Over the past week, the internet has been all a buzz over the first trailer for the upcoming Sonic movie. Well three people in particular have offered some words regarding the film, all of which Sonic fans should recognize.
The Official Sonic Twitch channel had a surprise guest appearance last week, as Sonic Community Manager Aaron Webber introduced Ex-Sonic Team artist Hiroshi Nishiyama to the stream, announcing his return to SEGA. Continue reading Ex-Sonic Team Sonic Adventure Artist Hiroshi Nishiyama Rejoins SEGA
Sonic 2 Prototypes and Betas have become the stuff of legend and folklore, with numerous tales of lost and stolen versions circulating amongst the community for years alongside of nearly 10 versions which have been discovered to date.
Even now – 27 years after the game’s debut – new and unseen development material is still surfacing, and this time courtascy of a chance meeting at a garage sale!
A few days ago, Yuji Naka tweeted pictures of himself and his kids giving a fond farewell to SEGA’s old headquarters in Otorii, Tokyo. The company moved out of the building last year, relocating to a building in Ousaki, Tokyo. According to Silconera (via Gamebiz) the building was recently sold for 5.2 billion yen. It was this that prompted Yuji Naka to visit the building. He told his kids that he developed Sonic the Hedgehog on the building’s seventh floor.
Check out Yuji Naka’s tweets and photos below:
— Yuji Naka / 中 裕司 (@nakayuji) February 24, 2019
— Yuji Naka / 中 裕司 (@nakayuji) February 24, 2019
As a bonus, here’s another tweet with some additional photos of the building’s exterior:
Sad to hear that the old SEGA office will be torn down. Much of my childhood was spent playing on consoles and games that were conceived in this building. pic.twitter.com/M6RfIOSAyJ
— Nathan Shabazi (@nathanshabazi) February 27, 2019
You can check out some additional photos of the the building, as well as get a look at SEGA’s new offices, over at our source for the tweet translations, Kotaku.
To celebrate 20 years of Sonic Adventure, we take a brief look at some of the best Sonic Adventure-themed merchandise released in 1998 and beyond!
Sonic Adventure celebrates it’s 20th anniversary today after hitting screens in Japan way back in 1998.
We take a look back at what made this game one of the most enduring Sonic the Hedgehog titles, and why SA1 was such a trailblazing title in not only the series, but in video game history.
SEGA of the 90’s certainly knew how to pull out all of the stops when it came to generating a buzz around the next Sonic game, and the anticipation of what was in store brought kids and grown-ups alike to fever pitch…and the announcement of Sonic Adventure was no different.
On the 22nd of August 1998, a few thousand lucky punters were invited to attend the first presentation of Sonic Adventure at the Tokyo International Forum – an event that was luckily recorded for posterity (which you can watch below). The first foray into the world of 128-bit high speed action was introduced by Yuji Naka, entering the stage in Rock star fashion by emerging from a balloon to a face-melting guitar riff.
The event also showcased a “Making of Sonic Adventure” semi-documentary presented in a light-hearted manor, in which Sonic Team embarked on a fact-finding trip to central America to visit the Tulum Ruins, the Caribbean Sea, the Tikal Ruins of Guatemala, and Machu Pichu amongst other locations – all of which influenced stages in the game.
Some members of the Team even became ill on their research trip from altitude sickness – talk about dedication to the cause!
Sonic has undergone several redesigns in his 27 ½ year history (we won’t mention the most recent!), but most fans regard the Sonic Adventure iteration of the neon protagonists to be one of the most successful. Characters traded their pot-bellies in for coloured irises and longer limbs, allowing for some incredibly elastic posturing that would become Yuji Uekawa’s instantly recognisable stylisation which remains the norm for modern Sonic artwork to this day. While the classic design of Sonic has since been translated to 3D, the modern Sonic style allowed for a much easier transition to the medium.
Dr Eggman was given a particularly significant redesign, along with both western and eastern franchises aligning on the Japanese name (although Robotnik would be kept as the name for his grandfather in the sequel).
The story mode
Story was not an element that featured heavily in Sonic the Hedgehog games until Sonic Adventure; in fact, one of the initial ideas while the game was on the development bench was to in fact create a Sonic RPG. For Sonic Adventure to include cut scenes and a narrative was a significant change to the game, and novel in that it in itself was derived from the intertwining stories of six different protagonists (one in fact executed in very few other video games at the time).
The seventh and final story in the game, and the true conclusion only accessible once all six main stories were completed, crescendos in the final showdown with Chaos with the player taking the controls of Super Sonic – something undoubtedly cemented as one of the most memorable video game conclusions for many Sonic fans.
Sonic Adventure was also the first Sonic the hedgehog game to include voice acting (besides SEGASonic Arcade) – and while the jury might still be out on the quality of the dialogue, SA1 is definitely one of the most quotable!
Hum the Green Hill Zone theme and just about any video game fan will tell you that its from a Sonic game – indeed, the soundtrack has always been a core component of what makes a Sonic game so, well, Sonical!
While Sonic Adventure is not the first video game to include vocal tracks (Sonic CD was doing that five years before) it is one of the first to have a fully-fledged album-like feel, complete with a swathe of character themes and a main anthem Open Your Heart, performed Crush 40, that is unparalleled in magnitude. The intro FMV undoubtedly still brings goose bumps to many!
The shift to a rock-centric soundtrack, a decision made by first-time Sonic Sound Director Jun Senoue, was a bold move; the music for the original trinity of Sonic games were after all composed by Masato Nakamura of Dreams Come True (and most likely Michael Jackson), resulting in a prolific pop influence. However, the move would prove highly successful and would be followed up with the equally popular Live & Learn in the sequel.
The magic of the soundtrack however derives from a brilliant use of multiple genres – rock, pop, rap, electronic, and jazz to name a few all feature throughout.
The game’s soundtrack has endured long enough that it has been celebrated since with the Sonic Adventure Music Experience, which saw Senoue-san and company re-record and perform key songs from the game and its sequel.
The Dreamcast was the very first games console to provide a connection to the internet as standard, and as such, Sonic Adventure is the very first game in history to include downloadable content! This came in the form of the Sonic Adventure Christmas download, which was only available for the first few days of release (it was no longer available after Christmas day). While this content only included Christmas trees in station square which played played music and gave a seasonal message when interacted with, it was another example of how SEGA and Sonic games were well ahead of the curb.
Happy birthday Sonic Adventure!
What makes Sonic Adventure special to you? Let us know in the comments!
A few months ago, Japanese clothing boutique ThunderBox launched a new exciting range of Sonic inspired clothing and products and they’re not stopping with just one range.
Over the weekend they launched season 2 of their clothing range with a pop up shop in the Laforet Harajuku Department store (It’s in Japan).
Well… check out who paid them a visit!
Also, one of our writers was actually in the area and managed to take some photos of the store so you can check out what’s on offer.
The store will be open until November 16th, at which point their online website will start to take orders, and yes folks, they do ship outside of Japan!
Special thanks to Jonathan Dixon who provided us with some more photos!
SEGA AGES developer M2 has expressed a desire to include originally-cut features in its upcoming re-release of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 on Nintendo Switch. Continue reading SEGA AGES Sonic 2 Could Include Originally-Cut Features
It is no revelation that Sonic the Hedgehog has drawn upon pop culture in its creation (the Death Egg probably being one of the more obvious tributes to Star Wars), but it appears that the influences from Dragon Ball extend further than super forms and collecting 7 powerful objects! Continue reading Naka: Sonic 3 & Knuckles Special Stage Was Inspired By Dragon Ball Z
Yuji Naka, legendary coder and de-facto ‘Father of Sonic the Hedgehog’, has announced that he has now joined Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix. Continue reading Yuji Naka Joins Japanese Publisher Square Enix
A reprint of a critically-acclaimed art book covering the history of the Sega Mega Drive is being crowdfunded on Kickstarter. Read Only Memory’s ‘Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works’ was originally released in 2014 and included interviews with Sonic creators Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima, along with illustrations and concept drawings of the 16-bit console’s best titles. Continue reading Sega Mega Drive: Collected Works Art Book Guns for Second Print Run
Just recently, Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima spoke with the Japanese magazine Famitsu, and commented on the origins of the Mario & Sonic series, as well as Sonic joining Super Smash Bros. Brawl. But Yuji Naka also said that he wishes to give another presentation to Sonic Team’s Takashi Iizuka about a potential Mario & Sonic action game. See the quote below.
Yesterday, I sat down in a quiet location of E3 with the master of memes himself, Aaron Webber. We discussed a little bit of Sonic Revolution, Sonic in Lego Dimensions, but mostly Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice. You’ll hear about improvements made due to the delay, the trailer cutscene, the length of the game and much, more! So please watch and enjoy. Continue reading E3 2016: Interview With Aaron Webber
Yuji Naka, the master coder that was responsible for programming the original Sonic the Hedgehog, turned 50 years old yesterday. Doesn’t time fly!?
The former SEGA developer – left the company in 2006 to start his own independent studio, Prope – received a wave of well wishes on his social media channels. Naka-san spent the week enjoying Tokyo Games Show, where he has taken pictures of Sonic and SEGA merchandise available for sale at the event.
Although he has not been associated with the Sonic franchise for quite some time, he is regarded as one of the main ‘fathers’ of the blue blur, deftly creating a game engine in the early 1990s that allowed a character to use curved environments to reward players with bursts of speed. He became a spokesperson for the franchise during his time at SEGA, eventually leading the Sonic Team division during the Dreamcast era. For Sonic’s 20th Anniversary in 2011, he attended SEGA’s Sonic Boom event as well as the fan-organised Summer of Sonic convention.
His latest game, Rodea the Sky Soldier, is seeing a release on the Wii U later this year.
“Thank you very much for all the birthday messages,” he wrote in a message to fans. “I can feel all the love and support from my fans! I decided to be even a cool man in my 50s. I’ll do my best.”
With a seemingly undying love for Ferraris, we’re pretty sure Naka-san will continue to be cool for many years to come!
To be honest, if it wasn’t for Barry’s Weekly five list on Segabits, I probably wouldn’t have been inspired to do my own Sonic List column. Seeing how people comment and react to my opinions gives me a great feeling of pride (and sometimes shame). The first time I did one of these columns and saw all the replies, good or bad, it was one of my favorite Sonic related moments. That’s what today’s column is all about. My favorite moments in Sonic-dom. Weather it’s from a game, a cartoon or just part of my life. These are the moments that I remember back with great fondness. Click below and enjoy! Continue reading The Sonic List: My favorite Sonic related moments
The popularity of crowdsourcing to fund projects has gained much momentum recently, and only a few months ago, we featured a news article for the Not Enough Rings parody comic book, which was successfully funded.
To mark the 25th anniversary of the release of the SEGA Mega Drive (or Genesis, depending on where you live), a new kickstarter project has been launched by Read-Only Memory (creators of the Sensible Software book) which will be of interest to many of you: SEGA Megadrive / Genesis: Collected Works. This project looks to be nothing short of amazing, describing itself as a compendium of production artwork, interviews and development sketches.
The book will of course showcase a host of Sonic the Hedgehog material, but will also contain much from other loved franchises such as Streets of Rage, Phantasy Star and Golden Axe to name a few; it also aims to feature images and illustrations that have seldom been seen by the public across its 300 pages.
In addition to this, the creators of the book have already secured interviews with an incredibly impressive line-up of SEGA staff, past and present, including Naoto Oshima, Kazuyuki Hoshino, Yuji Naka, Yuzo Koshiro and Yu Suzuki.
For a pledge of £30 (about $45), you can secure yourself a copy of what is set to be the ultimate coffee table history book. If you’ve got the cash to splash, £250 will not only get you a copy of the book, but an exclusive limited edition print (1 of 100), created by Naoto Oshima, especially for the campaign.
At time of writing, the campaign has already doubled its initial funding goal, so you can pledge in confidence. This is surely one book you don’t want to miss out on!
[P.S. If you love your kick-starters, you might want to check out Far From Faith, a comic set to be animated by the very talented Lynne Triplet, known to many of you at TRiPPY of NiGHTS fame!]
A few years back, a wineglass emblazoned with the Sonic 10th Anniversary emblem cropped up for sale on eBay. While most seasoned merch-hogs were aware of the trinity of 10th anniversary items that had been offered by the Sonic Factory in 2001 (the statue, the crystal cube and the pewter ring), this was the first time most had seen this item; its authenticity and origin (along with that of the 10th anniversary lighter) has been much debated amongst Sonic collectors.
Luckily, one fan account reveals the origin of these items, and details the happenings of the “Sonic 10th Anniversary Birthday Party in Japan” which took place a day after Sonic’s 10th birthday on the 24th of June, 2001.
SEGA Japan has recently put up a new website archiving all of its digital download games, and thanks to the keen eyes of Woun over at Sonic Scene, we’ve got some interesting news to report. If you take a look underneath Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, you can see not only SEGA listed as a copyright holder, but PROPE, too. PROPE, as a lot of you will know, is the developer founded by Sonic the Hedgehog’s original creator, Yuji Naka. Could this mean Yuji Naka’s development studio had a part in Sonic the Hedgehog 4‘s development, or is it just an error?
Thanks to SSMB member and Sonic Scene founder Woun for the heads up!
Looking for a real piece of Sonic the Hedgehog history to add to your collection? Then look no further! Currently up for auction on ebay are a couple of really unique items that will make any Sonic merch-mad fanatic salivate!
“Modern Sonic isn’t as good as the classics! and here is my fifty billion reasons explaining why!” We’ve all seen threads like this, we’ll all seen youtube videos like this. It’s an old argument and even when the dislike is aimed at classic Sonic, usually the best reply is to ignore the random person…
However when a one Yuji Naka allegedly agrees with a journalist who put it to him that ‘Modern Sonic games are not as fun as past Sonic games.’ Suddenly, you take an interest in that discussion again.
Both Sonic Wrecks and TSSZ News recently reported that Yuji Naka may have spilled the beans on an upcoming Sonic movie. On his latest Facebook and Twitter posts, he mentions visiting the Marza Animation Studios (Night of The Werehog, and most Sonic game CGI) and that they are in the process of making a Sonic movie. Whether it’s just more CGI for an upcoming Sonic Game or a full blown movie is yet to be known. Until we get more confirmation, treat this as rumor.
I tried to come up with a headline, but really, words can’t do this video justice. Just watch it for yourself.
The Summer of Sonic may have taken place three weeks ago now but that’s not the end of my coverage of the event. Quite a lot happened on the day after the Stadium’s exclusive interview with Yuji Naka and Takashi Iizuka. If by some small chance you missed it click here and drink it in. if you’re already familiar with that then I suppose you should read on. A lot happened on the Summer of Sonic stage but few things could live up to Naka-sand and Iizuka-san appearing on stage for a rather lengthy chat with one Mr Joscelyne. Well if didn’t feel very long listening to it on the show floor but let me tell you it felt a hell of a long longer writing this up for you all! But enough of my moaning, here is the first stage interview transcribed in full.
Svend Joscelyne: Can you briefly describe how you both got into the games industry and what it was that really got you excited about working with video games?
Yuji Naka: I joined the games industry when I was 18 years old and the reason I joined was probably the same as everybody else; I really liked games! At the time I used to go to game centres (arcades) a lot and I really wanted to create the games I saw in them. I happened to take an interview with SEGA and they accepted my interview. I’ve now been in the industry 27 years and I’ve really enjoyed my time.
Takashi Iizuka: From a young age as a child I really enjoyed drawing and I used to draw Manga and staple the pages together and create my own little Manga book. So I really enjoyed coming up with new stories and the whole process of creating a Manga. I actually moved away from this for a time and during University I thought to myself I want to be in a job where I’m creating something and a story. That’s why I joined the games industry.
SJ: So Takashi Iizuka, how would you say it’s different to create games between modern and classic Sonic titles given that you’ve been involved in level design in Sonic 3 & Knuckles and also that you’ve been in charge of the modern games.
TI: Classic Sonic was first on Megadrive and we saw Sonic 1,2 and 3 in the Classic Sonic style. With that you just used the d-pad and a single button so it was very accessible and simple to pick up and play and get a taste of what Sonic is all about. With modern Sonic it’s all about the high speed action and the level design is created in such a way to allow the smooth and speedy sensation you are intended to get from the modern style Sonic. I think this is really Unique to Sonic, it’s the only game in the world where you can get that sort of sensation of speed in platform action. I think this is something we’ve built upon for the past 20 years.
SJ: So for Mr Yuji Naka, you worked closely with a US development team for Sonic The Hedgehog 2. Given that Sonic was designed for a western audience what was your experience working with SEGA Technical Institute as opposed to a domestic development team?
YN: In Sonic 1 we were a purely Japanese development team so all the staff were Japanese. In Sonic 2 we saw a mix of this, so we had some foreign staff and some Japanese staff working together. The difference I experienced was the overseas staff had a very different way in using colour and level design. So in Sonic 2 I think you see some very unique levels and these are really good levels. They tended to be created by the overseas staff. At the moment I’m here speaking in Japanese and I’m really sorry that I’m not speaking to you in English but as you may notice my English is not native! So we had some communication issues working with the overseas staff. In Sonic 3 we saw the arrival of Iizuka-san and the return of an all Japanese development team. This was due to the issues I mentioned earlier regarding communication. If the opportunity arises and if we have the time we would really like to work with overseas staff again on a Sonic title.
SJ: It’s a good thing you mentioned Sonic The Hedgehog 3 because I was just about to get onto that. Iizuka-san you were the level designer for Sonic The Hedgehog 3 and lot of kids remember that game for one specific thing; the Carnival Nights Zone Barrel (Queue laughter from Iizuka-san and the crowd) where the only way to proceed through the level was to press up, down, up, down many times to proceed through the stage. Were you involved in that part of the level design process and do you look back on that now and think “How many kids lives did I ruin by implementing that barrel?”.
TI: The short answer is no, that wasn’t me (The crowd laughs and applauds)! The person responsible for that level is the lead level designer for Sonic 1, 2 and 3. His name is Yasuhara.
YN: I presume people found that level quite difficult to understand and I would actually be the person responsible for programming it. I am so sorry! Thank you (The crowd laughs and applauds again)!
SJ: This next question really goes to the both of you. What was the feeling within the Sonic Team that made you decide to dramatically change Sonic’s appearance back in 1998. Was there a feeling that Sonic was becoming unpopular? What was the feeling there?
YN: This change came about when the game moved on from 2D to 3D. At this time the intention was for Sonic to be a loved character for many years like Micky Mouse. Micky Mouse has been loved over the many years he’s been in existence and he’s been completely redesigned around five times. So when we regarded it like that we wanted to change Sonic to continue his appeal. I think being here after 20 years of Sonic being around makes me extremely happy that people have continued to love and support Sonic.
TI: Those are the reasons that Naka-san mentioned earlier but from a technical point of view classic Sonic’s design was created so that he’d be seen from the side in 2D. So when we created the game in 3D we had to have the camera angle from behind Sonic. If we carried along with the old design his arms and legs would have been very difficult to see because the old design was only created to be seen from the side in 2D. So that is a technical reason why we decided to change the design.
SJ: and for Naka-san, when Sonic The Hedgehog 1 was released for the SEGA Megadrive, SEGA Japan and SEGA America and even SEGA Europe had their own different back-story for the reason for Sonic The Hedgehogs existence. Do you know much about the western storyline that SEGA created and what do you think about it?
YN: To be honest I’m quite surprised to hear this. I didn’t know there was such a big gap in the storyline between the Japanese Sonic The Hedgehog and the Western Sonic The Hedgehog. Were they that different?
SJ: There was a whole storyline that SEGA created on the American side that involved how Sonic went from a brown hedgehog to a blue hedgehog and involved a scientist called Dr Ovi Kintobor transforming into what we know as Dr Robotnik using the power of the chaos emeralds to turn him into a negative character. I believe it was slightly different to the Japanese back-story.
YN: I’m very surprised to hear this story, where is this written?
(The crowd laughs)
SJ: SEGA of America and SEGA Europe wrote it back in 1991! It’s not in game, it’s within comics, marketing, press and PR materials.
(Svend addresses the crowd)
SJ: You guys have heard the back story, right?
(The crowd replies with a unified “Yeah!”)
SJ: It exists, I didn’t make it up.
YN: Aaaaah! Back in the early days we didn’t have the internet or e-mail so communicating globally was extremely difficult. we were having to communicate over the telephone and with faxes so it was really hard to control what was going on globally and to keep a unified direction. Looking back now hearing this after 20 years I can laugh about it and think it’s great that this has happened. I think if I’d heard about it at the time I would have been very angry!
(The crowd laughs and applauds)
SJ: I’m glad I brought it up now and not back then! So Iizuka-san, it’s the 20th anniversary of Sonic The Hedgehog but it’s also the 10th anniversary of Shadow The Hedgehog (Queue cheering from the crowd!). We have some fans here! Clearly when you directed Sonic Adventure 2 he was only intended for that one game but were you surprised as to how popular he’d become?
TI: The Shadow character idea was something that we all had in our minds in the dev team when we were creating the first Sonic Adventure. When creating that game we had the intention of creating a rival character for Sonic Adventure 2 and we didn’t really talk about it that much but we were all thinking about it. When we were working on Sonic Adventure 2 we all did a bit of brainstorming and we brought this to the table and prepared the storyline for the Dark side and the Hero side. As you know in the story Shadow was only meant to appear in that single title. But because of the reaction of the fans we decided to bring him back in Sonic Heroes and eventually you saw him in his own title.
(The crowd responds with a mix of cheers and boos)
SJ: Don’t boo Shadow, he deserves some love too! That’s why he’s so angry. In some ways, well actually in many ways, Sonic has inspired a generation of, shall we say copycat animal mascots; Bubsy the Bobcat, Crash Bandicoot, Aero the Acrobat. Have you guys ever played any of those games and what do you think of them?
(As the translator repeats the question in Japanese Yuji Naka looks confused and asks for the names of the characters a second time. The crowd is amused).
YN: Of the those games I’ve only actually played Crash Bandicoot. When I was creating Sonic 2, my boss was called Mark Cerny and this person moved on from the team half way into development. He’s actually the guy responsible for creating Crash Bandicoot. As he worked really closely with us he could see the flow of how we created Sonic and what Sonic was all about so you may draw some similarities between these games. For example as he saw us placing rings and really putting a lot of effort and creativity in placing them in their locations I heard from him that he was putting a lot of effort into placing apples all over his levels as well.
And with that both Naka-san and Iizuka-san would exit the stage to a round of applause. Come back later though for the second stage interview where they would both field questions submitted by the fans, with the added bonus of Jun Senoue joining them.
This year’s Summer of Sonic convention had so much going on…competitions, Sonic Generations, music performances, guests and loads more – even if you attended, you no doubt missed some parts of the day.
Even if that doesn’t satisfy your appetite for Summer of Sonic or if you’re still feeling blue and missing hanging out with all your fellow Sonic fans…there is a whole heap of other bonus footage to catch including the Nevermind the Buzzbombers competition, all 40 minutes of Julien-K’s performance, and of the uncut, unedited Sonic Team Interview!
You have absolutely no excuse to be bored this weekend!
Meeting your heroes is a surreal thing indeed. It’s even more surreal if it’s at an event celebrating their main character’s 20th anniversary. And to think a few weeks ago I didn’t know any of this would happen at all…
Mid May I received an e-mail out of the blue from the head honcho of the ‘Stadium himself , Svend “Dreadknux” Joscelyne. He asked if I’d be free to come down and write about the biggest birthday party of the summer. Some regular readers may remember my fleeting stint posting news and other things on the front page of the site and while I couldn’t hold a candle to the tireless efforts of Shadzter it seems I was somehow remembered by the boss.
The plan was simple but purposely vague at the time; come down to London and write about the event as the regular staff would have their hands full running the thing. My reward was classified but Svend said it’d defiantly be worth my time. Not that I needed much persuading; I’d attended the first Summer of Sonic back in 2009 and wrote about it for a rather different Sonic based news website. I was eager to experience this latest event and the least I could do was help out however I could. If Svend wanted me to write then I’d jolly well write. I gladly accepted and waited for further orders.
Almost a month later and Svend dropped the bombshell on me. My reward would be to help him interview Yuji Naka and Takashi Iizuka. Giddy? Excited? I was all those things. I counted the days down until the 25th of June like an excited child waiting for Christmas. When the time finally came I drove the 175 miles from Leeds to London at Super Sonic speed (That’s a lie, I’m a good boy and I mostly stuck to the 70mph speed limit). All this at 4am to make it to the venue in time for our 8.40am interview.
Still in a delirious blur I stumbled passed the bouncers into the lobby towards an extremely busy looking Svend, the Camden Centre already a hive of activity. SEGA reps and Sonic Stadium members alike were hurrying to put together the finishing touches before the masses outside would be let in. Within minutes we were ushered upstairs to a small room featuring several fancy white chairs a 360 demo pod and a Sonic 20th Anniversery banner. Oh and two of the men responsible for crafting games featuring the character I adore like no other.
Svend and I sat opposite Naka-san and Iizuka-san while their translator sat to the side. I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes questioning the reality of the scenario I’d found myself in. This was real alright and within no time at all the questions began. As the interview progressed it was striking to note the differences between the two. Naka-san had come dressed in an expensive suit and jacket, his voice booming and authoritative. Yet in-between questions he’d casually pull out his iPhone (with Ferrari themed case, presumably to match his actual Ferrari back home) and text, some of the contents of which you can see here.
Iizuka-san meanwhile had come dressed in a cool looking leather jacket and had a much more laid back demeanour. He’d occasionally chuckle at the questions before they were translated showing at least some understanding of what was being said. Both oozed confidence and charisma and both were obviously enthralled to be here.
The interview was the quickest half hour of my life and the best bit is both Naka-san and Iizuka-san had some very interesting things to say…
Svend Joscelyne: Thank you very much for your time. First of all, 20 years of Sonic! How does it feel to be part of a franchise that has endured for so long and to be sharing it with the fans today?
Yuji Naka: I’m just really happy to be here today. I’m honoured that the fans wanted me to be here and I’m really happy to be here to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Sonic and to see him still going after 20 years. I’m really grateful for the fans who have been supporting Sonic and have been watching us every time we release a new game. I was downstairs earlier watching people lining up for the event and I could see some old fans who have been supporting the franchise and the character for a long, long time. I’m just simply grateful for all the fans and their great support. He’s 20 years old right now but he’s still going and he’ll be still running at Sonic speed in the future.
Takashi Iizuka: Naka-san has said pretty much everything so there isn’t a lot for me to say. We were really grateful and we really wanted to show our appreciation to all the fans across the world at the time of Sonic’s 20th anniversary. I’ve been conscious of Summer of Sonic in the UK for a couple of years and it’s a really unique event. In the past we haven’t really done anything like this in the States or Japan so we tried to learn from the example of fans in the UK in celebrating all things Sonic. We recently did a big celebration event in the States and Japan this year to make it a big 20th anniversary celebration for Sonic. So we’re making this a global celebration to show our appreciation to the fans for their support.
Paul Street: This question is for Naka-san. Back when the SEGA Saturn was released you went on to create NiGHTS and there ended up being no big Sonic game for that system. Were you worn out from making Sonic games and wanted to do something new or were there any technical limitations on the hardware preventing a Sonic game as he moves through the levels so quickly?
YN: So at the time I’d been working on Sonic titles for some three to four years and in a way I wanted to take a little break and do something different. It was also around the time when I came back from the States so it felt like it was the right time for a change. We had the same guys who had been working on Sonic titles like Oshima who was the designer and Iizuka-san who was in the same team but we all wanted to do something new and that’s how NiGHTS came about. I still think it was a really good game and overall it was actually a really good thing for Sonic and us to do something different because when we came back to Sonic titles we were fresher and full of motivation. I was looking at the back catalogue of Sonic games yesterday and I realised there has been one Sonic title almost every year and that’s just incredible.
SJ: During your time as the leaders of Sonic Team were there any points during the development of Sonic games where you had to cut something out? For example, stages from Sonic 2 or other things from Sonic Heroes or Sonic Adventure that you really wanted to keep in?
YN: I’ve been pretty satisfied with the quality of the content of all the games I’ve created and I’ve done pretty much everything in them I wanted to when I started a project. But there is one thing, we were planning to implement in Sonic 2 called the Hidden Palace. We announced the name when we created the title but after we announced we had to give up on that content because of the lack of time to the release date. But because it was called Hidden Palace many users were convinced that it was somewhere. 10 years after the game came out there were still people saying “I’m still looking for it, where is it?”. I feel really sorry about that. Besides that exceptional case I’m pretty much happy with everything we’ve created.
PS: This time for Iizuka-san. Some of the more recent Sonic games have been criticized for being rushed such as Sonic The Hedgehog for 360 and PS3 and more recently Sonic Unleashed. I was wondering what the internal pressure was like from within SEGA to release the games quickly?
TI: As you can imagine Sonic titles are really important for both SEGA and their dev teams and because Sonic is loved by very different demographics from small kids to adults it can be difficult to make a game to please both. We have quite a lot of pressure to finish the product on time so we can hit the release date which is usually in time for Christmas. Particularly since our main platforms have moved to Xbox 360 and PS3 it takes quite a lot of time to polish games on these Next Gen consoles. But like with Sonic Unleashed and now Sonic Generations there is a lot of pressure to release on time. It’s usually around this time of year that we try to finalise the games and cram in time for the final checks so that the quality of the game is of a level that we can be happy with.
SJ: This one is also for Iizuka-san. I remember at E3 you mentioned that in the future you wanted to try and bring the gameplay style of Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic together; not like in Generations where they are in the game separately but instead as a single game play style. Do you think that there is still work to be done to achieve that? A lot of fans thought that Sonic Colours was a step in the right direction.
TI: In terms of the Modern Sonic 3D game mechanics Sonic Colours was a benchmark for us and we were really satisfied with how that game came out. It was pretty much at the level of what we imagined the new Modern Sonic action to be. So I think we will continue to make new 3D games in that direction. At the same time we understand we need to appeal to the classic 2D scrolling type of game so we will continue to experiment along that rout in Sonic 4 which we are still working on.
SJ: Unfortunately we’ve only time for one more question and it’s for Naka-san. You were involved so heavily with Iizuka-san on Sonic Adventure which was Sonic’s first true leap to 3D, barring Sonic Jam of course. How difficult has it been to translate Sonic from a 2D space into a 3D space, keeping in mind the speed and the exploration. What challenges did Iizuka-san and you face with that?
YN: Obviously the biggest challenge with Sonic was the change in dimension from 2D to 3D. In 3D we noticed it was really hard to get the grasp of the perspective and distance even if you used the same game play devices in 3D as the 2D game, for example spin jumping or spin dash. It was really hard to get the distance right so it was really challenging to create a smooth experience. But at the same time it was really fun and a good challenge for us.
At the time the only kind of 3D game that was around was Mario 64, where you have a free roaming world in 3D and you can go anywhere you want to. The problem with that kind of game was it was really hard for the user to understand where they were supposed to go and what they were supposed to do in the big open world. It was really simple in the 2D scrolling games, you just keep pressing the direction pad right and you just eventually get somewhere. So we really wanted to include that sort of simplicity and sense of direction in the Sonic game. The result of the struggle was the 3D mechanics of the automatic camera switching that we had in Sonic Adventure as well as the modern Sonic games.
With that our time was up and without missing a beat Svend had thanked them both for their time and positioned himself perfectly for a picture. With slightly less grace I ambled up to fill the slot and Svend snapped two shots; one of me looking bemused and the second looking ecstatic. There was a brief lull in the room an just as I thought things couldn’t get any better Naka-san started to question my t-shirt. He even took a picture and added it to his twitter feed. He questioned “Nom, nom, nom?” with his translator who made a “Chew, chew, chew” noise back which was met with understanding. The moment ended all too quickly as we were ushered back downstairs onto the show floor. (Note, at the time of writing I’ve been viewed 2500 times in Yuji Naka’s Twitter stream! Well, not me, more the t-shirt methinks.)
I never got chance to thank Svend on the day as he and the rest of the team were a whirling-dervish of activity. The interview started late which had a knock on effect with everything else so I could only imagine the stress he was going through. I only hope that this story and the others to come in the next few days make up for giving me the opportunity to meet my idols.
This isn’t the end though as I’ve so much more to write about. So stay tuned for the next part of the Summer of Sonic story coming soon to a computer near you. We have the transcript of the two part stage interview with the heads of Sonic Team and composer Jun Senoue, the Summer of Sonic experience as a fan, a Sonic Generations preview and anything else I can think to write about. Read, comment below and most of all enjoy being a Sonic fan because we’ve got it better now than ever.
One of the most frequent questions we get asked every year is whether or not Summer of Sonic would ever be held in the United States, but due to many reasons “SoSUS” never come to fruition. Unsurprisingly though there has been a huge demand for a Sonic convention state-side, and it was really only a matter of time before one materialised.
With the Sonic’s 20th anniversary around the corner, SEGA of America spearheaded plans to create their own official convention, the appropriately named Sonic Boom. Aaron Webber, the newly appointed Sonic Brand Manager took on the role of chief coordinator for Sonic Boom and got in touch with Dreadknux and myself a few weeks back, and cordially invited us both to the event.
We didn’t need to be asked twice!
The convention had been carefully timed to coincide with the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles’ downtown convention centre venue. Sonic Boom was scheduled to take place in the moody and ambient environment of Club Nokia, a versatile bar come night club within walking distance of E3; a perfect site to celebrate twenty years of Sonic the Hedgehog.
I arrived at the venue early in the afternoon with Aaron, and before we’d even made our way upstairs we were greeted by fans queuing outside Club Nokia; some of them had been camped out since 6am that morning in order to score a place inside the venue as they had not been able to acquire a ticket. If that’s not dedication, I really don’t know what is! Kellie and Julian from the American community team (who you will know from the Free Stuff Friday videos!) were running around upstairs in the venue coordinating the setup of stands, pods and making sure everything was in place – a familiar scene to anyone who has been involved in the organisation of Summer of Sonic!
Even more familiar faces were up on stage as Jun Senoue, Johnny Gioeli and Alex Makhlouf (from Cash Cash, the band involved with the Sonic Colors soundtrack) were performing a dry run of the tracks they were going to be playing later on that evening. After a warm reunion with the guys I sat back to take some snaps and enjoy the privileged position of being an invited guest backstage at an event. I must have looked pretty dumb, but nevertheless I could not get rid of the huge grin on my face as the guys blistered through their fresh new set list, which included a brand new version of Sonic CD’s “Sonic Boom” and Sonic R’s “Super Sonic Racing”. What’s more, Alex’s accompaniment on synthesiser added another layer of ecstasy to the already monstrous set, and took the lead on the funky fresh new version of “Escape from the City” which will be gracing the in-game soundtrack for Sonic Generations!
I got an opportunity to briefly catch up with Johnny after rehearsals, and as always was up for a bit of laugh, as you can see from the picture (although I don’t think SEGA will be taking him on as their new mascot – stick to your day job, Johnny!). Another act rehearsing on stage before the doors opened was the cast of Needlemouse the musical. American fans will remember this bunch as the winners of the 19th anniversary competition last year, and were the lucky recipients of a trip to Japan to play Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode One. These guys were fantastic and incredibly animated on stage, so much so most of us assisting set up had to pause to watch and laugh at the jokes they were cracking. AJ and the bunch came to talk to me after their run-through, and were even kind enough to let me have my picture taken with them – an absolutely great bunch of guys and gals and well-deserving of the incredible ovation they received later in the evening (watch their performance here!).
By 5 o’clock the venue was taking shape, with the merchandise stands set up (each entrant received a Sonic hat, a special edition Sonic Generations T-Shirt and badge set) and nearly twenty gaming stations were primed and ready to give the throng of rabid Sonic fans outside a chance to play the demo of Sonic Generations. A number of photo booths had also been established to allow fans to record photographic postcards and video messages for Sonic’s birthday (you can check out Aaron and my postcard here, Dread’s postcard here and Yuji Naka’s here). Outside a huge queue of fans had formed, eagerly awaiting entry into the venue. Aaron and I went outside to rattle the crowd up a bit, and got to shake the hands of a few fans that had recognised Aaron and me.
At 6 o’clock sharp the doors opened and the mass of fans piled in. I took a brief trip upstairs to the VIP lounge, where the likes of Iizuka-san, Oshima-san and Naka-san were meeting other industry members at an exclusive VIP event. Unfortunately I was not introduced to Naka-san, but I was reintroduced to Iizuka-san, who smiled courteously as we had already met that week! Dreadknux appeared at the venue after his busy day at E3 (and was fashionably late as always!) and we proceeded downstairs to the main event floor.
A heap of guys came to greet Dread and I (there are far too many of you to mention!) and it really made our day – so if you came up and said hi, thanks loads; it really a pleasure to meet you all! TSS staffer, Sonic Retro writer and Sonic Show star Brad Flick was down on the time trial competition station hastily jotting down top scores on Green Hill Zone – you will have to keep an eye out for some hilarious pictures of Brad and Dreadknux in their bronik poses! Similarly to Summer of Sonic, there were a massive variety of cosplayers at the event too, including SSMB’s own mikeblastdude who came in an awesome Metal Sonic getup, and an excellent Charmy the Bee cosplayer. We also caught up with Scarred Sun from Retro and Shayne representing TSSZ news. I’ve never met either in reality before so we got to have a good chinwag and posed for a few photos for posterity – both are fantastic people and I certainly hope we get to all meet again in the near future.
Aaron appeared on stage to welcome all of the guests to Sonic Boom, and it wasn’t long before Jun, Johnny and Alex were on stage blowing the socks off all those in attendance. A lucky few spotted Naka-san on the event floor and managed to grab his autograph and a photo before he disappeared backstage once more. Jun, not one for passing up the opportunity to meet fans, came down off stage with the legendary Sonic guitar to sign autos and pose for pictures with a handful of fortunate fans.
Following Needlemouse: the Musical, the best of the cosplayers were invited on stage to participate in the cosplay contest, and Iizuka-san, Miyamoto-san and Senoue-san were all invited up to wish Sonic a happy birthday and to sing him a happy birthday song…and of course, Sonic was present too, along with his birthday cake! It wasn’t long before Dread and I found ourselves up on stage, telling the Los Angeles crowd all about Summer of Sonic. I had been really nervous beforehand about how the crowd would receive us on stage (especially considering the acts we were following!) but the audience were really receptive, and cheered us on – thank you all for letting us talk to you briefly, and hopefully we’ve enticed some of you to come to Summer of Sonic!
Naka-san and Miyamoto-san, along with Oshima-san joined the cast on stage at the end of the show once again and were presented with the graffiti artist’s drawing of classic and modern Sonic which had been created over the course of the evening. I’m sure most will agree the evening past all too quickly, and before long it was time to close up the evenings proceedings.
Dread and I pitched in to assist with the clean up, and ended up collapsing in the dressing room to have a chin-wag with Alex (who is also a massive Sonic nerd by the way!) After moving a precious cargo of guitars, we emerged on the street next to the Nokia theatre and ran into our good friend Richard Jacques, who was just as surprised to see us as we were to see him! Exhausted, we crashed for a few drinks at a local bar as well as a few last photographs of the day, and toasted the success of Sonic Boom.
I’d like to end by applauding the fantastic job Aaron and the team at SoA did putting together an event of this magnitude in such a short period of time, and all those involved in the stage entertainment over the course of the evening. America has now had a taste of a Sonic convention, and I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of Sonic Boom. I’d also like to thank Aaron on behalf of Dread and myself for sponsoring our trip to Sonic Boom; I’m sure I also speak for both of us by saying we are both honoured and flattered to have been considered during the creation of this event to represent Summer of Sonic; we’ve had the time of our lives, and I’m sure I speak for hundreds of other fans when I say…
SONIC BOOM ROCKS!!!
You probably thought that most of the Sonic Team Old Guard don’t really get on. Well, today Yuji Naka proved that this was not the case, as he posted photos on his Twitter account about an encounter with Sonic the Hedgehog designer Naoto Oshima! The artist, who left Sega shortly after Sonic Adventure to form Artoon, visited Naka’s PROPE studio and brought with him a little gift.
I think it’s fair to say we all want that picture. Yuji Naka then posted a Tweet with the following photo, adding that current Sonic Team boss Takashi Iizuka joined the pair for some dinner in a local grilled chicken restaurant. Beers in hand as well, it seems like. The Japanese work hard and dine hard as well, it seems.
This funky meeting of minds most likely served absolutely no purpose other than to have old friends sit down and have a few drinks – but no doubt the topic of Sonic will come up. We can just imagine Naka-san asking Iizuka how work is like, with Iizuka throwing his hands up and jovially exclaiming “oh you know, the same old. That crazy fanbase, eh?” followed by chuckles around the table.
All three developers have had a big hand in shaping Sonic into the gaming icon he is today – Naka-san programmed the original Sonic games, and led Sonic Team during the Dreamcast era, while Naoto Oshima designed the Sonic characters themselves. Takashi Iizuka, although he largely oversees development on modern Sonic titles, began his tenure at the studio working as a level designer for Sonic 3 and Knuckles, and was the lead game designer for NiGHTS into Dreams.
Although I have a fair amount of Sonic the Hedgehog loot sitting in the merch lair, there are some folks out there who I think could probably put my collection to shame. Some of you youtubers out there might know a channel called Pete’s Game Room, which is a fantastic showcase of video games and video games merchandise, old, new and rare.
Anyway, last week Pete reviewed an item which is probably known to all you serious collectors out there; the 10th anniversary wine glass – for those of you who want to know more about it and see it outside of the occassional photo online, this is your chance!
Do check out the other stuff on Pete’s Sonic Collectables Youtube channel – it’ll make even the most experienced merch hunter drool!
In an interview with ThisIsMyJoystick.com, Yuji Naka has revealed that the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise was created with environmental themes based around the impact mankind is having on the world, but says he couldn’t speak about it back in 1991 because it was a touchy subject at the time. Naka instead decided to showcase his views in Sonic the Hedgehog’s video game world, with the villainous and polluting Dr.Robotnik/Dr.Eggman being the main representation of the concept.
“Dr Robotnik is a slightly radical representation of all humanity and the impact humanity is having on nature. In 1991, it was a very sensitive subject to talk about the environment and while I had my viewpoint, I did not speak of it. With Sonic, I was given an opportunity to express my views in a different way and did so, showing Robotnik using pollution and creating machinery which desecrates the environment and it is down to Sonic to change his ways.”
What do you think of this revelation? Could you already see the concept? Discuss in the comments.
Welcome to October. On the 24th of this month, this humble website will be ten years old. And what better way to celebrate that special anniversary than having the once-in-a-lifetime chance to sit down and chat to one of the men that made Sonic the Hedgehog – and in effect, this website – a reality.
Let me do my best Rolf Harris impression: “Can you guess who it is yet?”
That’s right. None other than Yuji Naka, one of the most inspirational developers to come out of Japan. During his time at Sonic Team, he was constantly referred to as Sega’s version of Nintendo’s own Shigeru Miyamoto. Alongside creating the physics and backbone of the Sonic the Hedgehog gameplay, Naka-san is also the mastermind behind NiGHTS Into Dreams, Burning Rangers, Phantasy Star Online and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg.
He is in London right now, promoting the UK release of his latest work, Ivy The Kiwi? On Monday, I will be sitting right next to him to chat about the game, and all things Sonic besides (talk about dream come true).
If you have a burning question that you’ve always wanted to ask Naka-san – about Sonic, his work at Prope, Ivy The Kiwi?, anything – here’s your chance! Post your questions in the comments box below and I’ll have a look through them and pick out some of the best ones for the ultimate Sonic Stadium interview. You guys have until Sunday night – have a think about some really unique and interesting questions!
Of course, I’ve got more planned for TSS’ 10th Anniversary, but this pretty much cranks the proceedings up from ‘exciting’ to ‘freaking awesome!’ Stay tuned for more excellent celebrations this month – October 2010 is all about The Sonic Stadium!
UPDATE: The interview has been cancelled. Yuji Naka has had to leave for Japan early due to “unforeseen circumstances.” There may still be an opportunity to ask some questions via alternative methods, so sit tight. We’d like to thank Premier PR and Rising Star Games for the opportunity up until the event’s cancellation.
Two people considered to be celebrities in the NiGHTS community are now ready to wow you once again. DiGi and TRiPPY of nightsintodreams.com recently scored an interview with Sonic and NiGHTS into Dreams creator Yuji Naka, which has been published on their site today. This interview proves to be very significant among NiGHTS fans, as Mr. Naka reveals the truth behind quite a few rumours regarding development, concepts and characters that have been circulating the internet for years. Also, of note is some interesting info about inspiration behind the game’s setting, a second platform, a special guest demo tester (you’ll never guess who it is) and support for DiGi and TRiPPY’s latest campaign. It’s a great read and I won’t spoil it for you here. Head on over to nightsintodreams.com to read it.
If you haven’t already taken part in DiGi and TRiPPY’s latest campaign (which is currently at 1,724 votes), you can sign the petition to get a digital NiGHTS into Dreams port on current console services (such as PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade and WiiWare) at nid15.com. You just have to click the ‘Fans’ button. Simple!
Thanks to Indigo Rush via SSMB pm and TRiPPY via e-mail for the heads up!
1UP have posted up an interview today with a man the entire Sonic fanbase may have heard of, the legendary Yuji Naka who brought our favourite blue hedgehog into the lives of gamers worldwide. The interview has a big focus on Naka’s Prope studio and their most recent game Ivy the Kiwi? but in the 3rd and 4th pages 1UP bring out some questions about classic Sonic title Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and it’s multiplayer feature aswell as development with SEGA Saturn titles NiGHTS into Dreams, Sonic Jam, Sonic Xtreme and how time restraints resulted in development for Sonic’s first true 3D jump shifting from Saturn to Dreamcast.
The interview is an interesting read into Sonic 2’s production and the struggle inside SEGA and Sonic Team during the Saturn era, you can check that section of the interview out below but if you want to read about Yuji Naka’s creative Ivy the Kiwi? title too you can read the whole interview at 1UP.
1UP: I’d like to do a bit of time traveling, now, and go back through your career at Sega. I have a small list of games that you were involved in, and I’d like to ask for at least one memory from your time making them that stands out. First is Girl’s Garden, your very first game for the SG-1000 console.
YN: Yeah, it was the first one I created after I joined Sega. Back then, the [SG-1000] hardware wasn’t really selling to girls, so my boss at the time came up to me and said, “come up with a game that can relate to the female audience,” so I started making it. I thought it was just a little test for me, but my boss really liked it and was like, “OK, we’re going to make this into a product.” Altogether it took four months to make that game, but the first two months were just me nonchalantly putting it together, since I was still in that “test” phase. The next two months were really hectic, since I had to finish it all up. Looking back, I really don’t want anybody to go in there and look at the programming, because as a game, it looks like it’s working, but inside it’s just awful. [Laughs]
1UP: Well, we were all young once.
YN: I was 18, in fact. That’s when I joined Sega. I wasn’t that bright, so I couldn’t get into college, but I was able to join Sega.
1UP: It worked out, though.
YN: Indeed. I was lucky. [Laughs]
1UP: Next is Phantasy Star, certainly the first one on Master System, but even all the early 2D installments. Since it was from a more innocent time, and this was a relatively large-scale game, an RPG, I’d imagine there might be some good memories.
YN: Actually, the very first Phantasy Star only took four and a half months to create, so it was in no way a big title.
1UP: Well, compared to Girl’s Garden…
YN: That’s true. Girl’s Garden was the first, and then I had a little more experience, a few more games under my belt, so in that case, Phantasy Star was a big title. [Before that,] there was a Commodore 64 game called 3D Dungeon, and the motion and animation was very smooth, and I was blown away by how that worked. I wanted to create something similar on the Mark III/Master System. Maybe a dungeon or maze you could fly through to communicate a sense of speed, but the only problem was that it was moving too smooth and people started getting motion sick. So we decided to make it a little slower and maybe put an RPG around it, like Phantasy Star.
Back then, when we were making a 3D dungeon, we thought we could turn it into an arcade game, because that was when everything was 2D, and to see a big 3D dungeon on [a monitor] was pretty refreshing.
1UP: But making an arcade game of it never got past being an idea.
YN: Right, they [the arcade division] didn’t consider it.
1UP: Next is Sonic the Hedgehog 2, which I bring up especially because it turned into such a big deal at the time, and you were making it in America.
YN: The main reason we had the team over here [in America] was to figure out how to best appeal to the U.S. Sega also wanted to make the Mega Drive a bigger hit in Japan, so we wanted to put a label on Sonic 2 saying it was a huge hit in America. We were starting to create Sonic 2 in Japan, but were kind of guessing; “maybe they’d like something like this, maybe we can do it this way.” I decided the best way was to go to America and get their feedback directly. We went to San Francisco, and watching the kids in the focus groups play it and see their reactions was really helpful. And that certainly changed my game creation style — my concept of game design was on a more worldwide scale, and that was a really important highlight of my life.
Another thing I thought of: In Sonic 1, it was all about how fast you could move, and so one thing we wanted to add was a race where you could compete against someone else. We made the two-player mode with a split screen, but the only problem was the screen was too small back then. So, after we started on Sonic 2, I thought we really needed a two-player mode as part of expanding on the original. We did a lot of fine adjustment in the speed and such, but I think it turned out how we envisioned it.
1UP: The split screen was pretty impressive back then.
YN: Especially with the Genesis resolution, all the games are usually 320×224, but for Sonic 2, it’s in the 400 range, so programming-wise, it was a lot more difficult [to pull off the split screen]. There’s a lot of hurdles that we had to go through, but when it worked, it was something I was really proud of, and as a programmer, I’m really happy about that title.
1UP: I’d like to jump forward in time, with a little more obscure title: Sonic Jam on Saturn, the collection of the Genesis Sonic games. Basically, I just want to know what was the idea in making that at that time.
YN: We were actually creating a 3D Sonic for the Sega Saturn, but right when we were in the thick of development, Sega was getting ready for the next console, Dreamcast. It was at a crucial point where, if we were going to move ahead with the project, we’d better move it to Dreamcast, or else we wouldn’t be able to finish it [for Saturn] in time. But we did have a certain amount of 3D graphics for the Saturn version, so we decided to [keep that and] pull in and emulate the Genesis games. For the Sega Saturn users back then, I’m sorry we couldn’t create a 3D Sonic for them, but [in Jam] you were able to have a glimpse.
1UP: Right, and there were other Saturn games from Sonic Team like NiGHTS and Burning Rangers that had clear passion behind them, so maybe it wasn’t a great loss. But regardless, is there part of you that regrets not making a “real” 3D Sonic for Saturn?
YN: Honestly, I was making so many Sonics, I wanted to make something new. But after NiGHTS, we were making Sonic, but it just would have been too late for that period. Because there’s only me, there’s no other Yuji Naka, I could only be the main programmer for NiGHTS, I couldn’t do many projects at once. But after NiGHTS, Sega wanted me to oversee more projects, so that was the last game on which I was main programmer.
Every hardware launch, there’s those crucial moments of timing. Saturn didn’t have Sonic, and the GameCube had Luigi’s Mansion; no Mario at the beginning. But Dreamcast did have Sonic from the beginning, and I think that’s why it did well. Now that I’ve grown and can look back at those days, yeah, I think I should have thought more about the company, but back then I didn’t care. I just wanted to create what I wanted to create.
But it’s the same with Nintendo: There are times when Mr. Miyamoto isn’t involved with [all] projects. And with 3DS, I’m surprised they’re using Kid Icarus for launch, and not Mario. [Of course,] at the booth, you can see Mario Kart and Paper Mario, and maybe the public will view it differently, but in my opinion, I thought it would be better to have [a traditional] Mario with 3DS.
1UP: Speaking of Dreamcast, how did you feel about the Dreamcast years and the games you produced for it? It really seemed like a time when Sega was at its most creative, and I was wondering if maybe you felt “renewed” as a game creator in those days?
YN: Yeah. From whatever failures came from the Saturn, we didn’t want to repeat our mistakes, so we had a lot of executives and software creators get together and figure out what to do; how to sell the next console. There were sooo many meetings, and we had inside advisors and outside advisors all giving us comments. But more than anything, I think [former Sega presidents] Irimajiri and Okawa had a lot of passion back then, and they were really pushing ahead to make a new console, and all the employees really felt that. So we wanted to meet their expectations, and I think as a team we worked really well.
I was remembering the “dream team” meetings that happened every week. We were deciding what kind of hardware to do, what kind of software, the specs… all of that was done in those weekly meetings.
1UP: Those were the same collaborative meetings between the hardware and software teams?
YN: Yeah. Usually when you talk about hardware and software, there are different teams that don’t really communicate with each other, but back then, I think that was one of the things that really worked well for our company. And on top of the business team [joining], there were the outside advisors, and another thing that was interesting is that we often changed the venue of the meeting rooms. We used the advisors’ offices, basically to stimulate inspiration, because when you’re in the same meeting room every time, you can’t think too differently.
1UP: Well, thank you for time traveling with me. I have one last big question, from one of our readers. Gixman asked: if you had the chance, what classic Sega franchise would you like to work on again for a next-gen system?
[Naka thinks for a moment]
1UP: Did you have a favorite Sega game that wasn’t one of your own?
YN: I really like Yu Suzuki’s games, because I feel like I want to play his games again.
1UP: Yeah, a lot of people do. I loved it when OutRun 2 came out.
YN: He might be able to use his talents more on the arcade side. Well, I’m not sure I want to make Sonic again, but… Girl’s Garden! It’s a really fun game. Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I was using an emulator to play it recently, and I was really surprised how much fun it was. [Laughs]
1UP: Even though you weren’t completely satisfied with the programming?
YN: Well, I was young, and it was one of those projects where we all put our minds together and were joking around, just having a good time making it. One other thing is that, because I was so young back then, I had so much flexibility and ideas. And it goes back to Ivy the Kiwi?, where it was the young employees bringing their ideas together. As you get older as a creator, your thinking tends to be one-sided, or not as flexible as it used to be. So when I hear what the young creators are coming up with, it really inspires me, and I want to expand that as much as possible. And I’ve been called a “game creator” for a long time, but it’s not like I come up with everything. It’s all a team effort, and saying “that’s a good idea, how can we use that?” and putting all the good parts together into a good game. My thinking isn’t necessarily making something new and moving forward from there, but based on my experience, I get to see what has potential and can expand it from there.
1UP: So to answer the original question: You’d remake Girl’s Garden?
YN: Yeah, maybe with a super hot girl! [Laughs] The game itself was about a girl trying to win this guy’s heart, and all these other girls are trying to get him, so you bring him flowers while he’s waiting at his house. Doesn’t that sound like a fun game to you? From a guy’s point of view, all you have to do is stay at home and all these girls are fighting over you, so what else could you want?
1UP: Yeah, it’s a nice idea. Sounds like it reflected your youth.
YN: I guess so, huh? [Laughs]
A double dose of simplicity hits the Wii today in North America with the retail and download releases of Prope’s “Let’s Tap” and “Let’s Catch.” “Let’s Tap” is going at a $29.99 price tag, while “Catch” is worth 1,000 Nintendo Points on WiiWare. A European release date has yet to be announced for either title, as many outlets list it as “Summer 2009” or “To Be Announced.” Check out some video of the two titles below:
Are you interested in picking up either of Naka’s new projects? Let us know in the comments below.
Sonic Adventure 2 was a big deal back in 2001. Hype was at fever pitch among the Sega faithful, the game had very positive reviews (remember when that happened?) and countless merchandise was released for the game that was to coincide with Sonic’s 10th Anniversary. There were limited edition statues, glass cubes, CD soundtracks and booklets… we even discovered goblets most recently! One of the biggest and most sought after of the bunch though, was an ultra-rare blue Sega Dreamcast in Sonic’s name. Signed by Yuji Naka, the only one actually seen in the wild was on an episode of Thumb Bandits, given away as part of a contest.
Now, you can obtain that very console for your collection. If you have a spare grand and a half.
On everyone’s favourite backyard sale, a chap is letting go of this very rare item – which includes a white and blue Sonic themed controller, a copy of Sonic Adventure 2, the usual bits that came with a Dreamcast and of course the blue console with a Sonic imprint and Naka signature – for £1,500. What recession?
Sega Dreamcast Sonic the Hedgehog 10th Anniversary Rare – eBay (ta, Jemnezmy)
Is that Morph you’re holding there, Mr. Naka?
What is it with all this Yuji Naka talk lately? We may as well rename ourselves to ‘Naka News’ from now on. Gaming website Kikizo managed to catch up with the man behind such masterpieces as NiGHTS and Burning Rangers for a short interview on his new company, Prope. Looking pretty swarve, Naka turned up to the interview suitably dressed with ‘Let’s Tap!’ figurine in hand all set to promote his new game- however, Kikizo had other ideas in mind.
Naka was asked a series of questions consisting of his opinions on SEGA leaving the hardware market, what his current relationship with SEGA is at and why his socks are the colour orange. They even threw in the question always on a Sonic fan’s mind, did Michael Jackson really compose the music to Sonic 3?
Naka slyly replied:
Naka: [laughs] It’s best that you ask Sega!
Kikizo: Well, er, it was your game, Naka-san… nobody at Sega would even know any more…
Naka: It’s a mystery [laughs]. This information is on a need-to-know basis! [laughs more] One day, when the time comes, I will give you the information!
The inevitable question regarding Naka’s company ‘Prope’ (pronounced Pro-Pay for all those wondering) developing a character based game similar to Sonic quickly came around, to which Naka confirmed that the title has spent a very small time in development and he cannot confirm whether or not the idea will be approved by SEGA. He’ll tell media when the time comes.
You can read Kikizo’s interview with the man himself on their website here. Oh, and if you are still wondering on the question of his orange socks, they’re to match the Prope company logo which is reminiscent of the US orange Dreamcast logo colour. Awesome.