CVG Interview with Yuji Naka

Interview Data:

  • Interview Date: 28 February 2003
  • Interview Topics: PSO Episodes I & II, Europe, Online, Gamecube
  • Interview Source: Computer & Video Games external.png


With GameCube set to go online in Europe on March 7, the Sonic the Hedgehog creator talks us through his network game, Phantasy Star Online

16:38 Surprising but true, GameCube will be the first of all the next-gen consoles to offer broadband play in Europe, when modem and broadband adaptors release alongside Sega's Phantasy Star Online on March 7. (For full details on pricing, check here.)
PSO originally launched on Sega's ill-fated Dreamcast console and was easily the most successful online title on the system, accumulating a relatively high number of players at its peak. But the loss of Dreamcast is GameCube owners' gain, as Sega, now a third-party developer, is bringing a brand new version of the epic adventure to Nintendo's console.

Boasting a brand new episode, split-screen four-player offline action, extensive GBA link-up features and, of course, a brilliant online multiplayer experience that works just as well through a modem or broadband adaptor, PSO is great as an offline or online experience.

In the run up to the March 7 release, we were privileged enough to speak with gaming legend and Sonic Team head Yuji Naka, who offered his thoughts on why Europe should be excited by PSO.

With PSO having already released some time ago on Dreamcast, why do you feel GameCube owners should be excited about the prospect of the game on their console?
Naka: It is because we thought that we wanted this title played by not only users who have been playing PSO thus far but children of an unprecedented young age.

There is included an Offline Multiplayer Mode where players can enjoy four-player gameplay, so that children can invite their friends home to play all together. We will be glad if everyone enjoys the game either online or offline, and that they realize the fun of an RPG which four people can play.

And because GC owners may not be at all familiar with the series, can you describe the type of experience offered by Phantasy Star Online?
Naka: Phantasy Star Online is a network RPG that can be enjoyed by the whole world. As many as 0.4 million users from all over the world have experienced the online gameplay. Players can create their own original character and go exploring on Planet Ragol.

With "Word Select System" that supports languages from five countries, you can enjoy adventure with players from around the world.

There waits for you the dramatic development of things you can only experience among real people, such as meeting with friends, cooperation and betrayal, and all players will experience pleasure that has never been enjoyed in traditional RPGs.

Not only is the game is fully loaded with additional elements (new maps, new characters, new items, etc.) there are new functions unique to the GameCube version. This time it has become possible for four players to have adventures offline via split-screen.

The PSO series was a tremendous success on Dreamcast. As the first online title for GameCube, what are your expectations in Europe?
Naka: For Europe, we would be glad to see those people play the game who have not experienced PSO yet, especially an audience like children, as well as to see users who have been enjoying PSO until now revive their love of it. We would like them to play PSO with their friends or family.

Can you tell us how you've taken advantage of the link-up capabilities between GameCube and GBA?
Naka: By using a function unique to GameCube to GBA link-up connection, you can download mini-games for Game Boy Advance from the server. If you clear a particular Quest, you will be able to obtain these mini-games. A variety of mini-games have been prepared, which we are going to release as needed. You can also download one mini-game even in Offline Mode. Those who own Game Boy Advance, please give this a try.

What changes and additions have been made to the content that appeared on Dreamcast?
Naka: With this "Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II", as its title suggests, a new episode "Episode II" has been added. The former story is the part of "Episode I".

Of course, we added not only new maps and enemies for Episode II, but also new characters and items. Because the content of the game has more than doubled, we believe that it can satisfy even those who played the Dreamcast version to the fullest extent.

Moreover, we have this time added the Offline Multiplayer Mode where you can enjoy simultaneous four-player gameplay without connecting to the network. You can also have fun with Challenge Mode or Battle Mode offline.

And what can gamers expect from the entirely new episode you've designed for GameCube?
Naka: The story of Episode II is set up in the period a little after that in Episode I. A communication message is sent from the surface of Planet Ragol. It was communication from the hero of Pioneer I, Heathcliff Flowen, whose current status - alive or dead - is unclear. Following the mystery of this message, the story develops.

If a user wasn't planning on playing PSO as an online title, do you still feel there's enough to recommend it as an offline adventure?
Naka: Of course. In order that we can satisfy users who have played the previous title for thousands of hours, we made the content of the game enormous. We think that those who will experience this game for the first time may be amazed at its strikingly great size.

Not to mention the rich content of the online gameplay, but also Offline Mode is enhanced with many quests and game modes, and this time you can enjoy the gameplay with other three people offline simultaneously.

Fun elements you were able to enjoy only with online gameplay thus far are now reproduced offline without giving a feeling of strangeness. So we will be very glad if you will play the game joyfully with family members or friends, with each bringing along their own unique character and upbringing.

Thank you for this interview!
Johnny Minkley


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