Old School Gamer Spotlight: Developer SunSoft

Let’s get a show of hands. How many remember the old school console Sunsoft logo on many of your favorite childhood games? I always wondered what happened to that company. Back in the day, Sunsoft was everywhere. From NES, Genesis, Gameboy, and SNES, the bright red Sunsoft logo was a school yard recess weekly discussion.
Some of their popular hits ranged from Batman, Blaster Master series,Daffy Duck: The Marvin Missions, the Final Fantasy Gameboy ports, Looney Toons, Spy Hunter, and Shounen Ninja Sasuke just to cherry pick a few of my favorites.

I remember one birthday as a kid, opening up what would become one of my favorite games of all time. Batman for the NES. This was right after the 1989 blockbuster and my love for The Dark Knight was at an all time high for me at the time. Many a school night was spent till the late hours of the night playing this with the volume low in my room. I treated that game like grandma treated her living room heirloom china. I still remember my sweaty hands as I fought the Joker at the Gotham Cathedral in the final boss fight. Good times.

Sunsoft followed up with another classic Batman game in 1991 with Batman: Return of the Joker which also was a huge hit. Not a direct story sequel, but an action side scroller set in its own DC universe.

o whatever happened to this company? I didn’t know either. Did a little Wiki research and sadly, I found out. Sunsoft was founded in 1971. Almost two decades before the company became a household name in the 1980’s Nintendo and Sega golden age of console gaming. What was once a company known for cutting edge game play and graphical powerhouse game developers, Sunsoft didn’t have a smooth transition to the next generation of the Playstation One and Sega Saturn disc based consoles.

René Boutin (former Sunsoft producer) shared in an interview the events of the company’s final days…

Former Sunsoft producer and director René Boutin spoke on Sunsoft’s problems before he left the company. Boutin explained in an interview that “it was around this time our Director of Development, David Siller, suddenly announced he was leaving to work for Universal Interactive. Then a short time later, in February 1995, the entire staff was called in for a meeting where Sunsoft’s president announced that the company was shutting down effective immediately. They kept on a skeleton crew of four or five people to wrap up operations and ease transfer of IP over to Acclaim, but that was it for production, QA, and marketing. By this time, Looney Tunes B-Ball was in QA at Nintendo and we had just gotten Speedy Gonzales to beta, so it was about to go as well. It turned out that Sun Corporation had lost millions on some golf course investment in Palm Springs and it cost us all our jobs.”

Sunsoft would eventually put a “going out of business” sign in America and Europe. Few years later in the mid 1990’s, the company was absorbed under the Acclaim Entertainment umbrella. The company has had some failed attempts at a comeback over the last 20 years. The most recent was in 2010, when Sunsoft revealed Blaster Master: Overdrive for WiiWare which went by fairly unnoticed in the game world.

Just like Lucas Arts, nothing last forever. Especially in the game industry, but I for one will alway’s fondly remember the logo, Sunsoft, firmly attached to my inner childhood memories as I stayed up all night sucking down chocolate milk as my little fingers kept pressing the punch button with the Caped Crusader. This Bud’s for you, Sunsoft. Thanks for the memories.

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