This interview with Sega Producer Katsuhisa (Katsu) Sato was published in the August 1996 issue of the Spanish game magazine Hobby Consolas. In it, Sato discusses Sonic’s move to 3D and Traveler’s Tales’ role in bringing the rendered images and pseudo-3D gameplay to Sega’s 16-bit hardware. Sato sounds especially proud of the game and what was achieved on the aging platform.
Sato is a legendary figure at Sega, having worked on iconic titles like Golden Axe, OutRunners, the Clockwork Knight series, Jet Set Radio, and Skies of Arcadia. He is especially known for his involvement in the Sonic franchise, and he was involved with installments on every Sega platform from the Genesis to the Dreamcast.
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The big surprise for Mega Drive for next Christmas will be Sonic 3D, the latest and most novel installment in the adventures of the popular Sega character. The development of this game is being done by the American team Traveler’s Tales, although the idea, character, and stage came directly from Japan. Coordination between the Americans and Japanese is the responsibility of Katsu Sato, the game’s producer and a key person in the final product that will be Sonic 3D. Hobby Consolas spoke with him, and he gave us some details about what will be the most spectacular game this year for the Mega Drive.
Hobby Consolas: How many games has Traveler’s Tales made for Mega Drive?
Katsu Sato: They’ve done several, but they’re best known for Mickey Mania and, of course, Toy Story.
Hobby Consolas: How long have you been working on this project?
Katsu Sato: We started working in January, but there are still some details to be finalized in the game.
Hobby Consolas: Why did you decide to make a 3D Sonic?
Katsu Sato: We wanted to use rendered images for the settings and characters and thought it would work better in 3D. Also, it was time to release something new.
Hobby Consolas: Do you think the previous 2D formula has been fully explored?
Katsu Sato: No, but we just thought this game would look better in 3D.
Hobby Consolas: Did you find it interesting to develop a Sonic game with a completely different style?
Katsu Sato: Yes, it’s been a good change. We’ve tried to maintain some of the characteristics of the other Sonic games that people will recognize at first glance. I think that some aspects, like the “loops” in the first level are much better in 3D than in 2D.
Hobby Consolas: What has influenced Sonic 3D? Perhaps Sonic Labyrinth on Game Gear?
Katsu Sato: It’s mainly a new concept. We’ve taken some elements from other games, like rendered characters or collecting Flickies (from the old Mega Drive game Flicky), and yes, some ideas from Sonic Labyrinth. However, the main goal for the team was to create something completely new, and I believe we have.
“I consider it a great achievement to make a game like this in 16-bits”
Hobby Consolas: How has Sega participated in this project?
Katsu Sato: Sega of Japan came up with the design of the game and the stages. They also created the main character design. Traveler’s Tales create the 3D environments. Mr. Yuji Naka (co-creator of Sonic) was also involved. He approved of the idea and also supervised the game to give his approval.
Hobby Consolas: What characteristics of the game would you highlight?
Katsu Sato: Above all, the extension of all the levels and the speed with which Sonic moves in a 3D environment.
Hobby Consolas: What aspects are you particularly happy with?
Katsu Sato: We have designed a game that you can get a lot of use out of. Even once it’s finished, there will always be plenty of things to find. There are many secrets in Sonic 3D.
Hobby Consolas: What kinds of new things can be found in the game?
Katsu Sato: Well, there many new things (like the cannons, for example) and lots of recognizable things from other Sonic games. There are many bonus stages and secret areas.
Hobby Consolas: Will Knuckles and Tails be in the game? Can you play as them?
Katsu Sato: Both will be, but they will be hidden and you will have to find them. They will not be playable characters.
Hobby Consolas: Do you think Sonic 3D pushes the Mega Drive to the max?
Katsu Sato: Yes, definitely. It’s a great achievement to make a game like this one in 16-bits.
Hobby Consolas: What competitors do you see in the 16-bit market?
Katsu Sato: None, really. Donkey Kong Country uses renderings but in 2D, and Super Mario RPG is 3D but very slow.
Hobby Consolas: Will this be Sonic’s last game on the Mega Drive?
Katsu Sato: You never know. If it’s a big hit there could be a sequel, but nothing is decided.
Hobby Consolas: What will be Traveler’s Tales’ next project? Perhaps something Saturn-related?
Katsu Sato: You will have to wait to see it.