Yuji Naka stopped by his old workplace with his kids, but the other people he ran into weren’t necessarily Sega fans.

As the driving force behind the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog, Yuji Naka is one of the most important and influential video game designers in history. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little bad for the guy.

Sonic’s fate has largely mirrored that of the games’ publisher, Sega. Both burst onto the scene filled with energy and ambition, but eventually ran out of momentum and fell far, far behind their competitors. Sonic has spent much of the last decade and a half as the butt of jokes because of the dismal quality of most of the franchise’s recent games, and Sega itself was beaten up so badly that it pulled out of the hardware business entirely, and now publishes games on systems owned by its former rivals Nintendo and Sony.

Still, there were some very good times along the way. So when Naka found out that the Sega office building in Tokyo’s Omori neighborhood, where he spent the formative years of his career, is scheduled to be torn down, he decided to stop by and take a few pictures of its iconic sign, and even brought his two kids along.

“Up on the seventh floor of this building is where your dad made Sonic,” explained Naka, but his kids, being too young to have experienced the character’s glory days first-hand, responded with a lukewarm, “Hmm…OK.” But Sega fans are famous for their loyalty, and Naka noticed there were a lot of other people walking up to the building and whipping out their phones, even though it was a Sunday and they obviously weren’t coming to the office for a meeting. The father of three (if you count Sonic) was momentarily touched to see so many gamers had come to pay their respects to the soon-to-be-demolished office, until he realized that they weren’t taking out their phones to snap photos of the Sega sign. So what does Naka say they were there for?

“There was a Pokémon GO raid battle going on.”

Yep, once again a franchise popularized by Nintendo (though Pokémon GO is actually developed by Niantic) managed to show Sega up, and on the company’s home turf no less. Still, Naka wasn’t bitter, and it looks like he even helped out in the fight against Latias.

Afterwards, Naka swung by a Bic Camera electronics store in Kawasaki, where there was a mini Space Invaders retro cabinet on display, which all three of the Nakas tried out. With his years of gaming experience Dad got the high score easily, and this time his kids were legitimately impressed. But once again, his happy mood was tempered by the site of Rodea the Sky Soldier, a game that Naka served as a producer on, in a deep-discount bin, selling for just 980 yen (US$8.80).

Granted, Rodea came out in 2015, but Naka still says he was sad to see a copy of his game sitting unsold and unloved.

On the other hand, though, Naka’s photos from his family day out inspired many Twitter users to leave comments expressing their love for Sonic and numerous other entries in the man’s lengthy resume:

“Thank you so much for all the wonderful games you’ve made!”
“I played so much Samba de Amigo on the Dreamcast. All I can say is ‘thank you.’”
“Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast WAS my youth! Thank you!”
“I love the story of how you added Tails to Sonic 2 so that siblings could enjoy the game together.”
“The Sonic series was so much fun.”
“I believe that someday, your kids will be old enough to appreciate how amazing Sonic is.”

And while Naka’s day wasn’t all sunshine, he’s still got a lot to smile about. The most recent Sonic game, 2018’s Sonic Mania, earned positive reviews by being a throwback to the series early, Naka-helmed days (even if he himself wasn’t part of the new game’s development). Sega, meanwhile, has been earning respect and revenue from its suddenly internationally popular Yakuza franchise. And as for Naka himself, since 2018 he’s been working for Square Enix, one of Japan’s largest and most successful video game publishers, so it looks like there’s more fun to come in the future.

Source: Twitter/@nakayuji via Hachima Kiko
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where it blew his mind to find out that Black Belt, programmed by Yuji Naka, started out as a Fist of the North Star game.