With each new 16bit 'Sonic' game the quality threshold was getting higher and higher. So how did a bizarre pinball game become the follow up to one of the most successful Mega Drive platformers ever?
Developed by Sti
Published by Sega
Released in 1993
The Sega Technical Institute was intended to be the perfect fusion of East and West game development. According to Peter Morawiec, a designer on 'Sonic the Hedgehog 2', the studio was "cooked up by Mark Cerny and Sega executives in Japan [and] its purpose was to expose Japanese teams to the western culture and “gaming values.” Experienced Japanese developers could teach new up-and-coming Americans, while creating games that would have global appeal. However, according to Morawiec "there was disparity in skill levels, the Sonic Team were Sega’s top developers while many of STI’s hires were talented kids with no prior experience.”. For many it was their first job in the industry, and they were sitting alongside developers who had made the critically and commercially celebrated 'Sonic the Hedgehog'. Graphic designer Tom Payne says the American staff felt privileged to be in such exalted company. "It was pretty great to work with them all. It was like getting a chance to play guitar with the Beatles." However as Payne notes, cultural differences and inexperience created difficulties. “I don't think in general the Americans measured up very well with the Japanese team" he recalls. “[They] would be there all the time working & we would go home & sleep!" Morawiec also noticed the tensions. "There was a language barrier, and not everyone chose to mingle, as well as their work ethic, many of those guys would routinely pull overnighters, sleeping on the floor in their cubicles." .
Yuji Naka had created the original demo on which 'Sonic' was based, and was also the lead programmer on the first game. Throughout the development of the sequel, he was given more and more responsibility. In 1992 Sega Vision magazine called him "the creator and mastermind behind Sonic", even though the game was designed in collaboration with Hirokazu Yasuhara. According to programmer Steve Woita, "Yuji Naka was in total control of anything 'Sonic' and no one had the guts to challenge him on any issues". Morawiec believes that the end of the collaboration between East and West was at his request. "After "Sonic 2' shipped, Naka pulled the plug. It would’ve been nice if he gave the “experiment” more time, but I also know how it is when you have a big title to deliver under tight deadlines, so no judgment."