Summer of Sonic 2013 - Interview with Takashi Iizuka
Friday, 9th August 2013, 12:03pm (UTC), 5 Comments
After missing last year's I was glad to return to Summer of Sonic in London this past weekend to enjoy another fun-filled Sonic fan convention, with all the usual treats I've come to expect, plus copious amounts of BO, as my ever-so-slightly-unwilling girlfriend was ever keen to point out. As fun as it is, you'd be hard pressed to call it a pretty affair, lets be honest!

Still, that didn't bother me too much, as amongst the great live Sonic music (we both enjoyed that at least), I managed to get two great privileges. The first, shared by most people at the convention, was that I got a go on both versions of Sonic Lost World, and even queued up twice for the Wii U to get to play two of the four available acts. The second, a little more exclusive, was that I finally got my interview time with guests, after narrowly missing out on it a couple of years back due to scheduling issues. This was an awesome experience for me, given that I'm no journalist and haven't even updated the site that got me the gig in the last year (ahem..). So would like to give a thank you to T-Bird for hooking me up with Takashi Iizuka and Kazuyki Hoshino, both influential in the development of crucial Sonic game from the mid-nineties onwards.

My interview with Iizuka was probably the best part of the day for me, and having failed at getting interview time before, I must say the scheduling was handled much better this year, even though I ended up having to share my allotted time with a nice chap from Sega Nerds. As a result I only got to ask three of my own questions, and I kind of wish I'd swapped the first one for another on my list that was more interesting, but never mind. He was very detailed with his answers, and even revealed a couple of bits of information about Sonic's future that were news to me and I hope, unless you've now already read them from someone else's interview, are also news to you too! I've included Q and A's from Sega Nerds too. Enjoy!

Z:0: Sonic Lost World is quite a brave new direction for the series. What made you decide to take a new approach as opposed to furthering the popular engine from Sonic Unleashed, Colours, and Generations?

Two years ago, we released Sonic Generations, and that was our twentieth anniversary title, and the intentions we had with that game was to compress twenty years into one game, so it really was reflective of everything we had done before. At that point, we'd already decided our target, as a team, was to do something completely new and really innovative for the next game, and the thing that we really wanted to innovate and improve on was the forward view action gameplay. With Generations, it was very much 'go really quickly and avoid obstacles' - we wanted to really build on that, and that's really where the innovation for Sonic Lost World came from.

SN: is there a particular reason Sonic Team decided to bring back the Colour Powers from Sonic Colours? Is Lost World meant to be a direct sequel, or more of a spinoff?

To clarify, the story is completely separate from Colours, it is not a sequel in that sense. As far as the colour power implementation goes, In Sonic Colours, it was a key selling point for that game, but as a team, we really like colour powers, and we intend to keep using them. We want to standardise them in the games, as long as it matches the playability, in each case. It wasn't a one-off in Colours, we will continue to use them in Sonic games in the future.

Z:0: The levels seem very deliberately more minimalistic than in recent games. Are these easier to create? If so, can we therefore expect to play a larger amount of different stages and acts than normal?

Compared to Generations, it's definitely got a look that's a lot more minimalistic. Why we did that, to start with, was to make it easier for people to play the game, and to make sure we can attain 60fps. We want to make sure that players can see the rings, for example, and things that we want people to pick up on, so that they can see that without it looking a bit too busy. So it's really a playability thing that we saw as an issue before that we wanted to address. In doing that, we can actually create stages a lot faster than before, so there is an absolute, clear difference with the amount of variation you'll see in the levels than before.

SN: In terms of development, how do you find developing titles both for fans of the older games and fans of the newer games, is there a particular method you use to ensure that the new games can appeal to all types of gamers?

This is something we're particularly aware of, and something that we do focus on, to ensure we provide something for both types of fans, and in 2010, what we did was release Sonic 4 for the old fans, and that was very much a classic themed game, and then Colours was much more for the newer fans. Following from that we created Generations, which was looking back at twenty years of Sonic, and that was aimed at both fans, because we had Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic, and mixed up both forward view and side view gameplay in one game. And now in Lost World, we've carried on the tradition from Generations, by providing both views again, so we feel this title will satisfy both groups of fans.

In 2010, we had the two groups of fans satisfied by two separate games, and what we plan to do now is merge them into one game. So in Lost World, we've almost completed the journey to make sure both types of fans can enjoy Sonic as he is today.

Z:0: Is it fair to say that you're finding it hard to make full use of certain characters like Shadow and Knuckles? It's been a while since they've had significant roles in any game.

Sonic's friends still play a really important role within the Sonic universe, and we really do want them to shine. But for them to shine, we want to make sure that Sonic himself can take the centre stage, and really appeal to the audience, so we wanted to make sure we really focused on Sonic and his gameplay first. And in the meantime, we've had games like Mario & Sonic, where the other characters have a place where people can enjoy playing as them. So it's not like they're completely being sidelined at all, but we just wanted to focus on Sonic and the gameplay first. And moving forwards, we want to make sure we're providing content where Sonic's friends have a place to take centre stage.

SN: How do you find working with the Wii hardware and the gamepad, did Sonic Lost World benefit from using the gamepad?

When using the Wii U hardware, the clear obvious advantage is the fact that you've got two screens, and we've really taken that to our advantage. There's three main things that we can categorise to say how we use the gamepad, and one of the key hardware features that people seem to love is that you can play without having to use the TV screen, so we've implemented that and you can play Lost World on the gamepad. The second thing is that as we have two screens, we can allow competitive gameplay between two players. So previously we had to split the screen in half and you would have lost half of your screen as a player, but now you can play one person on the TV and one person on the gamepad, so you both have a full screen to play with. And the third one is the colour power actions, so you can activate your colour powers through swiping on the gamepad. We feel it wasn't just a case of shoe-horning these features into the game, but that it was actually a natural fit for Sonic.

Well there you have it! Wisps apparently here to stay, and could there be light at the end of the tunnel for those longing to play as someone other than Sonic for a change? It was awesome meeting the main man behind Sonic! I found him friendly and willing to provide some interesting insight. Great stuff!
Comments   5 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by Kabam! on Wednesday, 7th August 2013, 11:29pm
I was afraid I'd hear that wisps would become a normal thing. I am sure many of you are thinking that chao have been kicked out the back door in order to make room for the wisps, but I guess that is just how the coral crumbles. This is in no way a bad thing, but I just didn't really appreciate the wisps all too much. I understand the whole deal about getting Sonic on firm ground first before his friends so I suppose we will just have to be patient on that matter. Other than that, this interview was very interesting, especially the wisp fact. Can't wait for more!
P.S. Wisps are okay, I'm just a bit surprised they are already recycling old ideas.
#2. Comment posted by Kabam! on Thursday, 8th August 2013, 12:24am
Also, if you don't mind, may you please tell us what the question is that you wanted to ask him.
#3. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Friday, 9th August 2013, 5:24pm
I know what you mean, I think as long as the Wisps are rarely essential, it shouldn't be too bad, but when use of them becomes necessary, that's where I think the experience starts to break up and lose its fluidity a bit - I don't particularly want to keep transforming into different things all the time.

Other questions I had prepared include whether he thinks Sonic could, in his future, have another major design change like he did in Sonic Adventure, whether there will be another Sonic 4 ep or another classically themed game, and whether it's time for another proper traditional Sonic rival like Silver or Shadow. Also how he goes about picking level themes, and whether he plays or knows of any Sonic fan games.
#4. Comment posted by Kabam! on Saturday, 10th August 2013, 6:27am
Exactly! I agree! & Those are some interesting quetions. If you want my take on them, I'd say Sonic won't be in for another design change for a long time. What else could they do to him besides maybe changing his size or attitude. It could be anyone's guess whether there will be a Sonic 4 episode 3 or Sonic 5 because at the end of Sonic 4 episode 2, it didn't say "TO BE CONTINUED" like ep 1 did so it could be saying: that's it for Sonic 4, here comes Sonic 5! Or the developers were just too busy to put any type of hint in at the end and a Sonic 4 ep 3 is coming. It is also possible that neither is coming and they're cutting it, but let's hope not. The deadly six were just introduced and only time will tell whether they are a one-off for lost world or whether they are here to stay as a new rival. Other than that, I think they'd rather bring back an old member of the cast instead of adding another character to the cast. Those are some good questions though.
#5. Comment posted by Faust on Thursday, 28th August 2014, 8:36pm
Haha, well your question on Sonic's design change sure has been answered this year, hasn't it?
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