SPOnG Interviews Takashi Iizuka

SPOnG Interviews Takashi Iizuka

SPOnG has posted up their full interview with Sonic Team Producer Takashi Iizuka, an interview they posted a sample of on Friday, which revealed that the light-hearted and pick-up-and-play gameplay style of the Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games series influenced Sonic Colours.

The interview was held by Sonic Stadium founder Svend Joscelyne (aka Dreadknux), who works as a journalist at SPOnG. In the interview Joscelyne asks some very interesting questions that are certainly a step-up from most interviews that ask the same tired old questions.

The interview begins with Joscelyne querying the inspirations behind the various Wisp powers in Sonic Colours, which Iizuka explains are to help Sonic reach news areas in the game.

The basics for all the colour powers come from the desire to let Sonic go to places that he normally can’t access on his own. When we sit down to think of new Wisps and their functions, we look at the kind of areas that Sonic cannot reach, despite his speed and platforming powers.

We’ve all seen that the game borrows its speed from Sonic Unleashed, but just how much focus is there on speed in this game? Iizuka says that you can speed through the stages without the aid of Wisp powers if you like, but you won’t get to truly explore the stages and gain those hidden red rings without them

You can speed through each stage as fast as you like, without using Wisps, but what those colour powers actually do is give players a chance to explore and replay all of those stages too. Collecting the hidden red rings is one reward for doing so, and the world map shows how many you have found in each level. Without using the Wisps, you won’t always be able to get those red rings.

Some fans may have wondered if Dimps is working on the Wii version of Sonic Colours, after helping out with Sonic Unleashed on Wii. Well, this interview gives us confirmation that Sonic Team are working solo on the Wii version and Dimps is working solo on the DS version.

For Sonic Colours, our two teams worked quite well together on the concept, but we developed the 2D Nintendo DS and 3D Wii versions rather independently. The Wii version is fully developed internally, because we know a lot more about 3D Sonic development than some other developers. Dimps has the experience to make a 2D Sonic game as best as they can, and so they have exclusively worked on the Nintendo DS version – they had no real input in terms of the Wii development.

In recent months there has been more interest in the Sonic fan-base growing towards Sonic Colours over Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. Joscelyne asks Iizuka’s thoughts on this.

It’s not so much a feeling of surprise, but the team and I really appreciate that a lot of classic fans are looking forward to Sonic Colours as well. I mean, Sonic Colours was created largely as a 3D title for the people who have become fans of the Sonic franchise most recently, but it’s good to hear that the game has been received so well from the older fans too.

Next, Joscelyne asks Iizuka about THAT recent statement about Sonic Colours being built for a ‘younger audience’, a statement that was later corrected by a member of staff from SEGA. Joscelyne asks why a distinction was made and if it was a misquote or a mistranslation, to which Iizuka responds with the below answer in full.

It wasn’t really a misquote or a mistranslation. The reason why I said ‘younger audiences’ is because the team and I wanted to capitalise on the new audience that we gained through the success of the Mario & Sonic games. Those titles in particular really worked well for Sonic as a character because it made our potential audience much broader than existing Sonic fans.

That created an opportunity for us to build a bigger fanbase, but we noticed that there weren’t that many mainstream Sonic titles available for the Wii and DS post-Mario & Sonic. That’s why Sonic Colours is a proper platforming mainstream game, so that those new fans can discover and learn more about the franchise beyond those spinoff titles. In that way, it’s not really focused on young audiences in terms of age, but more as in maintaining that broader market.

Even though this is the case, if you look at the core gameplay elements of Sonic Colours, you’ll notice that this is a true platforming action game that the core fans can also enjoy. The ultimate goal for Sonic Colours has always been to make the best Sonic title we can for the widest possible target audience. The market nature that the Wii and DS have is the reason why I used the term ‘younger audiences’.

Next, Joscelyne asks for Iizuka’s feelings about Sonic’s downward spiral in recent years and Yuji Naka’s exit from Sonic Team in 2006 to create his own company, Prope. While Iizuka was sad to see Naka go, he gives fans assurance that Naka’s absence hasn’t changed the team as much as some people would like to think. “Sonic Team is always Sonic Team” he says.

I really miss Naka-san and was sad to see him leave when he decided to form his own company. But even at that time, he wasn’t the only person making decisions for the games. Concepts and gameplay elements were all discussed as a team, for example. So while it was very sad to see him go, Sonic Team is always Sonic Team and it didn’t necessarily mean that Sonic was destined to head in a different direction post-Naka-san. At least, not as different as some people may think.

The interview ends with a little something fans of Sonic Colours direction will be glad to hear, as Joscelyne asks Iizuka “Is it safe to say then, that future Sonic titles will have the same kind of colourful, simple, laid-back feel that Sonic Colours has?” to which Iizuka replies:

Yes, that’s the vision that I have.

To read the full interview, head over to SPOnG.

Joscelyne also reveals some interesting details from his playtime with Sonic Colours on Wii:

Taking a producer role on Sonic Colours, the Sonic Team head demonstrated two new Wisp powers that the blue blur can take advantage of – the Red Spikes and the Green Hover. Like the other abilities, these work as optional gameplay gimmicks that can help Sonic overcome otherwise challenging platforming segments, but they can also be used to open up new routes and explore the stages in their full glory.

Spikes will let Sonic stick to any given surface and roll along it, making him invincible at the same time. Pressing the B trigger on the Wii Remote will let Sonic perform a traditional spindash move and zip along the surface he’s on.

Using the Hover ability turns Sonic into a giant green Sonic head and gives you the power to hover, of course – which is very handy in levels where you might need to take advantage of any platforms sitting in the sky. If there’s a trail of rings, pressing B will make Sonic automatically follow it until its end. A bit like the Light Speed Dash in Sonic Adventure games, only without the potential death.

These new Wisps were being demonstrated on a brand new level, called Starlight Carnival – a beautifully bright, colourful stage set in space that reminds me a hell of a lot like a combination of Sonic CD’s Stardust Speedway and Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road.

Platforming, dodging and floating was all going on against a backdrop featuring a fleet of Dr. Eggman’s starships. Iizuka is keen to stress that the presence of starships “is not as serious as it sounds,” pointing out the light-hearted Disneyland-inspired level design and the infectiously happy soundtrack.

What do you think of Iizuka’s latest statements? Discuss in the comments.

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  1. Well at least Shadzter doesn’t overreact and twist Mr. Iizuka’s words like another certain somebody(ies). I believe this game is going to be ace judging by these comments. What Iizuka’s trying to get across is that there are new fans of this generation that may not be very familiar with the series and he wants Sonic Colors to appeal to all ages. In other words, if Sonic Colors is someone’s first Sonic game he wants to make sure it is appealing and easy to follow. Addressing his vision to future Sonic titles being colorful and laid back, as long as it’s fun I have no problem. Now I will wait for someone to complain about that saying that Sonic is no longer a serious series anymore.

  2. I really like Iizuka, I truly appreciate how he’s doing things smart with Sonic now, such as capitalizing on the enormous success of the M&S series by making a Nintendo-exclusive Sonic game, and a seemingly great one at that, THAT’S how you follow-up great successes on a particular platform, very rewarding, and not just shoving more spin-offs down Wii and DS-owners’ throats while giving the PS360 crowd the real goods.

  3. @ Hamilton: I’ve got no problem with the man, myself. I always try to keep things in my news posts professional and keep my thoughts out of them. I also don’t agree with twisting someone’s words, like alot of other gaming sites have been doing. I know many people don’t seem to like his comments and I respect their opinions, but I think the man is doing the best he can and I like everything I’ve read in this interview. Svend’s asked Iizuka some very interesting questions, which is a huge change to the usual same old questions that the gaming press usually ask.

  4. I agree with most of what Takashi Iizuka says here and his idea of producing a range of Sonic games to appeal to as many different kinds of Sonic fans as possible is a pretty good start to getting the series back on track, but I don’t see it working as a permanent solution… that is, to divide the franchise between these colourful kiddy worlds whilst ignoring Sonic’s traditional artistic style, and more realistic environments or simply using Sonic’s traditional artistic style to appeal to the older fans (and new fans who got into Sonic through the classics.)

    To speak metaphorically, you can’t exactly take a chess piece, put it on a tiled floor and call that a game of chess. The chesspiece belongs on the chessboard. What I mean by that is that you can’t just take Sonic and stick him in any crazy environment you can think of, as long as the “high speed action” still applies. I hope there are some people out there who agree with me.

    After some time, if Sonic Colours and Sonic 4 are successful, I would like to see Sonic Team attempt to come up with a more long-term solution by trying to find a compromise between their audiences rather than categorising their games by age range.

    As for the more serious approach with backstories.. I actually liked them very much, when they were well-written. Sonic doesn’t have to be just straightforward crazy high speed fun, nor does he have to be Master Chief. Sonic has too much of a rich history to be reduced to that. Mario hits all the right notes with all ages and he’s stuck to his artistic style RELENTLESSLY since 1985 without fail.

    Put short, I want good stories, fun games and epic adventures in Green Hill and Casino Night. That’s Sonic’s world, where he belongs. If there’s anyone out there who shares my opinion, please make yourself heard, because I am nervous we’re a part of the fanbase that’s going totally unrepresented in the future, and I believe this idea represents the perfect compromise between what Iizuka plans to do for now.

  5. Although I’m looking forward to this game, I’m a tad disappointed that the stories will be simplistic from now on. I would like to see a storyline akin to the Adventure series. The gameplay of Colours combined with a story like Adventure 1 & 2 would be perfect.

  6. I like Sonic Colors from what I’ve seen and heard so far. Although, I’m not too thrilled about the overly colorful and super light-heartedness but it’s not gonna make me complain. It’ll just make me appreciate the Adventure series all the more while having fun with the new gameplay. 😀

  7. Also, I kinda like this Takashi whatever guy! XD He seems to have cleared what people said about him up pretty well, and I believe him because it’s a lot less crazy than what I’m hearing from YouTube Sonic fans. xD

  8. I agree with your ideas on the subject, Ben. I think Colors is taking a good direction for the moment, but deciding to simply drop any attempts at deeper stories and themes seems like an overreaction to the recent criticisms. To be fair, it might still be too soon since Sonic 06 to be plunging back into the stories we saw from the Adventure series, but I don’t think that’s going to be the case for much longer. I think I would still be happy if they divvied the series up between the more story-driven titles and the lighthearted no-strings-attached romps, but it seems like it would make more sense to find a middle ground. At any rate, this series has too much good material lying around to simply toss it because of a few poor attempts. It just needs to be handled appropriately.

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