Kenji Eno’s memory lives on as development continues on his final game, KakeXun

Kenji Eno

Naoya Sato (right) is continuing to develop KakeXun following its creator’s sudden, sad death.

When Kenji Eno wrote a 10-page project proposal for KakeXun, he knew it would be his last game – but he couldn’t have realised that he would not live to see its completion.

Eno’s sudden death from heart failure in February 2013, at the age of 42, came shortly after he had told his partner at From Yellow To Orange Inc Katsutoshi Eguchi, that he intended to leave games to work in the education industry. KakeXun (pronounced “ka-ke-zun”) was intended as his final game. After Eno’s death, Eguchi and a small team of Eno’s colleagues from his days at Warp – where he oversaw games like survival horror titles D and Enemy Zero – formed Warp 2, in a bid to bring KakeXun to fruition.

The game is now in development for PC and smartphones, and is currently being crowdfunded on Japanese site Motion Gallery. It is just over halfway to its initial goal of five million Yen (£29,000), with a month and a half left to go till it closes on 19 May.

Naoya Sato is the game’s creative director, who also worked with Eno on D, Enemy Zero and D2. “The game is themed around mathematics and the universe, and you’ll have to solve maths problems that appear against a 3D environment,” he tells us. “Depending on whether you get them right or wrong, the 3D world will change.”

A basic demo on the Motion Gallery page shows formulae appearing on the screen with one number or symbol missing, and a selection to choose from. The problems presented in the demo are simple, and getting them right causes the 3D terrain in the background to reshape into mountains. According to an explanation on the site, getting them wrong will cause the landscape to crumble. “Many players are together in the same world, so you have to work together to shape it,” explains Sato. “It’s kind of a social game mixed with an MMO.”

The Motion Gallery page also suggests gameplay will be more involved, with action sequences pitting the player against creatures and a hostile environment that is “ruled by geometrical figures and polyhedrons”. More information is available in English on the site, along with step-by-step instructions on how to pledge. “We’re crowdfunding in Japan on Motion Gallery to start with, but once we hit the overseas market we’ll use something like Kickstarter or Indiegogo,” says Sato. He adds that the funding target will be higher overseas, since crowdfunding is more common in the West than in Japan.

Incentives for backers start with regular updates, their name in the game, access to an exclusive KakeXun messageboard and data to print their own 3D model of Eno; at the higher end of the scale, offers include participation in production meetings or a two-day game-development workshop, Versace suits worn by Eno, his-and-hers mug sets decorated with his signature and memorial documents from the original Warp archives. An alpha version of KakeXun is planned for release this summer, followed by a beta in autumn.

Katsutoshi Eguchi, Kenji Eno’s partner at From Yellow To Orange Inc.

Eno was widely regarded as a maverick developer who made games his own way. In addition to games such as D that were localised for release outside of Japan, he also made titles such as Real Sound, an audio-only experience for blind players, and numerous games for the NES, Dreamcast, PSOne and even the 3DO. He also made music for games including Sega Rally 2 and is credited for doing sound on Altered Beast. His last console title was You, Me, And The Cubes on Wii, which he made with Eguchi at From Yellow To Orange.

Joining Sato and producer Eguchi on the KakeXun team at Warp 2 are chief director Kazutoshi Iida (Aquanaut’s Holiday, Doshin The Giant) and sound designer Yoshiho Kobayashi, a Ph.D graduate of Keio University’s computer music course. Along with the core team of four are six external staff. “The (core) team is made up of people who worked with Eno, and we think about what he would have done, as well as how we can work together with each other’s talents,” says Sato. “I hope to be able to surprise people with the game.”

Sato says that if there is demand for KakeXun, other unmade Eno games will likely follow. “It’s so tragic,” he says. “There were still many games I wanted to make with Eno. That will never happen now, but making KakeXun is a consolation. Actually, at Warp 2 we have several project outlines for games Eno never got to make, so hopefully we’ll make some more after this. He was so young.”