Interview with Yuji Naka (October '92)

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Original interview conducted by Sega Visions.

Interview with Yuji Naka: the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog

We recently had the opportunity to vist with Yuji Naka, the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, at the SEGA Technical Institute in Palo Alto, California. Naka and the original Sonic team are currently working on Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the exciting sequel planned for release later this year. The combination of Japanese programmers and artists with local resources make the development of Sonic 2 a truly exciting American-Japanese joint effort.

We understand youre busy working on Sonic the Hedgehog 2. What can you can you tell us about it?
NAKA: For one thing, Sonic 2 is twice as long as Sonic 1. For another, sonic has to run through more levels...many more then sonic 1. Also, the new Mobius worlds are brighter, crisper, and much more detailed. However, we think players will be too busy getting through the game to spend any time enjoying the scenery. Especially since sonic will have a new friend.

A new friend?
NAKA: A fox with two tails. We call him tails naturally. He helps sonic out of tight spots, and can help sonic defeat enemies.

How many people are working on Sonic 2? How does this compare with the original Sonic 1?
NAKA: A total of 12 people are working on Sonic 2. Thats 30% more then worked on the original game. Its basically the same team as the original, with another programer and more designers and artists. The original team had 3 artists, 2 game designers and 3 sound and music guys.

Who is writting the music?
NAKA: The bass player for the famous Japanese band called Dream Come True wrote the original music for the game. The other 2 guys worked on the sound effects and on converting to a video game format. The same guys are working on the music for Sonic 2.

What were some of the things you thought about when you first created the Sonic character?
NAKA: At first we used a character that looked like a rabbit with ears that could extend and pick up objects. As the game got faster and faster, we needed to come up with a special characteristic to give our character some power over his enemies. I remembered a character I had thought about years ago who could roll himself into a ball and slam into enemies. Hedgehogs can roll themselfs into a ball, so we decided to go from a rabbit to a hedgehog.

How about the name Sonic?
NAKA: Because our new character could move really fast on the screen we were looking for a name that suggested speed. One of the designers said supersonic and the sonic part stuck.

Where did the other characters in the game come from?
NAKA: We wanted one of the characters in the game to be eggshaped, so we created Robotnik. It was a great character, but since it couldnt be the main character, we made him the bad guy.

What were some of your other games?
NAKA: Ghouls & Ghosts, Phantasy Star I and II and Super Thunder Bolt for the Genesis. For the Master System I did Phantasy Star I, Space Harrier, Outrun, Blackbelt, Spy Vs Spy, F16 Fighting Falcon, and Great Baseball.

How and when did you get started creating video games?
NAKA: I joined SEGA in 1984, after I finished school.

Were you programming games in school?
NAKA: I had a part time job programming games while I was in school. I worked on Fujitsu and Sharp computers. I joined Sega in Japan and then came to America last year.

What is your ongoing philosophy about creating video games?
NAKA: I want to make interesting games. I want to show my dreams and visions to kids. But most important, I want to create something that will make the player happy. I want the player to be surprised and have fun.

Do you have any advice for people who want to creat video games?
NAKA: Yes. Play lots of games. Not just play them to win, but think about them critically and analyze their strengths and weaknesses, constantly looking for ways to improve them. They should also draw on their own experciences for insperation. Everything I do in my daily life, I think about how it would fit into a game.

Many thanks to Sonic Team Shrine, from where I stole this interview.
-Tunek.


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