He's Back: Yuji Naka Prope Interview
The former Sonic Team president discusses leaving (and returning to) Sega, founding Prope, his upcoming character-based action game, and ancient, unanswered Sonic secrets.
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Kikizo: How do you now reflect on Sega deciding to leave the hardware business?
Naka: I was very much against Sega ceasing to develop hardware, and I think at the time Phantasy Star Online was just about to come out. Okawa-san, who was the head of Sega at the time, said that the networked approach to gaming was something we should pursue, and so that game was developed with that concept fully in mind. At the time, internet infrastructure wasn't really up to the standards it is now; not everybody was even online, whereas now, everyone's got it. Chu Chu Rocket was released as a test to see what was possible, and as a result of that we subsequently developed Phantasy Star Online. But yeah, until the very final moments, I was really against Sega leaving the hardware business. In a way I feel that, had that decision not been made, Sega would have gone bankrupt - so maybe it was a good business decision. But at the same time, I also feel like, what the hell - we should have given it a go, and we should have taken that risk. But that is just my personal opinion, because I really enjoyed the hardware side of things at Sega.
Kikizo: Going a bit further back, I wonder if you can clear up some speculation that's been around for years now, that Michael Jackson was involved in the music production for Sonic 3? There is some really quite convincing evidence on the internet. You must surely be the guy to say yes it's true, or no it's not?!
Naka: [laughs] It's best that you ask Sega!
Kikizo: Well, er, it was your game, Naka-san... nobody at Sega would even know any more...
Naka: It's a mystery [laughs]. This information is on a need-to-know basis! [laughs more] One day, when the time comes, I will give you the information!
Kikizo: Well, we'll look forward to that. What's your favourite game ever and why?
Naka: Lemmings. I consider the architecture and the system of the game really quite superior. And the fact that each one of the Lemmings has got its own designated roles and different movements - yet their characteristics are based on real Lemmings, so from a character design point of view also, I find Lemmings quite fascinating.
Kikizo: Well thank you for your time. Now, in my photo, I would like to include the orange socks you are wearing, to show how you have colour-coordinated...
Naka: [In English] Yes - Prope's corporate colour is orange!
Kikizo: And did you choose orange because of Dreamcast?
Naka: Yes. [laughs]
Kikizo: Well, then it's a good choice.
Let's Tap for the Wii is out now in Japan and is coming to North America and Europe this summer. We'll have more on the game shortly. Also stay tuned for an interview with Tetsu Katano from Sonic Team.
As an added footnote can I just say that I'd like to chip in on the debate quite rightly raised by Brandon in his Naka interview: I've now interviewed Naka four times and met informally on a further two occasions, and he's never been anything other than pleasant and as accomodating as possible in interviews. The same can't be said for every creative executive so I think maybe people are getting their wires crossed...