I once again had the amazing opportunity to sit down with the head honcho over at Sonic Team – Takashi Iizuka! In the interview we talk Summer of Sonic, Lost World, Colour Powers and Sonic’s future. It’s quite a read so you definitely don’t want to miss it!
TSS: First of all, how does it feel to be back at Summer of Sonic for the third time?
Takashi Iizuka: I’m really, really happy to be here again though I haven’t actually been into the big rooms quite ye! I always love coming here to get the opportunity to meet the fans face-to-face and to really get some time with them.
TSS: What’s your favourite Summer of Sonic moment so far?
Takashi Iizuka: I’ve only actually been to Summer of Sonic three times so far and this time it hadn’t really started yet so I can’t really say I have a favourite moment from this year’s event quite yet. The previous two times, however, have been at two different locations which has been interesting! The one we did two years ago for Sonic’s 20th anniversary, we had Yuji Naka as a guest which was really great to see.
TSS: Was Sonic Lost World built around the Wisps or were they incorporated into the game later on in development?
Takashi Iizuka: Sonic Colours is the game where we first introduced the Wisps into Sonic games and it was a feature that was originally intended to be exclusively to this game. The Wisps and Colour Powers actually gave a great variety to the gameplay style and the user experience. We feel that it’s a great addition to the series and we really like the Wisps! We intend to actually carry on integrating the Colour Powers into Sonic games in the future and to standardise as something that is accepted as one of the things that’s in a Sonic game. As long as it matches the gameplay style, you will see Colour Powers. For Lost World, we intended to implement them from the outset, they weren’t bolted onto the game afterwards.
TSS: Did you bring over any other elements from Sonic Colours or Sonic Generations?
Takashi Iizuka: Over the past two versions of Sonic, we’ve really established the combination of forward-view and side-view platform-action gameplay. That’s really become a staple of Sonic but we wanted to something completely new with Lost World and provide a new experience to the user by giving them a different twist on the level design. We did take the Colour Powers from Colours but what else did we take from Sonic Colours specifically? I can’t really think of any specifics other than the things that are a staple diet of the Sonic series like the Spin Dash and Homing Attack so you will see standard Sonic stuff in there but this time it was more focused on pushing Sonic forward. If I were to talk about what we’ve taken from Classic Sonic? When you defeat a Badnik you’ll see an animal pop out as you did in the Classic games.
TSS: Do you feel that the ‘parkour’ style of gameplay that is being introduced in Lost World is something that will be permanently added to Sonic’s skillset?
Takashi Iizuka: The parkour has been specifically designed for Lost World since it really suits our game as it stands now with its cylindrical stages and so forth. Moving forwards, we’re not really intended on keeping parkour but that’s not set in stone. We’re just not planning on it being in the future games right now. As it was with Colour Powers, this feature was meant to be a one-off for Sonic Colours because it suited that game. As it was so popular and we see great benefits in using them, we carried on using them and we’re now thinking of using them as a staple. For now, no is the answer but that’s only for now. We could re-visit it depending on the feedback we get from it.
TSS: SEGA have put a lot of faith in the Nintendo platform for the next few Sonic games. What was it like developing with the Wii U tablet?
Takashi Iizuka: The biggest unique feature of the Wii U in terms of hardware is its dual-screen capability and the Gamepad. For Lost World, we have 3 main elements of how we’ve made full use of this technology with the first one being the ability to play the game on the Gamepad without the need to have it displayed on the TV. The second one is the option for competitive gameplay without splitting the screen unlike previously where each player would lose half of their screen in order to accommodate the other player but this time you can half one player using the Gamepad screen and the other using the television. The third major use is with the Colour Powers which can be activated by using the touch screen and making use of the gyro. The development team have had great fun working on the Wii U hardware and making full use of its unique features.
TSS: What were some of the team’s biggest challenges when designing levels for Lost World?
Takashi Iizuka: As you may have noticed, we have some cylindrical stages where you can around in 360 degrees. We have no previous experiences in creating levels like this in terms of design. Windy Hill is going to be the first stage in the game and we have created that level, broken it down, recreated it, broken it down again, rinsed and repeated so many times over the past half a year to really perfect that level and its design so that has been a huge challenge.
TSS: Thank you very much for your time, Iizuka-san!
Takashi Iizuka: [In English] Thank you too, I’ve enjoyed this talk!
We also have a video version of this interview for your viewing pleasure courtesy of Sonic Wrecks!
Stay tuned, because up next is an interview with Metal Sonic’s creator - Kazuyuki Hoshino!
Many thanks to Bobby Wertheim and Kevin Eva!