This is an interview conducted by the french magazine Mega Force with Minoru Kanari. It was translated by Dream-avenue.com.
Sega.com: What inspired Sonic - both the character and the gameplay?
Yuji Naka: Well from the beginning of development we had a character in mind. So we actually started creating the game and characters at the same time. We knew we wanted to keep the operational command of the character uncomplicated. We wanted to keep it simple enough so the feeling of speed wasn't lost. For example, when Sonic jumps, he needs to be fast enough to attack the enemy at the same time. These are just some of the aspects of the game design taken into consideration - an effort headed by Mr. Yasuhara. Anyway, we decided to create a cool, extremely fast hedgehog who could also roll up and jump.
Sega.com: How was a blue hedgehog decided to be the hero of the game?
Yuji Naka: We chose blue for Sonic's color not only to symbolize the image color of Sega, but also because it's a color that represents peace, trust, and coolness - all attributes of Sonic.
Sega.com: Why a blue hedgehog?
Yuji Naka: We wanted a character that would be simply cool!
Sega.com: Did you have any idea at the time you first developed Sonic that he would become a huge success and the symbol for Sega? What do you think made Sonic so popular?
Yuji Naka: Originally, I wanted to create a character that would symbolize Sega. But to tell you the truth, I had no idea he would be so successful. At the time I was creating Sonic, most game characters had cute, flawless images - it was almost a stereotype. I wanted to create something completely different. I thought a more cool and speedy character with an attitude would be appreciated and recognized - especially by American users. I think Sonic helped to activate the gaming market. I strongly believe analyzing the market situation, advertising efficiency, and quality of the games are the primary factors for success.
Yuji Naka: Robotnik was created to be the opposite of Sonic, and to be the bad guy. At that time, there was opposition between "developers" and "environmentalists", and Robotnik was created to represent machinery and development. As far as design, Mr. Oshima (the team member in charge of character designs) was trying to create something easy enough so that kids would be able to draw the characters. That's why the rotund character was created. For Sonic The Hedgehog 2, Mr. Yamaguchi, the main designer, created Tails, a character who has a deep admiration for Sonic. Knuckles was created to be a rival for Sonic. We went through many different design ideas, and decided to use the particular characteristic style you see in Knuckles.
Sega.com: How long have you been creating games?
Yuji Naka: This will be my 13th year creating games. Right after I graduated from high school, I started working at Sega. Some of the titles I've worked on include "Fantasy Star" and "Space Harrier" (for the Master System), "Black Belt", "The Village Of Spiritual World", and of course "Sonic The Hedgehog" series for Genesis. I also worked on "NiGHTS" for Sega Saturn as a producer, and to make sure that we met user's expectation of the game.
Sega.com: How long does it typically take to develop a new Sonic game?
Yuji Naka: It all depends on what kind of game we are going to create, but it usually takes one year to a year and a half.
Sega.com: What's a typical day like for you?
Yuji Naka: Well, it all differs depending on the production period. But on an average day, I'm usually doing two things: participating in meetings about how to continuously create better quality games, and programming.
Sega.com: How about on your days off?
Yuji Naka: During my off days, I spend a lot of time driving my Sonic-colored Porsche.
Sega.com: Which is your personal favorite Sonic game?
Yuji Naka: That's a tough question to answer because with the creation of each Sonic game, the quality of the game has improved. But personally I like the first Sonic The Hedgehog game the best. Since it was the first production, we had lots of trial and errors, so it is very memorable production for me.
Sega.com: Do you have Sonic everything around your house?
Yuji Naka: I do have lots of Sonic stuff, but I keep it in a safe place with lots of special care!
Sega.com: What is in store for Sonic in the future?
Yuji Naka: I would like to tell you, but unfortunately I can't give out any details right now. Let's just say Sonic has an interesting future planned!