Super-Secret Gaming Ninja, Sushi-X

[NOTE: This is a repost of a blog entry from my old personal blog.]

egm_sushixOriginally posted June 26, 2004 — Now’s a good time to take a moment and talk about one of EGM’s mainstay characters — Sushi-X. While other people can probably tell this story better than I can from the beginning, I’ll take a stab at explaining some of what I know about this mysteriously pseudonymed character.

The way I figure it (and I’m guessing here, since he appeared in EGM before my time), the Sushi-X persona was inspired by Famitsu’s Taco-X, a reviewer often dressed as a ninja. Since EGM’s Review Crew style is a direct rip-off from Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu’s review style, this hypothesis of mine probably isn’t too far from the truth. The Sushi-X that most EGM fans know and love was the one that was a master of fighting games, hated Game Boy titles just because he could, and was often the “swing reviewer” who would pan something the other guys liked. The guy who played Sushi-X for the longest amount of time was Ken Williams. (Ken now helps run video game site vgevo.com with Trickman Terry.) Ken had been Sushi-X for a good long time before I started in 1994. And his personality was exactly that of the Sushi-X in the magazine — he loved fighting games and had a passionate disdain for anything Game Boy or that involved turn-based role-playing. When a new fighting game would come into the office he’d spend hours on it — whether it was an upright machine or something that could be plugged into the office’s Super Gun. While I was working there, Super Street Fighter II Turbo arrived and the guy went nuts on it, practicing combos, refining his technique — it was insane to watch. I never considered myself very good at fighting games, but I did get schooled by Ken a couple times. And I mean…rocked. Some of his techniques and skills would show up in the magazine as strategy guides or in special fighting game guides that EGM would publish from time to time. EGM did print a picture of Ken at one time semi-hinting that he was Sushi-X. At one of the early ’90s Consumer Electronics Shows, the Sendai booth had a Street Fighter machine set up where people could challenge a staff member. I forget which issue it was, but there is a picture of that scene in the magazine. Of course, no one figured that the white guy with the EGM jacket playing against them was Sushi. Most thought Sushi was a Japanese guy, which had never been the case.

But at some point later (after I’d already left EGM the first time ’round), Ken Williams departed the magazine and started working on Sendai’s pre-Gamespot deal/Videogames.com web-project, a site called NUKE. He gave up his Sushi-X duties, and soon everyone else on staff was taking turns playing Sushi-X (much like I described the middle-days of Quartermann in the first entry of this blog). And that’s where things derailed as far as Sushi maintaining a consistent personality. Suddenly he liked a couple GB games and RPGs. He was still generally played as the harsher reviewer but it was definitely different.

When I came *back* to work on EGM part-time in 1996 (issue 88), the Review Crew had changed. It was now Dan “Shoe” Hsu, Shawn Smith, Crispin Boyer, and Sushi-X. Continuing to do Sushi at this point was like beating a dead horse, but we did it because readers were attached to the character. During this era, a guy named Scott Parus played the part of Sushi (although a different guy had dressed up in the ninja suit for pictures), but sometimes others would chime in too. Some of those Sushi reviews were written by other members of the Crew, who’d already written their own reviews of the same title as themselves, trying to reflect the Sushi-X persona (which would also give one an anonymous chance to rail on a particularly crap title).

Then an interesting thing happened. Ken Williams returned to EGM as Managing Editor in October of ’96. So suddenly, the old Sushi-X was back. (Nothing was said in the magazine about this though, since technically, Sushi-X had never left.) If you’re keeping track, that means that issues 89-104 have the original Sushi doing reviews again. Of course, when Ken left Ziff-Davis in March of ’98, the dead-horse beatings began anew.

As we were planning the drastic redesign of EGM that was scheduled to hit with issue 120 (July 1999), the entire staff made the decision to axe Sushi-X from the Review Crew for good. The concept of the character had long since worn out its welcome, and as a staff we wanted to move the magazine in a different, more mature, direction. One without pseudonym characters giving opinions. When that issue reached readers, they replied immediately with: “What happened to Sushi-X?” A fair question, and one we got several hundred times. After all, they’d gotten to know him over the course of many years (even if he was but a weak imitation of his former self by now). So he was brought back to answer questions in a Letters section sidebar called “Ask Sushi.” (Written by Che Chou.) But it didn’t last and a few months later the character slipped into the mists of time and disappeared.

That is…until another Ziff-Davis magazine, GameNOW, brought him back in early 2003. For those of you who missed checking out GameNOW when it was around, the thought was that EGM would be the games mag for the older crowd, and GameNOW (rising from the ashes of Expert Gamer/EGM2) would service the younger readers. So resurrecting the Sushi-X character in GN made perfect sense. This new Sushi was a bit different (and more hip with the street lingo) but he still loved a good fighting game and not much else. Sadly, GameNOW closed in late 2003, thus closing the book for good on Sushi-X’s tale.

But who knows, maybe this gaming legend will be back someday…

TO BE CONTINUED….

—-

Little post-script to this entry. A few months after I posted this I got an email from David Siller, one of the founding editors of EGM who later went into development and worked on Aero the Acro-Bat and Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. Here’s the email:

Sushi-X was not originally Ken Williams…Sushi-X was created by David Siller and did those game reviews until issue 22. It ended there after he and Steve Harris had a major falling out. Siller also created Sam Mori and Terry Aki. It was also Siller’s idea to put the Famitsu style Review Crew into the magazine. Harris didn’t like the idea originally, but later relented. Sushi-X in name was indeed patterned after Taco-X which referred to [the Japanese word for octopus], not a Mexican taco. All of the early International Reviews and Japanese game news scoops were done by Siller as well after his travels to Japan. His writing style was and continues to be copied long after he stopped writing magazine articles combining wit with humor and style. Mr. Williams as well as others have written as Sushi-X. Mr. Siller also wrote on occasion the “Quartermann” gossip articles or contributed news bits to them. Steve Harris later granted David Siller the rights to use Sushi X in an actual video game, and that will come to reality in the near future.

I’ve no idea about the “rights” to Sushi-X, but there you have it.

Sega-16 has an interview with David Siller that talks a little bit about EGM and Sushi-X.

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  • http://myspace.com/endiment Ryan Murtha

    Man, that takes me back. I’m going to miss EGM. :(

  • Chris O

    Back in the day, I always thought that Sushi-X was EGM’s answer to the Gamepro reviewers use of character names and avatars.