Sega held a small gathering Friday in San Francisco to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the release of Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic creator Yuji Naka and Sonic himself were on hand for cake and the chance to play every Sonic game on Sega hardware from the Master System to the Dreamcast. The small gathering was a precursor to a much larger celebration on Saturday in the Bay Area. Several hundred Sonic fans converged on a Software Etc. in San Jose, Calif., Saturday for a chance to meet Yuji Naka and celebrate Sonic's 10th birthday. Although the autograph signing was scheduled to run from 11am to 1pm, fans began lining up before the store opened. Following Naka's arrival, Sonic emerged to give his creator flowers in front of fans who serenaded the blue one with a an impromptu rendition of "Happy Birthday." Several hundred people eventually made their way through the line for Naka's autograph. Fans waiting outside were treated to giveaways, birthday cake, and a glimpse of a real hedgehog. Inside the store, Naka signed everything from copies of the original Phantasy Star for the Sega Master System to Sonic Adventure 2 and the commemorative "Birthday Pack" released in limited supply to stores in honor of the anniversary.
The event offered an interesting juxtaposition of past, present, and future, as a video screen behind Naka cut between footage of Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic's upcoming appearances on other consoles. The snippets of tape hinted at Naka and Sonic Team's plans for Sonic's future--Sonic Advance, due in November on the Game Boy Advance, and Virtua Striker 3 for the GameCube, which is due this year and features a Sonic-themed team made up of familiar faces including Sonic, Amy, Tails, Robotnik and a slew of chao, were both shown in the video.
Following a small tournament whose prize was to play against Sonic Adventure 2 Director Takashi Izuka, Gamespot had the opportunity to briefly grill Naka about a few things.
GameSpot: Was Sonic Adventure 2's constant 60 fps frame-rate a goal when developing the game?
Yuji Naka: That was definitely a goal, to give players the best experience possible.
GS: How did that influence its design?
YN: There were some adjustments to the design to get there, but we [Sonic Team] have been making games for the Dreamcast for two years now so that experience helped us.
GS: Were you happy with the way the Chao raising turned out in Sonic Adventure 2?
YN: In Sonic Adventure they wouldn't interact with each other, you could raise them on their own. But in Sonic Adventure 2 they interact with each other, so they took a step closer to a real artificial life form. So in that sense I'm happy with the progress.
GS: Is there more you'd like to do with the Chao?
YN: I'll think about that when we make the next game.
GS: Speaking of which, how will the hardware the next Sonic game is developed on influence its design? For example, the Gamecube controller seems to offer some new possibilities for control.
YN: What I'd like to do is take the game I want to make and figure out which hardware would best fit it, rather than the other way around.
GS: Are you looking at any hardware right now?
YN: In Japan, we have the Java-based games for cell phones, so we're working on that kind of stuff and also some network applications.
GS: Are Sonic Adventure 2 and Phantasy Star Online ver. 2 Sonic Team's last Dreamcast games?
YN: It's a pretty hard question to answer. Right now, we're taking a look at how the Dreamcast is doing. So maybe there will be another, maybe there won't, it's hard to say.
GS: Was there a game you never had the opportunity to develop on the Dreamcast? Would it be something you'd develop on another platform?
YN: Not particularly. (laughs) That's a hard question to answer!
GS: Would you ever be inspired to do a sequel to Nights?
YN: The fact that so many people look forward to it makes it that much more difficult to make. (laughs) The fact that everyone loved the first one so much makes it that much more difficult to figure out how to make the second one.
GS: Will there be a true sequel to Phantasy Star Online?
YN: Right now we're hard at work on the Gamecube version. So we're not really sure where we're going to go beyond that. In large part it will also depend on reaction to the games. Network games are a lot more popular in the US than they are in Japan, but for some reason PSO was received better in Japan than it has been here.
GS: Are you ready for Sonic's 20th birthday?
YN: I'd like to see Sonic running for another 50 years. (laughs)
Thanks to Yuji Naka, and Osamu Shibamiya for translating.