One of the earliest games I remember playing on the NES is Solomon’s Key, so I was thrilled to get to talk to the director behind the game, Michitaka Tsuruta, and learn about its development at Kotaku.
Published by Tecmo as an arcade game in 1986, it was ported to the NES in 1987. Michitaka Tsuruta was the main designer and he explained over email how he drew the original inspiration for Solomon’s Key from Lode Runner. Lode Runner was a 1983 game released by Broderbrund in which you erase blocks and trap enemies as you make your way through a complex set of mazes. Tsuruta got the idea of giving players an additional ability; they wouldn’t just destroy tiles, but create them as well. This in turn became the core concept behind Solomon’s Key.
And some of my personal thoughts:
As I played, I couldn’t help but think back to the days when the Nintendo was still relatively new. Not everyone had the console and we tended to congregate towards those kids who did. It’s no exaggeration to say that Nintendo games felt like a revelation after the Atari. The game palettes were colorful, there was catchy music, and they seemed leaps beyond what any of us had experienced before. Solomon’s Key was one of those games that made me feel a sense of awe when I first played it.
I’m always grateful to the developers who created the games of my childhood. And like Solomon’s Key, learning some about some of the mysteries behind their development helps open doors that unlock a little bit of my past. Now please excuse me while I try to work on my key-finding skills, wishing my thumbs were just a little bit faster.
Big thanks to Daisuke Onitsuka for translating!