INTERVIEW: Yuji Naka @ Sega Technical Institute.

From: Sega Visions August / September 1992)


We recently had opportunity to visit with Yuji Naka, the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, at the SEGA Technical insitute 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.

S.V: We understand you're busy working on Sonic the Hedgehog 2. What can you tell us about it?

Yuji: For one thing, Sonic 2 is twice the size of Sonic 1. For another, Sonic has to run through more levels...many more than in 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.

S.V: A new friend?

Yuji: A fox with two tails. We call him Tails, naturally. He helps Sonic out of tight spots and can help Sonic defeat enemies.

S.V: How many people are working on Sonic 2? How does this compare with the original Sonic 1?

Yuji: A total of twelve people are working on Sonic 2. That's 30% more than worked on the original game. It's basically the same team as the original, with another programmer and more designers and artists. The original team had three artists, two game designers and three sound and music guys.

S.V: Who is writing the music?

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

S.V: What were some of the things you thought about when you first created the Sonic character?

Yuji: 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 themselves into a ball, so we decided to go from a rabbit to a hedgehog.

S.V: How about the name Sonic?

Yuji: 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.

S.V: Where did the other characters in the game come from?

Yuji: We wanted one of the characters in the game to be egg-shaped, so we created Robotnik. It was a great character, but since it couldn't be the main character, we made him the bad guy.

S.V: What were some of your previous games?

Yuji: Ghouls & Ghosts, Phantasy Star I & II and Super Thunder Bolt (that'll be Thunderblade - SegaFreak) for the Genesis. For the Master System I did Phantasy Star I, Space Harrier, Outrun, Black Belt, Spy vs Spy, F-16 Fighting Falcon and Great Baseball.

S.V: How and when did you get started creating video games?

Yuji: I joined SEGA in 1984, afer I finished school.

S.V: Were you programming games in school?

Yuji: 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.

S.V: What is your on-going philosophy about creating video games?

Yuji: 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.

S.V: Do you have any advice for people who want to create video games?

Yuji: Yes. Play lots of games. Not just play them to win, but think about them critically and analyze their strenghts and weaknesses, constantly looking for ways to improve them. They should also draw on their own experiences for inspiration. Everything I do in my daily life, I think about how it would into a game.


During our visit to the SEGA Technical institute, we confirmed what we had suspected all along -- Sonic 2 is going to be the hottest title of the year. Period. Here's why: Sonic 2 is bigger, faster, more challenging and more fun than the original. It has more levels, with a secret zone that you'll have to work hard to find and new bonus rounds that you have to get through to get the Chaos Emeralds. Sonic 2 will be coming out on Genesis, Game Gear and Sega CD.

The increased capacity of the Sega CD version will allow additional zones, as well as special bonus rounds between zones. In these bonus rounds, Sonic takes you on a first person roller coaster ride, a half pipe maze compete with enemies, traps and dead ends. You control Sonic as he tries to get through the maze and you go with him as he takes on those 360 degree loops and 90 degree turns. And that's just between the zones. All versions of Sonic 2 will have new zones, new enemies and new challenges. Wait till you try the new Green Hill Zone, the new Metropolis Zone or the Chemical Factory. Or Death Egg, where you get to visit Robotnik's ship.


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