Sonic Team Isn't Going Stale - Sonic Veteran

Sonic Team veteran Tetsu Katano says it's not true that staff inside the studio are becoming disillusioned, and that fresh talent keeps things bright.

In the not-too-distant past, some pretty convincing claims were made by an alleged former member of Sonic Team staff that the once-adored Sega studio is losing its will to live.

The internal source said that the relentless, year-in-year-out Sonic production had become an assembly line "sweatshop" type of operation, and that cynical moves like awkwardly shoehorning NiGHTS 2 (originally a 360 project, it was claimed) onto the increasingly lucrative Wii had started to seriously damage the motivation of Sonic Team staff.

The credibility of the source seemed undeniable, given that he mentioned the "transforming Evil 'Night' Sonic who looks like a werewolf" long before this feature of last year's Sonic Unleashed game was even revealed.

It makes us sad to think that everyone working on Sonic games these days is feeling sad, so we decided to do a little investigating of our own, and recently met with Sonic Team veteran Tetsu Katano to ask him what's going on behind the scenes. We told him about the views of this former team member, and asked for his opinion on it all.

"Obviously, I'm aware that some people lose their inspiration and motivation in making games", he told us. "But each person has his or her own view about their work."

"For me personally, I simply enjoy making games, and that's what I wanted to do when I joined Sega and Sonic Team."

Tetsu Katano

Tetsu Katano has been at the company for something like fifteen years, starting out in the Mega CD days and moving on to program titles like Clockwork Knight and NiGHTS on the Sega Saturn. He then took on key roles on all of the 'better' modern-era Sonic projects: both Sonic Adventure games, Sonic Heroes, as well both of the popular Wii outings - Secret Rings and Black Knight.

He went on to say that, contrary to the claims made by the former staffer, Sonic Team stays invigorated because fresh talent is coming in all the time:

"As a professional game creator, you have to always be thinking about new ideas and concepts for games, and we have a lot of new people with fresh ideas and attitudes coming in every year. So as a team, we have good vibrations, good momentum."

In the eyes of this Sonic Team guru, it seems the sweatshop image of Sonic Team couldn't be further from the reality. The only question that remains is, since his Wii versions of Sonic have arguably trounced the 360 and PS3 games released in 2006 and 2008, does he have any plans to help out the struggling next-gen Sonic product line? (Which we mistakenly referred to as the "main series"...)

"We don't have this sort of hierarchal system where [360/PS3] Sonic is 'higher' than the side-story [Wii] Sonic games," explains Katano. "I certainly don't think that's the case; for me personally, I prefer this storybook series, because I can come up with all the new ideas, and be creative about where Sonic will be having his next adventure."

He added: "I would love to try something different other than making Sonic games myself, it's just a matter of identifying the right person with the motivation and desire to make Sonic games. If that happens, maybe I could sort of retire from Sonic games and do something different."

We'd say he should stay put on Sonic for the time being, unless they manage to lure back people like Hirokazu Yasuhara, designer of the original Sonic the Hedgehog's legendary gameplay and genius stage layouts. Working on something like this wouldn't do any harm, either...

Video Games Daily:

Kikizo Network:

The Real Kikizo?
The Top 50 Names in Games We Ever Interviewed
The Top 50 Names in Games We Ever Interviewed
The Top 50 Names in Games We Ever Interviewed
We Name the Top 65 Games of the Noughties

The History of First Person Shooters