Sonic Creator Yuji Naka Talks Rodea, Developing for PS4/Xbox One, VR

The creator of Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka has orchestrated an incredible career with his iconic credits including Phantasy Star, Ghouls ‘ Ghosts, NiGHTS into Dreams, ChuChu Rocket! and many more. Naka-san departed Sega in 2006 to form his own studio Prope, which has since released titles like Ivy the Kiwi?

Naka-san and Prope are soon to release their biggest title yet, Rodea the Sky Soldier, on November 10 in North America for Wii U (which includes a copy of the Wii version) and 3DS courtesy of NIS America. Hardcore Gamer was recently given the rare opportunity to speak with the legendary Yuji Naka about all things Rodea, his thoughts on creating a spiritual successor to Sonic á la Mighty No. 9 and his plans for the future.

As Naka-san is a native Japanese speaker, we professionally translated our questions into Japanese before posing them and professionally translated the responses into English upon receiving them. As this is such a rare opportunity, we’ve decided to publish the interview in its original language to preserve it for those fluent in Japanese. The Japanese versions are directly below the English versions in italics to assist you in separating them.

[Hardcore Gamer] NiGHTS into Dreams saw a sequel on the Wii which did not have your involvement. Is it safe to say that Rodea is the NiGHTS sequel you always envisioned to make?
「NiGHTS into Dreams」についてはWii版での続編が出ましたが、こちらに中さんは関わっていらっしゃいませんでした。ロデアは自分が描いていたナイツの「続編」という認識でよろしいでしょうか?

[Yuji Naka]  Though it’s connected in the point that both characters fly through the skies, Rodea is not a sequel to NiGHTS. This title incorporates a completely new world setting, along with new characters.
空を飛ぶという点は共通していますが、ロデアはナイツの続編ではない、まったく新しい世界観とキャラクターのゲームです。

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“Rodea turned out to be a game where players can experience the freedom of flying through the skies even more directly than ever.”

What were some of the major changes made and has it encapsulated the entirety of your vision from the beginning of development?
開発当初と比べて開発を進めていく上で何か大きな変更点等はありましたでしょうか。また、当初描いていた自分のヴィジョンと変化はありましたか。

During the initial stage of Rodea’s development, we were planning to develop a 3D action game that required the Wii Remote and nunchuk. Shifting the gaming idea to only using the Wii remote to directly play the game was an extremely big change and a challenge. However, as a result, I believe Rodea turned out to be a game where players can experience the freedom of flying through the skies even more directly than ever.

After that, the Wii U version was developed. Though this version greatly differed from the vision I had originally, it has become a game where players can take their time and enjoy the game thanks to the added elements of growth for Rodea. I hope players enjoy playing and comparing both the Wii and Wii U versions of Rodea.
ロデアは初期段階ではWiiリモコンとヌンチャクを用いた3Dアクションゲームとして開発を進めていました。途中でWiiリモコンだけで直感的に遊べる ゲーム性にシフトしたのは非常に大きな変更点でありチャレンジでした。しかし結果的に空を飛ぶ快感がよりダイレクトに伝わるゲームになったと思います。
その後さらにWiiU版が開発されました。これは当初思い描いていたロデアのビジョンとは大きく異なるものでしたが、成長要素が加わりじっくりと遊びこめる内容になっています。Wii版とWiiU版、両方のロデアを遊び比べて楽しんでいただければと思います。

How were the characters and the story for the game conceived? Was there a specific message and overall theme you were going for?
ロデアのキャラクターや、ストーリー設定はどのようにして生まれましたか。
何か特別なメッセージや全体を通してのテーマなどはありますでしょうか。

Creating the character Rodea was like an extremely difficult labor. Numerous rough designs were created and subsequently abandoned. We were also planning the storyline at the same time, so by the time the story concepts of “a robot that sympathizes with humans and starts to regain his heart” and “order and promise” had been solidified, the character Rodea finally came into being. The costume that may be taken as a military uniform and gives off the element of loyally following orders. The right arm with the big cogwheels symbolizes the ambivalent existence of the character called Rodea.
ロデアというキャラクターは非常に難産でした。それこそラフのデザインパターンが何十体と生み出されては消えていきました。しかし並行して進めていたストーリーの「人間に共感し、心を取り戻すロボット」「命令と約束」といったテーマが固まったことで、ロデアのキャラクターも決まりました。軍服を思わせるコスチュームは命令に忠実という要素を、大きな歯車が目立つ右腕はロデアというアンビバレンツな存在を象徴しています。

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“…if I am given the opportunity to develop games on the PS4 and Xbox One, I would love to do those as well.”

Archie has adapted many of your creations like Sonic and NiGHTS into Dreams. Would you like to see a Rodea comic book series?
Archie はソニックやナイツ等の作品をコミカライズしておりますが、ロデアのコミカライズは希望されますでしょうか。

If I am given the opportunity, I would love to have Rodea as a comic book series. I also personally want to see more of Rodea’s adventures.
機会があればぜひロデアもコミカライズをして欲しいですね。個人的にももっとロデアの冒険を見てみたいと思っています。

Your console projects have focused on Nintendo platforms, is there any intention to develop for the PS4/Xbox One? Perhaps a digital title? Would you consider crowdfunding platforms?
今まで開発されたタイトルはすべて任天堂プラットホーム用でしたが、PS4やXbox one等での開発、また(パッケージ化されない)ダウンロードのみの作品等の開発は考えていらっしゃいますか?またクラウドファウンディングのようなインターネットを通じて、一般人から出資を募るサービスでの開発も検討されたことはございますでしょうか?

I definitely feel that I want my games played by many different people, including children, so I have worked on several games on Nintendo platforms. But if I am given the opportunity to develop games on the PS4 and Xbox One, I would love to do those as well.

If I can think of a challenging idea that cannot be realized via a package title, I would also like to think of a title that would only be released digitally.

At the moment, I have not considered collecting funds with crowdfunding. However, I am extremely interested in the style of going through the development process with the users.

やはり子どもも含めた多くのユーザーに遊んでもらいたいという気持ちもあり任天堂プラットフォームでの開発を多く手掛けておりますが、PS4やXboxONEでの開発も機会があればぜひチャレンジしたいと思っています。

パッケージタイトルでは実現できないチャレンジングなアイデアなどが思い浮かべば、ダウンロードのみの作品の開発も手掛けてみたいと思います。

今のところクラウドファウンディングで出資を募るようなことは検討しておりません。しかしユーザーの皆さんと一緒に開発を進めていくスタイルには非常に関心を持っています。

Rodea appears to be a spiritual successor to NiGHTS. Has a 2D platformer been considered?
ロデアはNiGHTSの後任として見られておりますが、2Dのプラットフォームでの開発は考えていらっしゃいますか。

Because the concept of Rodea was to fly around the sky in 360 degrees, we believed it would fit best in 3D. If I can think of a game that can only be expressed in 2D, I would probably create a 2D action game.
ロデアは360度の空間を自由に飛び回るのがコンセプトだったので3Dが最適だったと考えていますが、2Dでしか表現できないような遊びのアイデアが思い浮かんだら、きっと2Dのアクションゲームを作るでしょう。

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“Don’t you think it’s more worthy to create a completely new action game from zero?”

Can we expect to see a spiritual successor to Sonic like Mighty No. 9 is to Mega Man?
Mighty No. 9がロックマンの後任のように、Sonicの後任タイトルも何か企画されていますでしょうか。

Sonic is a popular series that is still continuing, so I don’t think I need to plan out a title that would be a successor. Rather, don’t you think it’s more worthy to create a completely new action game from zero?
ソニックは現在も続いている人気シリーズなので、その後任となるタイトルを私が企画する必要はないと思います。むしろ全く新しいアクションゲームをゼロから作りだすことの方が価値があるのではないでしょうか。

Since the formation of PROPE, many of your projects have been standalone games. Is there any intention of making sequels to games like Ivy the Kiwi or Rodea, or are you more interested in coming up with brand new ideas?
PROPEが設立されて以来、新規での作品の発表が目立ちますが、Ivy the Kiwiやロデア等のゲームの続品を作る予定はありますか。
また、新規の作品で何か新たなアイディア等はありますでしょうか。

Ivy the Kiwi and Rodea are two titles that have a special part in my heart, so I would love to try creating sequels if I am given the opportunity. I constantly have ideas for new titles. Though I cannot say them here, please look forward to the day I can show them to the public.
Ivy the Kiwiやロデアは非常に思い入れのあるタイトルですので、機会あれば是非続編を作ってみたいと思います。新規の作品のアイデアは常にあります。この場でお話することはできませんが、皆さんにお見せできる日が来るのを心待ちにしています。

Do you have any interest in developing a game for VR?
バーチャルリアリティー系のゲームを開発する興味はありますでしょうか。

VRは非常に可能性を感じる新しい分野だと思います。個人のゲーマーへの普及はまだ課題が多く存在するのも事実ですが、社内では常に研究を行っています。
I believe VR is a new genre that possesses grand possibilities. Though it’s a fact that there are still some difficulties to overcome for it to spread to normal gamers, we are constantly studying it within the office.

Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us!
お時間頂きありがとうございました!