If you’ve played HumaNature Studios’ recently released Doki-Doki Universe on the PlayStation 3, PS4 or Vita, you might have noticed it has some similarities to the old-school SEGA Genesis classic ToeJam & Earl. Well, there’s good reason for that because HumaNature Studios founder Greg Johnson helped create ToeJam & Earl along with Mark Voorsanger.
“It wasn’t intentional in the sense that it was ever an objective,” Johnson told us in this week’s SEGA Nerdcast. “I never said, ‘I want to make a game just like ToeJam & Earl or references TJ&E, but as soon as we started building and designing, the similarity was clear and noticed by others as well. I thought, ‘OK, maybe that’s just what I do.’
“Maybe having a link to that is a good thing. It certainly touches a deep cord with me and made me connected with the game on an emotional level early on because ToeJam & Earl was such a pivotal game for me in my life and in my career,” he continued. “I’ve been wanting to go back to that world and build more TJ&E for so many years. This was kind of a way to touch on that.”
In Doki-Doki Universe, you control a friendly robot called QT3, who must travel to various planets to learn about human emotion to prove you’re a capable robot and save the rest of your fellow model of robots.
The similarities Doki-Doki shares with TJ&E are pretty apparent from the onset. For example, the funky beats played during the loading screens and when traveling in space sound like they’d fit right in among TJ&E’s awesome soundtrack. Another is you collect presents throughout your adventures, much like in the TJ&E series.
“When I snuck the presents in, that was a very ToeJam & Earl esque thing to do,” Johnson said. “I figured some old-school ToeJam folks would spot that.”
In this week’s SEGA Nerdcast, Johnson told us the game could have had even more ToeJam & Earl influence, as in the characters almost made it into the game along with Funkotron as a planet QT3 could visit during his adventures.
“We actually built a ToeJam & Earl planet (Funkotron) with the characters and everything. Sony was all behind it … but then when it came right down to it, there was just too much legal stuff that needed to be done to make the lawyers feel comfortable enough because of the strong SEGA connection, and they didn’t want to take a chance of stepping on SEGA’s toes. So we just had to basically pull it all out.
“We had a bunch of cameos, like ToeJam and Earl were on billboards and backgrounds,” he added.
Some people don’t know, but Johnson and Voorsanger own the rights to the ToeJam & Earl intellectual property, as well as any and all future sequels in the series, while SEGA owns the rights to the first three games and the assets used in the games, according to Johnson.
It’s a huge bummer the legal issues couldn’t have been worked out in time for ToeJam and Earl to make it into the game. They would have fit perfectly in the game, but hopefully the duo will get their own sequel now that Johnson and the rest of HumaNature Studios are finished with Doki-Doki Universe.