What made Doshin the Giant special, and why we’ll never see its like again

Recently I wrote that Doshin the Giant is one of ten GameCube games that I’d love to see on Nintendo Switch. All these years later, it’s still a unique and special experience – there’s nothing else quite like it. Its closest influence is probably the old Bullfrog games Populous, Magic Carpet and Black & White, but since then the only game that’s really resembled it in any way is From Dust by Another World creator Eric Chahi.

The game sees you take control of the titular giant with a mission to please the various tribes that live scattered across several islands. The aim is to use Doshin’s ability to raise or flatten the ground so that they can expand their settlements, as well as plant trees to make them happy. The more they worship you, the bigger  you grow, and the more ground you can raise or flatten at one time. But after the sun sets, you wake up next morning back at regular size, and the process starts all over again.

It’s a sedate, wonderfully charming game, all primary colours and gentle warmth. I absolutely love it. But I also knew nothing about the person who created it – until now.

Recently, Destructoid reported on an episode of toco toco that features a look at the influences of Doshin‘s creator, Kazutoshi Iida. He seems like a fascinating character, and I’m envious of his lifestyle: lecturing in game design by day and watching esoteric films in a crumbling, converted elementary school by night. I encourage you to watch the documentary, too – it provides a fascinating insight into his influences.

I didn’t realise Iida was also responsible for the genre-defying PlayStation game Aquanaut’s Holiday – I’ve never played it, but I remember when it came out people were baffled by this game in which there was no goal except to explore and marvel at the things you find. Since then, plenty of arty games have gone down this route, but Aquanaut’s Holiday was one of the first, if not the first, game to promote exploring for exploring’s sake.

The documentary also highlighted another game by Iida that I’ve never heard of before: Tail of the Sun. Like Aquanaut’s Holiday, there initially doesn’t appear to be an overall objective except exploring, but gradually it becomes clear that you must feed and grow your tribe in order to build a tower to reach the sun. In that sense, the game seems to be a perfect halfway house between Aquanaut and Doshin, and I’m keen to give it a go if I can find a copy somewhere.

Most interestingly of all, Iida reveals that he decided early on that he would only ever make three games in his career – once he’d finished Doshin, he quietly left game development for good. He admits that three is an entirely arbitrary figure, and I’m sad that we’ll never see any more of his genius creations, but I respect his commitment to his ideals.

Still, I can’t help but wish he’d reconsider his position – I would dearly love to see what he comes up with next.