Yuji Naka interview by Edge (1999)
From Sonic Retro
This is an interview conducted by the Edge with Yuji Naka.
Edge: What do you think western gamers' reaction will be to Sonic Adventure?
Yuji Naka: It's difficult to say. This time Sonic is less action-oriented, and numerous adventure parts have been included. I hope players enjoy them.
Edge: What improvements have you been able to make for the western version?
Yuji Naka: Basically, there are no big differences to the Japanese version. We tuned up some parts, and reviewed some camera views, rectified some bugs and simplified a few bits.
Edge: How did you handle the localisation?
Yuji Naka: It was no different from the way we translate other games. We worked on different nuances and made the characters speak in a very 'Sonic' way. We did some auditions to find the voices for Sonic and the other characters. We taught the 'Sonic voice' for carious Sonic personalities and directed it. We also translated the game into French, Spanish and German.
Edge: How long did it take to complete the conversion?
Yuji Naka: That's difficult to answer because we didn't work on it full time. We started work on it after finishing the Japanese version, so ti took probably four months. We needed to modify lots of Japanese text as there are som many pieces in Sonic Adventure.
Edge: Where do you look for ideas when you're developing a game?
Yuji Naka: I think the best thing is to talk through your ideas with someone else and get their reactions. By taking into account other people's reactions, you progressively build up your game concept.
Edge: Does the final Sonic Adventure come close to what you initially envisaged?
Yuji Naka: Globally, the game is very close to what we originally planned. However, the end result is much bigger than we first envisaged it.
Edge: How big was the development team?
Yuji Naka: At its peak, for about two months, we reached 130 persons, but normally the team was about 50 people strong. We had almost 20 times more staff for Sonic Adventure than we were used to - we were a team of seven people when we did the original Sonic.
Edge: Which Sonic installment was the most enjoyable for you?
Yuji Naka: On the first Sonic, I was the main programmer and I was also doing the direction, which was enyojable because I could create a game from scratch without limitations. This time, with more than 100 people, things were very different. I don't want to work in such big teams any more. It is enough to do it for a few years.
Edge: Just looking at the Mega Drive installments, what is your favorite Sonic?
Yuji Naka: The one I liked the best is the first Sonic the Hedgehog. But the most developed title is Sonic 2. It's a difficult question, though. I love all my games. I've worked on more than 20 titles, already.
Edge: Which part of Sonic Adventure are you most proud of?
Yuji Naka: I am most satisfied with the gam's scale. Sonic Adventure offers a huge world and many different game experiences. It is what I wanted.
Edge: What is next for Sonic Team? Is it true that it will be broken down into small units?
Yuji Naka: I can't talk about it. There are lots of rumours, which I belive often come from players who want to have part two of Sonic Adventure, Burning Rangers and NiGHTS. So the rumour that the Sonic Team split into three teams appeared on the Net. I don't want to ruin any dreams, but I'm making non of them.
Edge: Is there a lot of Internet interest in Sonic in Japan?
Yuji Naka: Yes. There's Sonic-Cat for example. I connect there sometimes. It's very interesting, I can get a lot of opinions from players.
Edge: Which Dreamcast game are you looking forward to the most?
Yuji Naka: Shenmue and Seaman, surely. Vivarium just finished it yesterday. It is software that people absolutely must buy. New concept-based games are what I want to see.
Edge: Why did you enter the game industry?
Yuji Naka: I was interested by computers. I was also influenced by Ryuichi Sakamoto's group YMO [Yellow Magic Orchestra - Tunek] and its syntheseisers. When I heard that Ryuichi Sakamoto would make the musical Dreamcast logo I was very happy, as I had to create an animated logo to go with it. YMO influenced numerous game developers in Japan - not only me, they were a very big influence on my generation.
Edge: Do you get a chance to play games?
Yuji Naka: Yes, on all platforms. I played a little bit of Metal Gear Solid Integral that I got from Hideo Kojima. I also played Capcom's Marvel on PlayStation and I bought Shutoku Battle for Dreamcast and Saru Get You on PlayStation.
Edge: In your opinion, what will make Dreamcast a success in Japan?
Yuji Naka: I belive network games are important. Graphics are now the be-all and end-all when it comes to gaming.
Edge: At the planning stages of Adventure, did you want to make it networkable?
Yuji Naka: Yes, I wanted to make an online game, but I thought that we couldn't do it in time for the release, so we abondened the idea. Instead, we made Sonic Adventure a network-connectable type of game. But I am really satisfied with the result because I could implement some original networking feutures even if the game is not online.
Edge: Who is your favorite charachter in Sonic Adventure?
Yuji Naka: Sonic, of course. I also like Chao, the small A-life charachters similar to the ones we created in NiGHTS.
Edge: What do you think of PlayStation 2?
Yuji Naka: If the Playsation 2 was less powerful than the Dreamcast then people would laugh. You need to make people dream, but I don't belive graphics are everything. And I don't think it's normal to spend so much money on such a huge project to reach children. I think we make cheap and enjoyable games for children.
Edge: How do you see the future of videgames developing.
Yuji Naka: It's difficult to say. Recently games have been so graphics-oriented. But games with good graphics are not always good games. We need to go back to the origins of gameplay.
- Original Interview at Angel Island Interviews.