Yuji Naka, legendary coder and de-facto ‘Father of Sonic the Hedgehog’, has announced that he has now joined Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix.
The news came this morning, announced on Naka’s personal Twitter account. According to the former Sonic Team head, he joined Square Enix in January and is aiming to take an active role in game development.
Naka-san has had quite the interesting career so far; a programming whizz that joined SEGA in the mid-1980s, he was a critical part of the development and creation of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Mega Drive, crafting the pinball physics and inertia-based engine that redefined platforming games. He then spent the next decade and a half leading the Sonic Team studio, at times breaking away from the blue blur to create new adventures such as NiGHTS into Dreams, Samba de Amigo and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. In 2000, Naka-san was lauded for his work on Phantasy Star Online, in which the then-producer was personally responsible for much of the game’s netcode.
Naka left SEGA in 2006 to form his own independent studio, Prope, which was best known for the SEGA-published party game Let’s Tap and motion-based puzzler Ivy the Kiwi? on Wii. In recent years, news on Prope’s work was limited to 3DS Streetpass titles and mobile efforts, and Naka had been pretty quiet on the projects front for quite some time.
In past interviews, Naka revealed that he formed Prope to allow himself the ability to get his hands dirty with programming and game development, which was becoming a rarer opportunity as he rose the ranks at SEGA. With this news, it sounds like the man has found a way to accomplish this at a large-scale company once again.
Square Enix is also currently enjoying something of a creative renaissance in recent years, with the company finally making good on a Kingdom Hearts sequel and producing a slate of high-quality mid-size projects for Nintendo Switch (including a recently-announced remaster of The World Ends With You). So this could be a match made in heaven – we’re looking forward to seeing Naka-san’s creativity flourish at his new home!