Gameplanet Interview with Yuji Naka

Interview Data:

  • Interview Date: 07 December 2004
  • Interview Topics: Sonic, Game Design, Game Hardware
  • Interview Source: Gameplanet external.png

Interview with Yuji Naka

By M (7 December 2004)

When Yuki Naka, Sega's famous creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, came Down Under late last month, Gameplanet had the chance to ask him a few Sonic-related questions.

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A LITTLE-KNOWN FACT: APART from being creator of one of the best-loved games characters of all times, Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka also loves racing powerful sports cars. He proved it in round six of the Kumho Tyres Lotus Championship in Tasmania in November.

But while Sonic's been racing around our homes for nearly 15 years, his dad Naka-san isn't new to high speeds either. He's been racing Ferraris and Lotuses for around four years now, including at Japan's renowned Susuka track.

While in Australia, Gameplanet had the chance to interview Naka-san and see what lies ahead for the flying mammal, and his creation Sonic the Hedgehog.

Sonic, although going through some subtle changes, has basically endured largely unchanged. Do you think the character has maintained the same level of appeal throughout the years and why?
I will be happy if Sonic is loved by users for a long time like Disney's Mickey Mouse is. As far as I'm concerned, I believe the reason why Sonic is still highly popular is greatly due to his attitude and actions.

You have taken fans through many worlds and challenges and it must be difficult for you to come with new ones for each release. Is there one inspiration or influence for these worlds?
Basically, because I am developing titles in big groups, I create something new as I check with team members.

Sonic still seems more at home in 2D worlds. What have been the main challenges in working with 3D and what do you see as strengths and weaknesses of 2D versus 3D for this type of game?
Not limited to Sonic but games as a whole, I feel 2D ones are more comprehensible and attractive. This is because, even though they say '3D' games, the screen is actually flat and it is hard to have a clue about distance, which is one weak point of 3D. That said, at the same time, it is possible to achieve more interesting expressions with 3D, so I want to create titles both in 2D and 3D in the future.

Do you think Sonic is still seen as Sega's mascot?
If so, it would be great, but as Sega keeps creating new characters, it can be possible that a new mascot will appear that may replace Sonic. But Sonic will keep on running for Sega forever.

What does Sonic mean to you and what kind of limitations do you put on the way the character can be presented?
He is truly a "good boy" to me. Although there is no specific restriction…, or rather, his actions are impossible to expect even for me, so it is difficult to keep him at bay. Sonic will continue to exist as Sonic, I guess.

Sonic games have long used music in a different way to something like a Super Mario game, which has always used non-vocal, theme-based music. Where do you see the trend of popular music in games leading gaming and do you see Sonic games as an originator or this practice? Does Sonic stand to gain from this trend in the future?
We sometimes employ music with vocals…, and as we also bring various genres in, we would like to continue to offer music that suits each game. I would be happy if our music will lead trends some day.

What are some new things we can expect to see in future Sonic titles?
Well, let me see…, I have no idea yet… Shall I ask Sonic?

Do you see Sonic being involved in more non-platforming games in the future?
Yes, because Sonic has a broad range of fields he excels at, he will take challenge at all sorts of things in the future, I suppose.

Can you outline what games you are currently working on and for which platforms?
As most immediate projects, I can list Astro Boy, Sonic Mega Collection Plus, and, moreover, Project Rub and a Sonic title for Nintendo DS. Also we are thinking about a new title for PSP, too. As for the rest, what I am looking forward to is Phantasy Star Universe. Concerning this title, its platform(s) has not been determined yet.

How has your experience with the platforms you have used to date affected your hardware choices for the next generation of consoles and handhelds? What kind of features do you find most exciting for next generation Sonic games?
The fact that we have new hardware means that, for example, the graphic drawing performance progresses or that input device increases, but how to create 'fun' as a game does not change. However, with new console models like Nintendo DS that use exactly totally new input methods, as I can some up with new ideas that seem immeasurable with the past experience, it is very exciting as a developer. I am confident that also next Sonic will run through the world more speedily.


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