In a new interview with Famitsu, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka revealed some interesting details about how long-lost Sonic characters Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Squirrel managed to make their way into Sonic Mania Plus. While he was happy and excited to be able to bring the two heroes back, he was certain that the door on their return to the series was otherwise closed.
Mighty and Ray first featured alongside Sonic in the rarely-seen and little-played 1993 arcade title SEGASonic the Hedgehog. Over the years, the two had largely been forgotten, barely acknowledged by the core Sonic Team development team (SEGASonic the Hedgehog and 1995 SEGA 32X platformer, Knuckles’ Chaotix, which Mighty made a re-appearance, were developed by different SEGA studios).
The only recent official reference of the two characters before the announcement of their inclusion in Sonic Mania Plus was in Sonic Generations (2011), where their headshots appeared in a ‘Missing’ poster Easter egg in the City Escape stage. So while Sonic Team does acknowledge the existence of Ray and Mighty, it is clearly intentional that little has been done with them in the mainline game series.
When asked about how the Sonic Mania team and Sonic Team decided on the ‘Plus‘ content, Iizuka noted that, “We thought about elements that would make fans happy. Since Sonic Mania is all about things that stimulate expectations and curiosity from fans, as a result of thinking about what could we add to make things more exciting, we decided to add Mighty and Ray as new characters.”
It sounded like Sonic Mania, as a celebration of classic Sonic gaming throughout the 16-bit era, provided an excellent opportunity to bring back the two characters – who Iizuka acknowledged that “fans [had] continued asking ‘whatever happened to them’ [for years]”. But without the Sonic Mania project, the producer was adamant that there had been no appetite at SEGA to formally bring the pair back.
“If anything, to me personally Mighty and Ray were “sealed characters” that would never see light of day in a video game. However, this time around we wanted to make a title packed with all kinds of references for all the special manias [fans] out there, and the stage was set to have those two make an appearance. So I figured we could unseal them [laughs].”
Iizuka also revealed the special characteristics of the two characters in Sonic Mania Plus. Mighty will have a downward ‘stomp’ move called the Hammer Drop, which will allow him to create new routes and attack enemies at will. He will also have no trouble with projectiles with his hard shell. Ray, as a flying squirrel, can use a glide move similar to Knuckles, with the added bonus of using momentum to fly upwards (similar to the cape in Super Mario World). Several levels had to be re-worked in order for Ray’s special move to avoid breaking the level design.
Read the rest of the Famitsu interview, in English, on Siliconera – there’s a lot of interesting material in there.