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Yuji Naka (中 裕司 Naka Yūji?, born 17 September 1965 in Osaka, Osaka Prefecture) is a video game designer, programmer, the former head of Sonic Team, a group of SEGA programmers/designers, the lead programmer of the original Sonic the Hedgehog and the head of PROPE.
After graduating from high school, Naka decided to skip university and stay in his home town. During this time, Naka worked long hours at various menial jobs. After quitting his last job, Naka saw that SEGA was looking for programming assistants. After a brief interview, he was hired and began working on a game called Girl's Garden, which earned him critical praise and fan appreciation. He programmed the original Sonic the Hedgehog game, while Naoto Ōshima designed the character and Hirokazu Yasuhara planned the stages. Naka has also produced several other titles like Nights into Dreams..., Burning Rangers and Phantasy Star Online. In early games he was often credited as "YU2" (in reference to Yu Suzuki) and "Muuu Yuji". He is one of the few famous Japanese game creators to speak fluent English.
When asked about the famous Nintendo vs. SEGA console wars of the 1990s in an episode of Icons, he states that his intentions while making the original Sonic the Hedgehog game were different than the direction it was taken, and that the comparisons between Sonic and Mario were a misunderstanding by the media. He also says that he's good friends with Nintendo. 
On the move
In news released on 16 March 2006, Naka announced that he intended to create his own game studio, independent of SEGA and SEGA Studio USA (a.k.a. Sonic Team USA). This decision bears resemblance to Naoto Ōshima's departure of Sonic Team in 1999, when he founded Artoon.
Naka is also known for the development, during his spare time, of a NES/Famicom emulator for Sega Mega Drive, but it was never released for legal reasons. This may be the first software emulator running on a console.
- Yuji Naka liked playing with model race cars as a child.
- In Shadow the Hedgehog, some G.U.N. soldiers sometimes say, "Mr. Yuji Naka is alright."
- According to Naka, he was the one to approach Nintendo about the idea of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games.
- The level select cheat code in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is accessed by putting Yuji Naka's birthday into the sound test (19, 65, 9, 17)
- According to an interview with Nintendo Power, when Yuji Naka played the original Super Mario Bros for the NES, he would dash through World 1-1 as fast as he could to reach the level-skip cheat in the next level. This inspired him to create a game, such as Sonic, where the goal was to finish the level as soon as possible.
- Official Prope website (Japanese)
- Sonic Team Speaks (archived by the WaybackMachine)
- Sega-16 History of Yuji Naka