Nintendo CEO Satoru Iwata recently gave a rare and wide-ranging interview to Japanese gaming site 4gamer, excerpts of which are now being translated into English by some of the fine folks over at NeoGAF.
Of particular interest is this passage on Iwata's unusually hands-on role in finessing the programming for Super Smash Bros. Melee back in 2001, when he was not yet CEO but still a high-ranking manager at Nintendo:
IWATA: ...my actual last work on programming happened when I was working as the General Manager of Corporate Planning at Nintendo. Something happened and the GameCube version of Super Smash Bros. didn't look like it was going to make its release date, so I sort of did a code review for it (laughs).
4GAMER: No matter how you look at it, that's not the job of the General Manager of Corporate Planning, is it? (laughs)
IWATA: Yes, it isn't really, is it? (laughs) At the time, I went to HAL Laboratories in Yamanashi and was the acting head of debugging. So, I did the code review, fixed some bugs, read the code and fixed more bugs, read the long bug report from Nintendo, figured out where the problem was, and got people to fix those... all in all, I spent about three weeks like that. And, because of that, the game made it out on time.
4GAMER: So you even did the debugging yourself!
IWATA: And that was the last time that I worked as an engineer "in the field". I was right there, sitting by programmers, in the trenches, reading code together, finding the bugs, and fixing them together.
For those needing context, Iwata-san began his career as a programmer / coder for Nintendo and later HAL Laboratory, working his way up the corporate ladder to become the first non-Yamauchi family member to head the 125-year-old gaming giant.
You can (and should) read much more of the translated interview over at NeoGAF.