Sonic Team

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Sonic Team Corp.
Division of Sega
Industry Computer and video games
Founded 1990 (as Sonic Team Presents)
2000 (as Sonic Team Ltd.)
2006 (as Sonic Team Corp.)
Founder Yuji Naka
Naoto Ohshima
Hirokazu Yasuhara
Manabu Kusunoki
Headquarters Ōta, Tokyo, Japan
Key people
Takashi Iizuka (game designer/producer)
Kazuyuki Hoshino (artist)
Jun Senoue (composer)
Tomoya Ohtani (composer)
Yuji Uekawa (illustrator)
Tetsu Katano (programmer)
Products Video games
Parent Sega

Sonic Team Corp. (SONICTEAM/ソニックチーム Sonikku Chīmu?) is a Japanese computer and video game developer established in Ōta, Tokyo, Japan in 1990. The Japan-based division is also known as CS (Consumer) No. 2 Research and Development division. Sonic Team are best known for the Sonic the Hedgehog series.


In 1990, Sega asked to create a game with a character that was popular enough to rival Nintendo's Super Mario,[citation needed] resulting in the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog. In 1991 AM8 took its name from the Sonic the Hedgehog series and became Sonic Team.

Following the release of Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka grew dissatisfied with Sega of Japan's policies and so moved to Sega of America to work in the offices of the newly established Sega Technical Institute, headed by Mark Cerny.[citation needed] Due to most of Sonic Team's key members moving to the Western branch, Sega Technical Institute got the job of handling Sonic's Mega Drive sequels. The American developers collaborated with Sonic Team in the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Most of the STI staff worked on the zone art and special stages, while most of Sonic Team worked on the level designs and the programming. However, due to most of the Sonic Team staff lacking the ability to speak English, there was trouble with language barriers and differences in approach to game design. Sonic Team members worked very late nights and sometimes slept under their desks in order to perfectly achieve Yuji Naka's guidelines.

The launch of the Sega Saturn, and the cancellation of the beleaguered Sonic Xtreme title saw Sonic Team focus on other titles,[citation needed] including Nights into Dreams... and Burning Rangers. Although Sega did release a modified version of Sonic 3D Blast for the Sega Saturn, and releasing the first Sonic compilation, Sonic Jam which featured a limited bonus area showing off 3D gameplay. The Sega Dreamcast followed in 1998, and launched with the return of main series Sonic the Hedgehog in Sonic Adventure. Other Sonic Team Dreamcast titles included ChuChu Rocket!, Samba de Amigo, and Phantasy Star Online.

The Team together, Sonic is surrounded by series creators Yuji Naka (left), Naoto Ohshima (center), and Hirokazu (right)

During the transitional phase of Sega dropping out of the console race to concentrate on software and game development, all of its main departments were separated from the main company and established on semi-autonomous subsidiaries. In 2000, Sonic Team officially became Sonic Team Ltd. In 2002, the other creator of Sonic, Hirokazu Yasuhara, left Sonic Team when he moved to Naughty Dog.

Also during this phase, United Game Artists (formerly Sega AM9) merged with Sonic Team Japan in 2003 to start the Sonic Riders series. In 2004, following Sega's merger with Sammy, Sonic Team once more became an internal division of Sega after being spun off as a second-party developer in 2000. The company name of Sonic Team USA was also changed to Sega Studio USA. Unlike most of the other divisions, Sonic Team still retains its internal structure and name. On May 8, 2006, Naka left the group with ten other members of Sonic Team to establish an independent game developer, Prope.

In 2006, Sonic Team developed the Sonic the Hedgehog for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Nights: Journey of Dreams, the sequel to Sega Saturn title Nights into Dreams... was released for the Wii in 2007. A new game engine was designed for the game, which utilises PhysX. The team also decided to not include American influence in the game like some of the modern 3D Sonic games, instead choosing a more British based influence. Following the game's release, Eitaro Toyoda moved back to Sonic Team Japan to work on Sonic and the Secret Rings as a game designer.

In 2009, the director of Sonic Unleashed and creator of the Hedgehog Engine, Yoshihisa Hashimoto, left Sonic Team to move to Square Enix.

In 2010, Sonic Team released Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, a sequel to the Genesis-era Sonic entries. The game was co-developed with Dimps, developers of the Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush titles. A sequel, Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II, was released in 2012.

2011 saw the release of Sonic Generations, a 2D/3D platformer that would blend classic levels from the original series up to the modern generation as a milestone celebration title of the series's 20th anniversary.

Sega Studio USA[edit]

Sega Studio USA
Subsidiary of Sega and Sonic Team
Industry Computer and video games
Founded 1999 (as Sonic Team USA)
2005 (as Sega Studio USA)
Founder Takashi Iizuka
Kazuyuki Hoshino
Defunct 2008
Headquarters San Francisco, California
Key people
Takashi Iizuka (Game designer/producer)
Eitaro Toyoda (Game/level designer)
Jun Senoue (Composer)
Products Video games
Parent Sega Corporation

Sega Studio USA (formerly Sonic Team USA) was the United States division of Sonic Team located in San Francisco, California. The division was formed in 1999. All of the team members that worked at Sega Studio USA were Japanese, with the exception of Brad Wagner, who was American and hired at the studio during the development of Shadow the Hedgehog. The division first worked on ChuChu Rocket! and the international release of Sonic Adventure.

The US branch's first game was the 2001 Dreamcast game Sonic Adventure 2. The newly established Sonic Team USA was so influenced by their new San Francisco location, that the level designers of the game, Takashi Iizuka and Eitaro Toyoda, designed some of the levels, such as the City Escape, Mission Street, Radical Highway, Route 101, and Route 280 levels as references to major San Francisco locations. The City Escape level resembles the steep, downhill roads of the city.

In 2002, Sonic Team USA ported Sonic Adventure 2 to the Nintendo GameCube, the first home console Sonic title to appear on a major non-SEGA system following the cancellation of the Dreamcast. They had 6 months to polish and refine the game for the GameCube. The port was renamed Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, after the added multiplayer mode enhancements. The developers made minor graphical improvements, included additional Chao Garden extras, and added in extra level geometry such as trees. Sonic Adventure 2 Battle was the only third party game on the GameCube to sell over one million copies in USA alone.

Their next project was Sonic Heroes, released in 2003. The team wanted to port this game on all platforms to achieve better sales and broaden the fanbase, so they decided to use RenderWare as a game engine to make programming the game on multiple consoles a lot easier, due to the studio's lack of experience developing for the Xbox. The game was released on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC platforms.

After Sonic Heroes, Sonic Team USA decided to change their official name to Sega Studio USA. Sega Studio USA went on to make their next multiplatform game, Shadow the Hedgehog, using the studio's own game engine instead of RenderWare. The game was released on the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. Despite a largely negative critical reaction, the game sold in excess of a million copies. This helped increase Sega's profits in 2006. Members of Sega Studio USA also supervised and designed the concept for Sonic Rivals and Sonic Rivals 2 on the PlayStation Portable although the actual development of the games was done by Backbone Entertainment.

In 2008, Sega Studio USA was absorbed back into Sonic Team Japan.

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