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Christmas Nights was also ahead of its time -- the idea that you could unlock extra stuff depending on what the date is. Those sorts of games are still rare to see.
NO: Indeed. That game is mostly the same as Nights, but it was very literally a Christmas present for our audience, a sort of thank-you from Sega to its fans. That was the concept.
I was an enormous fan of Sega, around the Saturn and Mega Drive/Genesis eras, and that certainly calls to mind the Sega of old. What struck me about Christmas Nights was that there was a lot of stuff in there, altered graphics and such, that would only be playable for two days' time.
NO: We had the idea to have Spring Nights, Summer Nights, and so forth, reflecting all of the seasons. It really wasn't a technological challenge, as the textures don't really change much. It didn't take a lot of time, and I think its mission of drumming up interest and excitement among our fans was pretty well met.
What did you think of the new Nights?
NO: The Wii one? That project was led by [Takashi] Iizuka, who was the lead designer on the original Nights. He really loves that character, and I'm sure that he was able to create the Nights that he wanted to create.
It didn't feel the same to me.
NO: It was, perhaps, more Americanized than before. The original Nights was chiefly made with the Japanese and European audiences in mind -- Sonic, meanwhile, was squarely aimed at the U.S. market.
In what way did you position Sonic for the U.S. market?
NO: Well, he's a character that I think is suited to America -- or, at least, the image I had of America at the time. Nights is a more delicate... well, his gender is deliberately ambiguous, for one.
It's a cliched question, but was that why Sonic's main colors are red, white and blue?
NO: (laughs) Well, he's blue because that's Sega's more-or-less official company color. His shoes were inspired by the cover to Michael Jackson's Bad, which contrasted heavily between white and red -- that Santa Claus-type color. I also thought that red went well for a character who can run really fast, when his legs are spinning.
You were also the director of Sonic CD -- another game that had time travel as a play mechanic. Have you liked that mechanic for a while?
NO: Well, I wanted a Sonic where the levels changed on you -- where Sonic would go really fast, like in Back to the Future, and bang, wind up in a different place.
Why do you think you've been involved with a lot of games with time elements to them?
NO: I hadn't realized that, actually. (laughs) There must be a part of me that likes that sort of thing, the time.
Sonic CD really felt great in action. It doesn't have the full-on speed of Sonic 2, but the world feels really alive in the game, much in the same that it did for me in Nights -- that feeling that the game world would still be alive even if I weren't exploring it. Was that your intention?
NO: Sonic CD was made in Japan, while Sonic 2 was made by (Yuji) Naka's team over in the U.S. We exchanged information, of course, talking about the sort of game design each of us was aiming for. But Sonic CD wasn't Sonic 2; it was really meant to be more of a CD version of the original Sonic. I can't help but wonder, therefore, if we had more fun making CD than they did making Sonic 2 [because we didn't have the pressure of making a "numbered sequel"].
What I really wanted to do was just have this sonic boom, with a flash, and have the level change on you instantly. We just couldn't manage it on the hardware, though, so instead there's that sequence that plays while it's loading. (laughs) I kept fighting and fighting with the programmers, but they said it just wasn't possible.
I bet they probably could have done it.
NO: I know! (laughs) If Naka was doing the programming, I think it could've been done.