | NES-JPN | 1991)
- Adventure Island a.k.a. Adventure Island Classic (Hudson Soft | NES-EUR | 1992) The original Adventure Island did not make it to Europe until this release, featuring new artwork and new name
- Adventure Island II a.k.a. Hudson's Adventure Island (Hudson Soft | Game Boy | 1992) repeat art - as the original Adventure was initially not released in Europe, Adventure Island II featured the game's original art and the title "Hudson's Adventure Island"
- Adventure Island III (Hudson Soft | NES-JPN | 1992)
- Derby Stallion: National Edition (ASCII Corp. | NES | 1992)
- New Adventure Island (Hudson Soft | Turbografx-16 | 1992)
- Super Adventure Island (Hudson Soft | SNES | 1992)
- Adventure Island III a.k.a. Adventure Island II: Aliens in Paradise (Hudson Soft | Game Boy-JPN | 1993) repeat art
- Elfaria (Hudson Soft | SNES | 1993)
- Adventure Island IV | Hudson Soft | NES | 1994)
- Derby Stallion II (ASCII Corp. | SNES | 1994)
- Down the World: Mervil’s Ambition (ASCII Corp. | SNES | 1994)
- Motor Toon Grand Prix (Sony | PS1-JPN | 1994)
- Super Adventure Island II (Hudson Soft | SNES | 1994)
- Derby Stallion III (ASCII Corp. | SNES | 1995)
- Elfaria II (Hudson Soft | SNES | 1995)
- Derby Stallion ‘96 (ASCII Corp. | SNES | 1996)
- Motor Toon Grand Prix | Sony | PS1-USA | 1996)
- Motor Toon Grand Prix II | Sony | PS1-EUR/JPN | 1996)
- Willy Wombat (Hudson Soft | Saturn | 1997)
- Shadows of Tusk (Hudson Soft | Saturn | 1998)
- Monkey Magic | Sun Corp. | PS1-USA | 1999)
- Wonder B-Cruise (SunSoft | PS1 | 1999)
- Monkey Magic (Sun Corp | PS1-JPN | 2000)
- Maximo: Ghosts to Glory | Capcom | PS2-JPN | 2001)
- Maximo: Ghosts to Glory (Capcom | PS2-USA/EUR | 2002)
- Maximo vs Army of Zin (Capcom | PS2-JPN | 2003)
- Maximo vs Army of Zin | Capcom | PS2-USA/EUR | 2004)
- Puzzle Mate: Oekaki Mate (Compile Heart | Nintendo DS | 2008)
- Puzzle Mate: Nampure Mate (Compile Heart | Nintendo DS | 2008)
- Puzzle Mate: Crossword Mate (Compile Heart | Nintendo DS | 2008)
- Tiny Barbarian DX (Starquail | Nintendo Switch | 2017)