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Eurogamer meets Sonic's Dad

Let's all go round Naka's yard.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

It's hard to get time alone with Yuji Naka. So we discovered at a recent SEGA event to promote Let's Tap, the Wii game you play by tapping a cardboard box. (Read our recent review for a fuller explanation.)

But journalists weren't queuing up to ask him about his new game, or whether he thinks playing videogames by tapping a cardboard box is the new playing videogames by standing on bathroom scales. Naka is still best-known for his much earlier creation - Sonic the hedgehog. More than 15 years after Naka helped give birth to his big blue furry baby, there are still lots of people who want to ask him about it.

Which is why we ended up sharing our interview slot with a gentleman from an unspecified European publication, and why the following article includes his questions as well as our own. Read on to find out if Naka thinks the hardcore has been abandoned, why he feels there should be more smoking in games and whether he's ever done experiments on a penguin.

EurogamerIt's okay, you go first. I'm very polite.
Another JournalistWhy is Sonic a blue hedgehog?
Yuji Naka

At the time Sonic was developed there was talk of developing a corporate character for SEGA, so the SEGA corporate colour blue was used. He's a hedgehog because of the ideas in the game, the speed element and the rolling. I wanted something which could still act as a weapon while rolling, with spikes - like a hedgehog. So that's why. As for the hairstyle, it just seemed natural for a hedgehog.

The best imaginary house we've ever imagined is in the Green Hill Zone.
EurogamerWhat's the demographic you're going for with Let's Tap? Is it a different audience to the one Sonic was aimed at?
Yuji Naka

The idea was to create a game with a very broad demographic - from a one year-old to a hundred year-old. With a lot of games, as the controls become more and more complex and the movements are more complex, there are hardcore gamers who will go with it - but there are a lot of people who can't really relate. So the idea was to create something really simple that everyone can play.

Another JournalistWhat does Sonic mean to you? What do you think of the current Sonic games?
Yuji Naka

Sonic is like a son to me. He's a little bit rough around the edges, but he's done well for himself, so he's a good son. I'm proud of Sonic.

In terms of current Sonic games, I'm not following them too closely because I feel they're in the capable hands of Sonic Team and SEGA.

EurogamerGoing back to the idea of making a game for everyone - what about gamers who grew up with Sonic, and are now classified as hardcore? Some people feel they've been abandoned by the likes of Nintendo, that games aren't as challenging as they used to be. Do you think the hardcore has been abandoned?
Smoother, shinier, crisper. Crapper?
Yuji Naka

I understand that a lot of the pleasure in playing games comes from resolving that challenge. I am aware that games these days are made child-friendly and not too hard to play. That's because when you're developing games now, there's a demand to create something for a broader audience - which means you have to have these simple interfaces.

People do miss out on that challenging aspect, but it's really to do with having to appeal to a wider audience. If there's a demand for more of these challenging games, it would be great to be able to make them.

Another JournalistHow easy was it to develop Let's Tap, and what are your plans for the series?
Yuji Naka

Let's Tap came about when my development team and I discovered this new way of interacting with the Wii remote. So that was an inspiration and driving force for developing the game. It would be great to be able to come up with ways to interact with games, and for the audience to be able to appreciate this.