|Fast facts on Sonic Team|
|Merged with: United Game Artists (2003), Sega Sports Design R&D Dept. (2008)|
Sonic Team (ソニックチーム) is a label and production team for Sega's development and supervision of the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise. It first became used for the original staff of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game. It became a consistent name in 1996, with the release of the non-Sonic game, NiGHTS Into Dreams. Since then Sonic Team existed with the corporate division names of Sega CS3, Sega Software R&D Dept. 8, Global Entertainment R&D and currently Sega CS2. It was it's own standalone division and subsdiary from July of 2001 up to April of 2005. This page compiles all games from these entities, regardless if they have Sonic Team branding or not.
Back in 1990, Sega had a company wide contest to propose different ideas for a new Sega mascot game. Among the many developers who presented proposals were Naoto Ohshima and Yuji Naka. Having previously worked on the Phantasy Star series together, the two set off to create the concept that would evolve into the original Sonic the Hedgehog. With Ohshima creating the title character and Naka working on the engine, rookie designer Hirokazu Yasuhara was brought on to create the level designs after the project was approved by the company. In addition to programming, Yuji Naka was also the Project Manager of the now Sonic Team, having already several producer credits on his name beforehand. Through the many twists and turns of development, the game was finally set to be released.
With the title becoming an international success, Naka decided in order to get better feedback from the western market, he joined the American based Sega Technical Institute, headed by Mark Cerny. Coming to America along with Yasuhara (who had been scheduled to become a part of STI before Sonic the Hedgehog had begun development), the pair would go on to continue the main line of Sonic titles. Though no longer in the game's credits, the Sonic Team moniker would live on the Japanese packaging for Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic 3, Sonic & Knuckles, and the Ohshima-led Sonic CD developed in Japan. By this time Sonic Team was not an official division, however.
After the completion of Sonic & Knuckles, Yasuhara chose to remain in America, while Naka returned to Sega of Japan, heading up his own new division, Sega CS3. Once there, he teamed back up with Ohshima, the two resurrecting the Sonic Team moniker to work on two new projects, NiGHTS Into Dreams and Burning Rangers. Naka planned to deliver a Sonic game for the Sega Saturn, however development of NiGHTS took longer than expected. To compensate he and much of his team travelled to the UK, to assist Travellers Tales on Flickies' Island and Sonic R. Though Yasuhara he would remain with the company until 2002, working on different Sega Europe projects, Sonic R would be the last Sonic Team-related production Yasuhara had any direct involvement with, eventually departing to work for game studio Naughty Dog.
The first fully 3D Sonic the Hedgehog title, Sonic Adventure would instead become one of the flagship video games for the new Sega Dreamcast. It was also the last title Ohshima had any involvement with, leaving the company to co-found the studio Artoon. Sonic Adventure signalized a new era for Sonic Team, with Yuji Naka no longer leading the programming and having neither Oshima or Yasuhara directing. Takashi Iizuka, who worked on Sonic 3 & Knuckles succeeded Yasuhara in directing and leading the design. Kazuyuki Hoshino, designer of Amy and Metal Sonic, succeeded Oshima in determining the look of the franchise. On the programming side, 1992 hire Tetsu Katano was brought in as the lead engineer from then on.
Sega Chairman, Isao Okawa, had a request to develop a fully online game for the Sega Dreamcast. Sonic Team was the only team to have free staff at the time. So they took on the project and made strides with action puzzler Chu Chu Rocket and then the entire Phantasy Star Online franchise. Samba De Amigo was also a successfull project for the arcade market, as it was always Yuji Naka's desire to develop an arcade game for Sega. It was also around this time that Sonic Team began their long-term partnership with Dimps, who worked to create Sonic Pocket Adventure, and become involved in nearly every handheld Sonic title that would follow. Long time Sega employee, Akinori Nishiyama would manage that relationship working as a Director since Sonic Advance onwards.
However Sonic Team USA was established to further develop 3D Sonic games. Headed by Takashi Iizuka, it had only 11 members of the then 120 man strong Sonic Adventure development team. Though their first official assignment was making sure Sonic Adventure was ready for a western release, the real reason they came into existence was the 2001's Sonic Adventure 2 and Sonic Team's first multiplatform title, Sonic Heroes.
In October of 2003, Sega decided to consolidate their in-house development teams. Sonic Team Japan gained members who worked on the Space Channel 5 and Roommania #203 games. Those developers would go on to create several games. Such as the PlayStation 2 Astro Boy game, as well as the reboot of the Puyo Puyo series, Puyo Pop Fever. For handhelds, they developed the Feel the Magic XY/XX and The Rub Rabbits! games.
Yuji Naka moved higher and higher within the corporate ladder of Sega, eventually becoming dissatisfied with the position of having almost no hands-on development. So he decided to leave Sega to form the company Prope in May of 2006. Prope had financial backing by Sega, which lead to Sega publishing the first two games of the studio, Let's Tap and Let's Catch. Akinori Nishiyama who last directed Sonic Rush, would replace Yuji Naka as the studio head during this period.
The teams behind the Puyo Puyo and Rub Rabbits games continued to develop games mainly for the Japanese audience, with the many Puyo Puyo sequels , as well as three entries in the Sega edutainment series Naruhodo. In addition, the multiplattform Sonic Riders series, also began to come into fruition.
Sonic Team USA (eventually renamed Sega Studio USA in 2004), developed further games with Shadow the Hedgehog and NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams along with supervising Sonic Rivals and Sonic Rivals 2. Sonic Team in Japan returned to developing mainstream entries into the Sonic franchise. They developed Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic Unleashed and Sonic and the Black Knight.
All of these games received negative to middling reviews, particulary it was Sonic 06 that received a wide negative reception. Meanwhile Sonic Unleashed and Sonic and the Secret Rings were better received, providing templates for future Sonic games. Main complaints from critics drive back from gameplay methods being acceptable in the early 2000's, but not anymore.
Akinori Nishiyama and Takashi Iizuka referred to tight deadlines, as well in Iizukas case, too little resources, on the less than stellar reception of these titles.
In May 2008, Sega reshuffled it's development teams again. So the oppurtunity came to revitalize the Sonic Team development enviorment. Sega Studio USA and Sonic Team Japan were merged back together into a single entity, and Takashi Iizuka was made the head of the operation. In addition developer reshuffling created an enviorment which allowed the CS2 division to better focus on Sonic projects. Phantasy Star with their associated developers were moved out of Sonic Team, with Akinori Nishiyama going to Sega CS3. In trade, Sonic Team (or CS2) now has members of the dissolved Sega Sports Design R&D Dept. who developed Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, which became a bi-yearly series. Since then, Sonic Team developed Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Sonic Colors, Sonic Generations, Sonic Lost World, and is currently developing Sonic Forces. All of these games would departure from the philosophy found in console games since Sonic Adventure, by having a "back to basics" approach, resembling more of the original Mega Drive games.
Following the poor reception of the Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric game, Sonic Team once again established a office in the US. However it does not have a development team as before, but mainly serves to better supervise western Sonic projects.
|Domestic Sega companies, studios and subsidiaries|
|CSK||Sega Sammy Holdings|
|Sega Enterprises, Ltd.||Sega Corporation||Sega Games & Interactive|
|R&D #1||Sega AM1||WOW Entertainment||Sega WOW||Sega AM1|
|Sega AM11||R&D #4||Amusement Vision||New Entertainment||Sega CS1|
|Ryu ga Gotoku Studio|
|Sega AM3||Hitmaker||Sega AM3|
|AM Annex||R&D #5||Sega Rosso|
|Sega AM4||Sega Mechatronics||Product R&D|
|N. Pro. R&D|
|Sega AM5||Mirai R&D||Family Entertainment|
|Sega R&D2||Sega CS||Sega CS1||R&D #6||Smilebit||Sega Sports Design|
|PC Software||PC Network Department||Online R&D|
|Sega CS2||R&D #7||Overworks||GE2||Sega CS3|
|R&D #9||United Game Artists|
|Sega Digital Studio||Wave Master||Wave Master (label)|
|Mobile Content R&D||Sega Networks|