On July 30, Daishima was found unconscious near the Izo Kaiyu Koen Diving Center in Japan’s Shizuoka prefecture. He had been diving with two other people before losing consciousness four meters below the surface of the ocean. His companions found him and pulled him out of the water.
Daishima was a longtime employee at Square Enix, his work going back to the early Squaresoft days. During his multi-decade tenure, Daishima oversaw work on some of the most definitive role-playing games ever created.
It’s hard to point to his most iconic work, but three games stand above the rest. His work on Chrono Trigger‘s field graphics helped set the scope and unique binding aesthetic of that game’s unforgettable world. Romancing SaGa would not have been the same without his unique monster designs. And Final Fantasy XII, which some consider to be the last major high point of the franchise, was aided by his stellar map and background design.
Regardless of the game, however, Daishima’s work was unmistakable. His designs were often a mixture of steampunk and high fantasy, perfectly married and balanced into a cohesive package. It could be argued that his work is one of the major reasons many 90’s and early 2000’s JRPGs have a similar look. His work is that important.
Speaking personally, Chrono Trigger was a major cornerstone in my gaming experiences. The look and feel of that world pulled me, and the sprawling map was a joy to explore. Without Manabu’s work, it would have just been a bunch of clever Toriyama designs, a good story and a stellar soundtrack. The map designs, in all of their diversity and breadth, was a major factor in what made Chrono Trigger feel so epic in its scope.
Manabu Daishima’s work was in a league of its own, and the industry won’t be the same without him.