Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima interview by Hobby Consolas (Unknown Month, 1996)
The following is an interview with Yuji Naka and Naoto Oshima.
SONIC TEAM – THE CREATORS OF SONIC AND NIGHTS
The members of the software house Sonic Team – with Mr Yuji Naka in charge of it – are the true “fathers” of Sonic. Now they have put their favorite son aside for a while dedicating themselves in full to a new challenge under the name “Nights”. Hobby Consolas wished to know more details about this promising title, which is why we sent our Japanese correspondent to the Sega headquarters, where we kept this interesting chat about the creative process of one of this new generation’s most spectacular games.
Hobby Consolas: How many people composed the programming team?
Yuji Naka: When we started to work in Sonic we were about 7 people. Then more and more programmers arrived and we’re 20 people at the moment.
Hobby Consolas: When did you begin to work in Nights?
Yuji Naka: We started right after finishing Sonic & Knuckles. In that moment we were returning to Japan from the USA and started to create the first projects. That took us about six months. The programming job actually took place in April 95.
Hobby Consolas: What is the importance of character design to the game?
Yuji Naka: In order to have this game be a success we had the impression that we should not just create a protagonist that would please most of the people. Our intention was to create something revolutionary within our own Japanese culture, something that would distance itself from the usual concept of the games we know.
Hobby Consolas: Where from did the idea for the protagonist originate?
Naoto Oshima: To create this character I investigated deeply into the European and North-American cultures and travelled through many countries. In the end I got to the conclusion that I’d like to make a character that would resemble an angel, mostly in its gestures.
Hobby Consolas: Your initial idea of the game is the same you have now?
Yuji Naka: First we wanted to create a game with a slow pace, one which the player could enjoy leisurely… but during programming we went increasing the speed, progressively, until we arrived at the rhythm the game has now. In reality, the speed is very close to that of the Sonic games, although its gameplay sensation seems much better to us.
Hobby Consolas: The character seems to be flying during most of the game. Why did you chose to bestow this ability to it?
Yuji Naka: The desire to fly like a bird is a feeling that is common to the whole world. We wanted to make this dream into a reality for the users. It’s a fundamental aspect of the game. We want the players to enjoy, flying through the air and feel like playing again. Moreover, the factor of time as the life of the protagonist constitutes a new concept for the gameplay.
Hobby Consolas: What are the basic characteristics of the game?
Yuji Naka: One of our premises was to create a world where the players were able to improve their abilities after playing a few times. We didn’t want to make a game where after finishing the first level you’d get right to the next one. We wanted players to have different options and have fun creating their own levels. We have also made it so the game is different every time you play. For instance, we have created the “feeling parameter” that allows the characters of the game to sometimes be allies to Nights and sometimes be against it. These characters live their lives during the game. We have made Nights with from the perspective of the player.
Hobby Consolas: Why did you create a whole new character and did not reuse Sonic?
Yuji Naka: Yes, it would have been a good idea to use Sonic, but we believe that we’re looking for something more, so that’s why we created a new character and a new world. We didn’t want to saturate people like other companies do. Moreover, it is hard to continue the series with the same type o game.
Hobby Consolas: Do you think you have created a master-piece?
Yuji Naka: We’re no geniuses! There are better games than ours in Europe and the USA. We’ve simply did what we had in our own dreams. Anyone can make a game… but to make a good game you need to have a good team. If you have a good idea and a good team you can make a game like Nights. We don’t think it’s the best game of all time (laughs)… but yes, we believe we have worked as best we can, trying to bring together our own ideas to those of users as much as possible.
Hobby Consolas: Is NIGHTS played in a truly tridimensional world?
Yuji Naka: The world of our NIGHTS is absolutely a “truly tridimensional world”. However, if all the levels were to be played in a 3D space the gameplay would suffer. That being, we have made the game so that all players could be able to fly without any difficulties.
Hobby Consolas: Is NIGHTS using 100% of Saturn’s capacities?
Yuji Naka: We’re entirely satisfied with Saturn. In my opinion we still haven’t used 100% of the console’s hardware. We believe it is possible to make something much better. Nights is our first Saturn game and, thus, we couldn’t take full advantage of the system. We have studied a lot of possibilities that we could have used and we haven’t even tried them. Just the basic manual has three volumes (laughs). This time we have limited our own abilities.
Hobby Consolas: What was the most annoying part of the programming process?
Yuji Naka: We can’t talk about the word “annoying”. There were parts that were more difficult than others, but we really had a great time creating this game.
Naoto Oshima: Although there were some parts we had to repeat several times over…
Yuji Naka: Right. It was hard for us to get to this definitive version. There are many final versions we did that have little in common with the one being released for sale.
Hobby Consolas: What type of hardware have you used?
Yuji Naka: We’ve used SGI for the design. We’ve also used a PC for the CD-Emulator and a Hewlett Packard for programming.
Hobby Consolas: What is Night’s biggest adversary?
Yuji Naka: The game’s strongest contender is Sonic.
Hobby Consolas: What would you tell me about a hypothetical comparison between Nights and Mario 64?
Yuji Naka: There is a great difference in the 3D concept of each game, so a comparison is hard to make. Nights is a unique game, very different from Sonic and Mario.
Hobby Consolas: Do you believe Nights will have the same impact on the Saturn as Sonic had in its day on the Mega Drive?
Yuji Naka: We have not set that goal for ourselves this time but we believe that Nights will have a great impact on the Saturn. We have full confidence in it.
[Original Source from the Spanish gaming magazine Hobby Consolas; translated into English by Sonic Retro]