Greetings! Recently we were fortunate enough to take part in a small Q/A with Sonic Team’s Takashi Iizuka regarding both Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors. Without further adieu…
On Sonic Colors...
Digital Chumps: Producer Takashi Iizuka recently stated that Sonic Colors isn't intended for the core audience, but, rather geared toward those between the ages of six and twelve. This seems to be in line with the "Sonic Storybook" series of Sonic Wii games. The general feel of the game at E3 was also similar despite the more traditional amusement park setting; was Colors originally planned to be of the same lineage as its previous Wii entries? Or is it more of a return to Sonic's core themes with new bells and whistles?
Takashi Iizuka: The game is not particularly following the Storybook series and the team does not make direct comparison with the Storybooks series upon developing this title. Storybook series take place in the world like Arabian Knights, which is different from the world of Sonic, whereas Sonic Colors take place in the world of Sonic. We wanted the early age audiences to enjoy the game and not just the core audiences, and therefore went with the interstellar amusement park setting, which is slightly different type of setting compared to some of the previous titles.
DC: The optional use of wisps grants a surprising amount of freedom with regard to how the player chooses to tackle the level. Was this level of freedom intended, or a byproduct of design?
TI: This is of course the intended game design from our initial planning stage. We have come up with the new action Color Power so we can provide wider variety of actions other than running and jumping.
DC: August's gameplay trailer featured music different from Sonic's usual guitar symphony, is this indicative of what's in store? Any word on who is composing? (Editor’s note: there was some confusion regarding which trailer was implied. It’s after the fact, but we meant this one)
Focus on both gameplay and setting is “fun” and we’ve asked the composer to come up with a brighter, fun main theme song compared to the previous ones.
Composer is Tomoya Ohtani of SEGA Sound Team, who also worked on the main theme of “Sonic Unleashed”.
DC: As of late Sonic has received a wide range of scores from critics. Does Sonic Team take these considerations to heart, or are they largely closed off from Sonic's criticism?
TI: We have been taking in feedback from all Sonic titles and we look into those when developing the future titles. Sonic Colors has Sonic as the only playable character and we’ve planned the stages to be structured with “Pure high-speed action throughout”. This is because the fans have wanted to “play as just Sonic” for a long time, and we’ve reflected that. However, we can’t create new gameplay experience just by looking at feedbacks from the past, and we would like to keep creating new gameplay experiences and surprises, just like Sonic Colors.
DC: Forum response had drawn comparisons between Colors and 2008's Sonic Unleashed. The daytime levels of Unleashed were quite well received; did these play a role in influencing Colors' gameplay?
TI: We really appreciate that the daytime levels of Sonic Unleashed is well received. We feel that the game system of 3D forward-view focusing on “speed” and “running”, while 2D side-view being more of platform action, is one of the solutions on having high-speed action in 3D. So we’ve used this system as the basis and added in the new feature “Color Power”.
DC: I haven't seen much media pertaining to the DS version of Sonic Colors. It's been playable at a few events, when are we going to see official screens or video?
TI: As quite are few features between the Wii and DS versions overlap (story, gameplay system), more is revealed in from the Wii version, but we have been releasing DS screenshots along with the Wii assets.
On Sonic 4…
DC: With Sonic 4 catering to those more familiar with Sonic's Genesis history, is there any chance we'll see the Dr. Eggman moniker dropped in favor of Dr. Robotnik?
TI: As you know Dr. Robotnik and Dr. Eggman is the same person. And ever since Sonic started to call him as ‘Dr. Eggman’ in ‘Sonic Adventure’, this name is widely used. I know older fans are more familiar with his older name, but we will continue to use the name ‘Dr. Eggman’ to avoid the confusion.
DC: Back when Sonic 4 was still known as Project Needlemouse, Sega stated the game would have speed would not be found by hitting a boost button, but rather through momentum. The opposite of this appeared at E3, where the levels (though a work in progress) contained a good number of artificial boosts. Is creating an appropriate sense of speed a major challenge for the development team?
TI: I think there were an misunderstanding here, what I tried to say was classic Sonic series would not use those actions that were featured in ‘Sonic Rush’ series and which is for example activating boost by charging up the gauge and push button… I believe instant execrations by gimmicks like booster are important elements to keep the better game pacing.
DC: Speaking of changes, any insight as to why Sonic's homing attack has been incorporated into Sonic 4’s design?
TI: I thought Homing Attack is effective action also for classic game design to produce good paced speedy gameplay. Also, we are able to create skyline route and try instant judgment and control to expand the variation of level design by adding this action. Please try this game and experience this.
DC: Judging by the media released on August 18th, it looks like Act 2 of Lost Labyrinth has received a significant overhaul. Was this due to fan reaction, or just a normal part of the iterative development process? Is it indicative of further potentially radical changes to Sonic 4?
TI: From the beginning of this project, we planned to develop not only the console versions which players will use controllers, but also iPhone / iPod Touch versions which players are able to control by tilting. And our original plan was to create some of the stages that feature stage constructions and gimmicks that are suitable for iPhone/iPod Touch and implement the same stages also for console versions. But later on we decided those stages should be iPhone/iPod Touch version exclusive and tuned only for iPhone/iPod Touch rather than sharing the same stages with the console versions. And newly introduced Lost Labyrinth Zone Act 2 is the one of those stages.
DC: Is Sonic 4 still planned to make it out before 2011?
TI: Yes I can promise this title is delivered to you within 2010.
I believe we can let you know the exact release dates near future.
DC: With its creation hand in hand with Sonic's older fan base, are Dimps and Sonic Team paying any closer reaction (than usual) at the public's reception of early looks at Sonic 4? It seems like they'd be more willing to appease older fans this time around.
TI: Sonic4 is about rebooting the classic series again and for that I have been thinking we should listen to the many of the fans of classic series. And that’s why our community manager tried hard to gather fan’s voice as much as possible. Sonic4 is new title, but we want this title to keep familiar sense of classic Sonics so that idea makes this title current presentation.
Many thanks to Mr. Iizuka and our friends at Sega for taking the time to arrange this Q/A. We'll have more coverage of both Sonic 4 and Sonic Colors as their release dates become closer.