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Yuji Naka interview by Sega Visions (August/September 1992)

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This is a interview conducted by Sega Visions', an early gaming magazine which was Sega's official magazine. The interviewee is none other than Yuji Naka, the creator and mastermind behind Sonic. Of the more interesting aspects is that Sonic's original design was a rabbit character. Also for some reason Mobius is referred to, although it's possible that Yuji Naka (or a translator) did this for the benefit of the American readers. It's also possible he could have been referring to the cork screws in Emerald Hill Zone which look like a Mobius Strip.[1]

The interview has been reformatted for better readability. The magazine scans can be found here.

The Interview

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

Yuji Naka: 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.


Sega Visions: A new friend?

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


Sega Visions: How many people are working on Sonic 2? How does this compare with the original Sonic 1?

Yuji Naka: A total of twelve people are working on Sonic 2. That's 30% more [staff] than worked on the original game. It's basically the same team as the original, with another programer and more designers and artists. The original team had 3 artists, 2 game designers and 3 sound and music guys.


Sega Visions: Who is writing the music?

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


Sega Visions: What were some of the things you thought about when you first created the Sonic character?

Yuji Naka: 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.


Sega Visions: How about the name Sonic?

Yuji Naka: 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.


Sega Visions: Where did the other characters in the game come from?

Yuji Naka: 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.


Sega Visions: What were some of your other games?

Yuji Naka: Ghouls & Ghosts, Phantasy Star I and II and Super Thunder Bolt for the Genesis. For the Master System I did Phantasy Star I, Space Harrier, Outrun, Blackbelt, Spy Vs Spy, F16 Fighting Falcon, and Great Baseball.


Sega Visions: How and when did you get started creating video games?

Yuji Naka: I joined SEGA in 1984, after I finished school.


Sega Visions: Were you programming games in school?

Yuji Naka: 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.


Sega Visions: What is your ongoing philosophy about creating video games?

Yuji Naka: 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.


Sega Visions: Do you have any advice for people who want to create video games?

Yuji Naka: Yes. Play lots of games. Not just play them to win, but think about them critically and analyze their strengths 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 fit into a game.