Yuji Naka

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Yuji Naka
Yuji Naka' - Magic - Monaco - 2015-03-21- P1030036 (cropped).jpg
Naka in 2015
Born (1965-09-17) September 17, 1965 (age 53)
Other namesYU2
OccupationGame designer, producer, programmer
Years active1984–present
EmployerSquare Enix
Notable work
Sonic the Hedgehog series

Yuji Naka (中 裕司, Naka Yūji, born September 17, 1965) is a Japanese video game programmer, designer, and producer best known as the former head of Sonic Team, where he was the lead programmer of the original Sonic the Hedgehog series of games on the Sega Genesis. In 2006, he founded Prope, an independent game company. In January 2018, he joined Square Enix.


Naka learned how to program by replicating and debugging video game code printed in magazines. The experience prompted him to study assemblers and practice writing code during his school classes.[1] After graduating high school, Naka decided to skip university and stay in his home town.[2]

Around 1983, Naka saw that Sega was looking for programming assistants and decided to apply.[3] After a brief interview,[3] he began working for Sega in April 1984.[4] His first task was designing maps and checking floppy disks for a game titled Road Runner for the SF-7000. Naka cannot remember if the game was ever released.[4] His first major project was a game called Girl's Garden, which he and Hiroshi Kawaguchi created together as part of their training process.[3] Their boss was impressed and decided to publish the game, and it earned them notice among their peers and Japanese gamers.[1] Naka's abilities as a programmer were further demonstrated in 1987 for his work on Phantasy Star for the Master System, where he was responsible for the impressive pseudo-3D animation effects present in the game's first-person dungeons.

His true breakthrough, however, came in 1991 when he programmed the original Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Genesis, with Naoto Ohshima designing the characters and Hirokazu Yasuhara creating the stages. The origins of Sonic can be traced farther back to a tech demo created by Naka, who had developed an algorithm that allowed a sprite to move smoothly on a curve by determining its position with a dot matrix. Naka's original prototype was a platform game that involved a fast-moving character rolling in a ball through a long winding tube, and this concept was subsequently fleshed out with Oshima's character design and levels conceived by Yasuhara.[5] Following Sonic The Hedgehog's release, Naka moved to Sega's U.S. branch, Sega Technical Institute, where he worked with famed American designer Mark Cerny on the follow-up in conjunction with the original team back in Japan, now known as "Sonic Team". This partnership between the Eastern and Western teams continued through the development of Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles, though the bulk of the development duties shifted back to Sonic Team in Japan for those titles, which Naka had also returned to by that time.

After the release of Sonic & Knuckles, Naka was moved up to the role of producer at Sega Enterprises in Japan. During his tenure in that position, he oversaw titles including Nights into Dreams... and Burning Rangers for Sega Saturn; Sonic Adventure and Phantasy Star Online for Dreamcast; Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg for Nintendo GameCube; and the "EyeToy" game Sega Superstars for PlayStation 2.

On March 16, 2006, Naka announced that he intended to create his own game studio, Prope, and that he would be leaving Sega to do so.[6] Naka stated that he considered it a benefit to be able to create games other than Sonic the Hedgehog titles.[7] Following Naoto Ohshima's and Hirokazu Yasuhara's departure by 2002, Naka was the final member of the original creative core that created Sonic the Hedgehog to leave Sega. He joined Square Enix in January 2018.[8]

Naka was awarded on 2016 with the Bizkaia Award at the Fun & Serious Game Festival, which took place at the Spanish city of Bilbao. [9]

Production history[edit]

Year Game Role
1984 Girl's Garden Game designer, programmer
1986 Spy vs. Spy (Master System port) Programmer
Black Belt
1987 Phantasy Star
1989 Phantasy Star II
Ghouls 'n Ghosts (Genesis port)
1991 Sonic the Hedgehog
1992 Sonic the Hedgehog 2
1994 Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Programmer, producer
Sonic & Knuckles
1996 Nights into Dreams
1998 Burning Rangers Producer
Sonic Adventure
1999 ChuChu Rocket! Director, producer
2000 Samba de Amigo Producer
Phantasy Star Online
2001 Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Advance
2002 Sonic Advance 2 Director, producer
2003 Sonic Pinball Party Producer
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
Sonic Battle
Sonic Heroes
2004 Sonic Advance 3
Puyo Pop Fever
2005 Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love
Shadow the Hedgehog
Sonic Rush
Puyo Pop Fever 2 General producer
2006 Sonic Riders Executive producer
Phantasy Star Universe
2008 Let's Tap Producer
2009 Ivy the Kiwi?
2011 Fishing Resort
2013 StreetPass Mansion / Monster Manor
2014 Hi-sCoool! SeHa Girls Voice acting ("Center-sensei")
2015 Rodea the Sky Soldier (original Wii version) Producer
StreetPass Fishing / Ultimate Angler
2016 StreetPass Chef / Feed Mii
2017 Legend of Coin[10]


  1. ^ a b Szczepaniak, John. "Before They Were Famouos". Retro Gamer. Imagine Publishing (35): 74.
  2. ^ Horowitz, Ken (22 June 2005). "Sega Stars: Yuji Naka". Sega-16. Archived from the original on 27 June 2016. Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "The Making of OutRun". NowGamer. 29 April 2016. Archived from the original on 20 April 2016. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  4. ^ a b "名作アルバム - 『ガールズガーデン』". Sega (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 23 March 2016. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  5. ^ GI Staff (August 2003). "Sonic's Architect: GI Interviews Hirokazu Yasuhara". Game Informer. 13 (124): 114–116.
  6. ^ Edge Staff (2006-05-08). "Confirmed: Yuji Naka Leaves Sega". Edge. Archived from the original on 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2010-02-18.
  7. ^ "Sonic Creator Left Sega to Avoid Making More Sonic Games". Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-09.
  8. ^ Phillips, Tom. "Sonic creator Yuji Naka joins Final Fantasy maker Square Enix". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 23 January 2018. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Yuji Naka , premio honorifico del Fun & Serious Game Festival".
  10. ^ Naka, Yuji. "Yuji Naka / 中 裕司 on Twitter: "[iPhone] PROPE Ltd.started to distribute the game "Legend of Coin" for iOS & Android at 12 December,2017. An epic story like none ever seen before in a coin game.Over 200 monsters to train and summon!"". Archived from the original on 14 February 2019. Retrieved 12 December 2017.

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