While the original PlayStation had a plethora of unique titles the likes of Aquanauts HolidayParappa the Rapper and LSD that have endeared themselves to collectors and players, the PlayStation 2 had just as quirky a library. Developed by Zoom (known for their work on the PlayStation classic fighter Zero Divide) and published by Sony in Japan and Eidos Interactive in the United States, Mister Mosquito follows the main character, who’s on a mission to survive the harsh winter ahead. That means he’ll have to suck as much blood as he can, without being killed.

Selling over 170,000 copies worldwide, Mister Mosquito is the most successful Mosquito simulator of all time, but away from the sequel (Mosquito 2: Let’s Go Hawaii), they appear to be the only games in the genre. Despite that, it’s hard to argue its cult appeal. Known for its quirky story but fun objectives, solid control and amazing soundtrack (and over-the-top serious voice-acting), the game, upon release, resonated on the used game and video store rental market, eliciting a ton of fond memories. To this day, it remains one of the console’s most unique games. 

For the game’s Associate Producer Luke Valentine, being a part of such an intriguing PlayStation 2 game at the beginning of his career was a wonderful opportunity. Just like the hame, he too had an interesting entry into the games industry. 

“As a child, I had an Atari 2600 and grew up playing games throughout the 80s. I never actually identified as being a gamer even though games have been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I got my break living in Japan in the late 90s. I had been teaching English there for a few years after university and wanted to do something else,” Valentine said. “I actually saw a printed ad in the Japan Times looking for native English speakers who could also speak Japanese to help with localization. I interviewed and got a job working at Sega of Japan for two years.

“Apparently, 300 people applied for three positions so I was really lucky. Dreamcast had launched already in Japan and I worked with Sega of America and Sega of Europe to help with the localization of some cool Dreamcast games. While I was at Sega I even actually got to be one of the playable characters in Virtua Tennis, a character called Davor Tesla from Croatia. When I started at Eidos in London after my new colleagues were playing the Dreamcast version of Virtua Tennis daily and I got recognized by them when I said that I had previously worked at Sega!”

If those experiences weren’t enough, Valentine has some credits on some other cult classics you may have heard of, another product of his time at Sega. “I had helped out on House of the Dead 2 and then there was this arcade, typing spin-off called Typing of the Dead and then it came to Dreamcast,” Valentine said. “Once an English language version was needed, I was asked to help come up with interesting words for the original Japanese ones: not direct translations but considering length, complexity and keyboard layout. It was a surprising amount of work, and I got a Word Editor credit for it.”

Ready to return home after some time in Japan, Valentine’s skill set earned him a job at another heavy-hitting game publisher at the time. This opportunity would continue to put his translation abilities to the test, but now he’d be doing a lot more. Now serving as an Associate Producer at Eidos, this was an important chapter in his career. “I returned to the UK in November 2001 after five years in Japan and got hired as a Japanese speaking Associate Producer at Eidos,” Valentine said. “My first job was to assist with the Japanese to English localization of Mister Mosquito and also Bravo Music (known as Mad Maestro in the US). Consequently, we needed to do French, Italian, German and Spanish versions and then the PS2 console submissions to SIEE and SIEA. These were titles that Sony Interactive Entertainment had funded for release in Japan, but that their European and American publishing offices did not want to release. Eidos thought that they would be successful so set up a sub-brand called Fresh Games and these two were the first to be released under this label.”

While far from a blockbuster release in the United States, Mister Mosquito definitely got some attention in the US before release, thanks to budding internet coverage and its cool premise. From Valentine’s point of view, it was a title worth taking a risk on.

“It seemed to be an optimistic bet. I don’t think that we paid much to pick the title up so the break-even on the cost of localization, testing and publishing in the West was low,” Valentine said. “Eidos’ fortunes at the time were made on Tomb RaiderChampionship ManagerHitmanCommandos, Timesplitters and Who Wants to Be a MillionaireMister Mosquito was a way to get some more revenue before the end of the financial year, while making the company seem cool and innovative by picking up a weird game like that.”

Although different from his time at Sega, Valentine quickly got acclimated to Eidos and absolutely enjoyed his time there. “Working at Eidos at the time was fantastic. It was probably the best office environment I ever worked in. I didn’t know at the time, but Eidos was past its peak and the glory days of the late 90s but was still very fun when I joined in November 2001,” Valentine said. “I was part of a producer team of producers working with external developers and focused more on the publishing of games than the day-to-day tasks of game developers. There was a great post-work pub culture and everyone seemed to be in their 20s and 30s including all the management.”

Mister Mosquito would still be considered a unique game today, but it was extra “out there” in 2001, a perfect title to be at the young and hip Eidos. According to Valentine, the climate was extra perfect for a game of its tone. If nothing else, Valentine’s time at Sega proved the game could be a success. “I think that the late ‘90s saw a period of enormous innovation and originality with games, led from Japan,” Valentine said. “After games like Typing of the DeadSamba de AmigoJet Set Radio and Seaman, a game about playing as a mosquito didn’t seem out of the ordinary.”

Ordinary Mister Mosquito definitely was not. Valentine remembers the first time he played the game and being intrigued at more than the premise, but the control scheme as well. “I was amused. It’s a funny game,” Valentine said. “And the mechanic of rotating the PS2 thumbstick to suck the blood while trying to remain undetected was clever.”

Now set to work on the English language version of Mister Mosquito, Valentine and the rest of the team had plenty to do. Their impact on the game would be a lot more than you’d expect. “When we got our hands on Mister Mosquito the game was complete and had been released already in Japan,” Valentine said. “Our role was to prepare it for release in the rest of the world. The first task was to get all the Japanese assets and to get them translated into English. I believe that I did some of this translation work myself. We then needed to get an English cast for the English voice recording. There was a TV show in the UK called Banzai at that time that was really popular where Japanese voice actors would do voice over with exaggerated Japanese accents. One of these was Eiji Kusuhara and we had him do the voice of the Dad in Mister Mosquito.

“Beyond this, I was translating bug reports into Japanese to send back to Japan for the development team to fix and then, in turn, translating their comments to English. It was very manual work and we did the whole project in a couple of months.”

Despite the short cycle, the team was able to get their work done and ensure the game’s release. For Valentine, the work the team put in was reminiscent of the era. One quite different from the way games are made today. “The biggest single thing that stands out in my memory was that we would need to send physical discs to Sony QA when we were ready for submission,” Valentine said. “This meant that a motorcycle courier would literally ride a bike up to Liverpool from London with the version of the game that we wanted to be manufactured. This was in 2001, but now I feel like I am describing something from the 19th century!”

After Mister Mosquito, Valentine went on to work on a plethora of memorable titles such as LEGO Star WarsLara Croft: Tomb Raider: Legend and three games in the Hitman series, both as a Producer and Publishing Manager. Because of that, Valentine has plenty of memorable moments to look back on. Simply put, his time with Mister Mosquito was one of the most hectic of his career. “I was really busy after working on two other Japanese titles (Legaia 2: Duel Saga and Way of the Samurai) and didn’t look up to think about lessons learned,” Valentine said. “In retrospect, I am really glad that I was part of Eidos at that time and that I got to work on Mister Mosquito, but at the time I took it for granted and it seemed like an organic evolution from having worked at Sega of Japan previously.”

So while he may not have lost as much blood, sweat, or tears to Mister Mosquito as you would have thought, he’s still fond of the experience it offered him and is happy for the legacy it has. “The world’s first mosquito simulator game,” Valentine said. “And most likely the last too!”

Patrick Hickey Jr. Patrick Hickey Jr. (327 Posts)

Patrick Hickey, Jr., is the founder and editor-in-chief of ReviewFix.com and a lecturer of English and journalism at Kingsborough Community College, in Brooklyn, New York. Over the past decade, his video game coverage has been featured in national ad campaigns by top publishers the likes of Nintendo, Deep Silver, Disney and EA Sports. His book series, "The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Game Developers," from McFarland and Company, has earned praise from Forbes, Huffington Post, The New York Daily News and MSG Networks. He is also a former editor at NBC and National Video Games Writer at the late-Examiner.com