Sad news for fans of both video games and professional wrestling today as we learn that Masato Masuda, the original designer and creator of the Fire Pro Wrestling franchise, has died. He was 48 years old.
News initially broke by way of Goichi "Suda51" Suda, who took to Twitter to say that "[Masuda] was one of the greatest creators of video games and he was my direct teacher. Thank you for giving us our favorite Fire Pro-wrestling. You are the god of it." Inside Games also confirmed Masuda's passing, noting that his death occurred on March 29.
Before going on to create the Fire Pro series, Masuda crafted one of the first noteworthy wrestling games ever made in Pro Wrestling for the Nintendo Entertainment System/Family Computer Entertainment System. The studio behind the game, TRY, eventually became Human Entertainment, the studio best known for its many entries in the Fire Pro Wrestling franchise.
The series was noteworthy for a variety of reasons, including its tight, sometimes unforgiving gameplay, its wealth of customization options, its use of unlicensed characters that typically looked an awful lot like real wrestlers, and its staunch dedication to 2D, sprite-based art. The series rarely saw release outside of Japan, but became something of a cult favorite among hardcore wrestling fans who had the means to import them. Suda himself actually worked on the franchise as a director and writer on both Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3 Super Bout, and Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special.
I certainly count Fire Pro among my all-time favorite video game franchises, and it's horrible to learn not only that its creator is gone, but at such a young age. Our condolences go out to Masuda's family and friends.