A 2001 Famitsu interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Yuji Naka has recently been translated from Japanese to English, allowing us to gather some interesting tidbits of information. Amongst other things, we learned that Miyamoto felt that
Sonic the Hedgehog was “a little rough around the edges,” but had “real personality.” Naka was eager to work with Nintendo hardware, and this was the reason that he rushed to get the Game Boy Advance’s connectivity feature added to Sonic Advance.
The interview began with both developers talking about how they first met at a game show shortly after the first
Sonic the Hedgehog game was released. Naka said that he felt that “Miyamoto is someone I’m always trying to catch up to,” remarking that “since the beginning, Sega has been saying ‘we need to beat Nintendo!'”
“I was standing there in the event hall, listening to that famous creator Lord British explaining his new game, Ultima Underworld. Then all of a sudden a voice came from behind me, “Do you find this interesting?” I turned around and it was none other than Miyamoto. That moment was our very first exchange, though I wouldn’t exactly call it a conversation.” —
Miyamoto was then asked about his first impression of
“After we made Mario, a lot of games came out with characters imitating that jump-action platformer system, right? Of all those I think
Sonic had a certain uniqueness. “This game has real personality,” I thought. “The creators are young and it’s a little rough around the edges, but I can tell it was made by people who understand what the joy of games is all about.” Although I was pretty young too, back then.” — Shigeru Miyamoto
When asked about why he felt he couldn’t catch up to Miyamoto, Naka felt it was due to SEGA not spending more time fine-tuning and balancing their games.
“Well, at Sega, as soon as we finished a game, it was kind of like ‘Alright, we’re done! Now let’s release it!’ We would only spend a scant few weeks on balancing and fine-tuning. Later I looked back on it and really wished we had spent more time on that. Had we been more careful and thoughtful there, we might have made better games, I think. I get the feeling your approach to that, Miyamoto, was different.” — Yuji Naka
However, Naka stressed that he wasn’t jealous of Nintendo’s achievements, despite the two companies being hardware rivals. He said that SEGA’s image in the past was “hi-tech Sega!” and that they appealed more to an adult market.
“Because we’ve been hardware rivals for so long, I’ve often wondered to myself, “what if I could make a Sonic for Nintendo…” You know, Nintendo has been really consistent over the years with their ‘toy ethos’ approach to game development. I saw that and didn’t feel any personal jealousy, it was more like, ‘good for them.’ Sega was always a little weaker than Nintendo when it came to making games for kids.
“Our image in the past was ‘hi-tech Sega!’, and so I think we appealed more to an adult market. I think it’s very important for a company to understand their unique color or appeal; you can release the same game, but if you misunderstand that appeal, you won’t reach the users you were hoping to target. Despite that, Sega would tell us ‘We’ve got to steal Nintendo’s userbase!’, and my team worked hard at that too… but in the end, it never really worked out, as you know.” — Yuji Naka
Speaking about the connectivity feature on the Nintendo GameCube and Game Boy Advance, Naka said that he rushed to add it to
Sonic Advance, with Miyamoto remarking that “Naka was very proactive with testing the connectivity feature, and it really spurred us on.” Naka was then asked for his thoughts on Nintendo’s then-recent games.
“I was really jealous of Pikmin. I had wanted to make something like that someday. Actually, I love Lemmings, and I wanted to make a game like that, updated in a more modern style. But of course, the minute I think that, Miyamoto comes along and beats me to the punch again with Pikmin.” — Yuji Naka
Miyamoto was full of praise for Naka’s work ethic and also described him as “one of those rare people who can create the standards by which other games are judged.”
“If one of Naka’s games is successful, he immediately wants to get started on the next project. That kind of work ethic is great. All I wish from our game developers is that they work hard and enjoy their work. That’s all. The more good studios we have, the more the industry itself will be invigorated. There’s one other thing I want to say about Naka. If you think of games as fashion, then ten years from now, what is popular today will be outdated. But if you think of the inherent value and quality of a game — that doesn’t change much in ten years. When a high-quality game is made, it sets a standard, and I think Naka is one of those rare people who can create the standards by which other games are judged.” — Shigeru Miyamoto