Iizuka: “I would like to make a new standard Sonic”

In an interview with Gamasutra, Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka has explained that he would like to make a new standard Sonic in 2012 and the years ahead. Rather than continue on with the formula built with Sonic Generations, it appears Iizuka would like to develop something fresh in the future.

It seems that as far as current-gen Sonic goes, there have been false starts. The PlayStation 3 Sonic, the first one, was supposed to be a new beginning, and then there was Unleashed, which had good and bad about it. It seems like Generations is yet again starting over; are we at a point where you feel comfortable with the mark you’re making and can move forward?

I wouldn’t say that I think Generations is a new start. Instead, it’s more of the peaks of the past 20 years, is the way we’re approaching this. Generations is about taking the past 20 years of history and rolling it into one really fun product. I think, as a result, I would like to make a new standard Sonic, a modern Sonic if you will, in 2012 and beyond.

You can read the full interview over at Gamasutra.

Would you like to see fresh new Sonic experiences in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks to RUSSTYBONE and interface for the heads up!

The Jun Senoue Interview – Part Two

9:00PM on Sunday, 7th of February 2010. Shibuya, Tokyo. Jun Senoue, Jeriaska from Gamasutra and myself have just enjoyed a couple of really good pizzas, and had finished discussing video game music as well as music remix projects (see my other post regarding the Game Music 4 All project!). Jun had answered my questions regarding Crush 40 and Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, but thanks to you guys, I still had a heap of questions for him…

T-Bird: Ok Jun, I’ve got some questions from the fans here! First off is from ibbod0; how did you meet Johnny and the rest of Crush 40?

Jun: Wow, good question…actually, I was a huge fan of Hardline. Usually when I compose the songs and write the melody, I think about who would make a suitable singer for the song or a good singer for the melody or something like that. With the song “It Doesn’t Matter”, the original version for Sonic Adventure, it has a very high note-melody. When I was writing it I thought Tony Harnell would be the ideal singer, and in the end he performed on that song; this in now my way of composing. Talking about “Open Your Heart”, I had Johnny in mind, but I did not have any direct contact with him. Actually my friend who lives in Los Angeles knows Doug Aldrich [The guitarist for Whitesnake these days! – T] . For a short time Doug played in one of Johnny’s previous bands, Brunette, and I knew they still had a good relationship and that Johnny had appeared on Doug’s first solo release [on a track called “Face Down” on the album Alter Ego – T]. That meant maybe Doug could get in contact with Johnny, and so I asked my friend to get in contact with Doug, then Dough got in contact with Johnny…and that’s how I first got in touch with him.

T-Bird: Ok, so SoA, Admin for the js.com forums asks, if say you had to replace Johnny, and of course that would be an impossible task, who would you ideally want as your dream replacement?

Jun: Replacement?

T-Bird: Yes…if you had to.

Jun: That would mean Crush 40 would be disbanded, seeing as Crush 40 is the teaming of Johnny and myself, in which case you would need to find a replacement for both of us! The lack of me or lack of Johnny would mean…yeah (laughs).

T-Bird: Great answer – I honestly don’t think you could replace him either! Thirdly, Sonic1991 asks how did the collaboration with Emma Gelotte, Tinna Karlsdotter and the legend that is Marty Friedman [Legendary because he was the guitarist on my favourite Megadeth album! – T] come around for the track “With Me”?

Jun: I wrote that song for the final boss in the Sonic and the Black Knight, and I so first I tried to find the female singers for that song. One of my friends in a Japanese record company takes care of dealings with All Ends [Tinna & Emma’s band – T], and so that’s how I got in touch with them. With Marty, although he was now living in Japan, I didn’t know him personally. I didn’t know his manager or any of the other business guys who dealt with him, so I asked him directly. Originally I planned to ask him to play all of the guitar stuff, but when he came into the studio, he said “hey, we should just keep these backing tracks!” We booked the studio here in Tokyo to record the lyrics and Marty’s guitar solo, but then the other guys came into the studio and wanted me to change the key, so I said “please give me one hour!” Since we use Pro-Tools, it was easy enough to raise the track one note, but it did not have very good clarity. We changed the key digitally anyway, then tracked the vocals, then Marty tracked his guitar. I went back later on and tracked all of the backing guitar in the correct key.

Originally my idea was to have that song in a lower key, and in fact we [Crush 40] did the demo in that much lower key, and that was featured on the Sonic and the Black Knight “Face to Faith” album and it is much heavier.

T-Bird: I think a lot of fans liked hearing a heavier version…and thanks for sharing the story! Short question: BlueLightning asks, what was your first guitar?

Jun: He wants to know my first electric guitar? Actually, before I started playing electric guitars, I got an electric bass, since I was into Duran Duran at the time.

T-Bird: Haha! That’s awesome!

Jun: Andy Taylor the guitar player didn’t play any solos with Duran Duran or anything and the bass player was so much more…

T-Bird: …Interesting?

Jun: Yeah! Originally I played the keyboard, but the drummers and the keyboard players were always at the back of the stage, and I always wanted to be one of the guys in front of the stage. I’m not good at singing, and I was not interested in singing, so I picked up the bass. However, after watching some MTV videos by the band called Ratt [Rock history lesson right here kids! – T] and Night Ranger, I got really into those bands, and so my very first guitar was a duplicate of the guitar the Ratt guitarist had…and I still have it.

T-Bird: Do you remember what make it was?

Jun: I think it was Fernandes, but these days I’ve replaced the neck with a performance neck…I will post a picture of it sometime!

T-Bird: Haha! Definitely! So, Sinister Swiss asks after the remixing of the Angel Island Zone track for Super Smash Brothers: Brawl, have you considered going back and reworking any other classic songs from those classic titles?

Jun: Interesting! It  was very fun to do the remix for Angel Island, and also I made another arrangement of Sky Sanctuary from Sonic & Knuckles for the Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, and if I get a chance I want to try to do more of those kind of remixes.

T-Bird: Any particular tracks?

Jun: Ummm…talking about Sonic the hedgehog 3 and Knuckles music…*starts humming*

T-Bird: HAHAHA! YEAH! Death Egg Zone from Sonic & Knuckles! I think that would make a lot of the fans would love that!  I know we’ve covered this in the previous half of the interview, but Michelle Palmer asks if you are considering any tour dates?

Jun: As I was saying, I am going to try and organise some Crush 40 dates around August time. [As a side note kiddos, Jun has a new band Bubbilicious Blvd. And is playing shows in Tokyo! Check out the TSS article on them! – T].

T-Bird: Ok, last question…Hawkz asks, what would you say has been the defining moment of your career?

Jun: Hmmm…I’d have to say there are several. The first one is back in ’96, the moment I teamed up with Eric Martin. It was a very special moment for me. From that point I started trying to find direct connection with the artists, and that’s the way I’ve been doing it for years now.

Both Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 are very important games for me and very important titles for me, since Sonic Adventure was the very first time I was the sound director for a Sonic title, and I changed the sound of Sonic music drastically. With Sonic Adventure 2, some of us moved to the States, which changed our lives, and this time around we tried to make the music for the American market. It was very fun, and a very special time for not only me, but for the team too.

Finally, with Super Smash Bros: Brawl We provided several pieces of Sonic music to be used in the game, and lots of new fans – by new fans I mean the players who did not have any experience playing Sonic games – listened to the music for the first time while playing the Smash Brothers game…to me that was a great experience.

T-Bird: Lots of fond memories, and I’m sure a lot of fans hold some of those moments close to their heart too! Thanks loads for taking our questions Jun…hopefully we can talk to you again soon with more burning questions!

And we will have more questions answered very soon! Stay tuned for Part 3…but before you do, a quick message to someone…

Calling all remixers and remix enthusiasts – Game Music 4 All

Now while I was in Tokyo I met an awesome bloke who goes by the name Jeriaska who is a correspondent for Gamasutra. As well as being heavily involved in a lot of video games reporting, Jeriaska is also in the midsts of organizing the next Game Music 4 All compilation.

Most of you will probably be aware of some of the tracks that were on some of the previous compilations, particularly the “Loser: A SEGA Genesis tribute album” which includes the likes of the awesome “Sonic” track by The Adventures of Duane and BrandO, and the remixes by the prominent artist Spheres of Chaos. Well, the team at Game Music 4 All are looking for new tracks to add to their compilation! So, if there are any budding remix artists out there who want to get their mixes heard, or if you’re already big on the scene, then get over to the wordpress site and get your tracks submitted!

Do also be sure to visit the site for some of the most up-to-date news on the remix scene across a whole plethora of music cover bands, video game remixers, concerts, reviews, interviews…basically if it’s remix-related, it’s there!

If you’re about at PAX East this year, also keep your eyes open for Jeriaska’s presentation on the project! So come on UK remixers – lets get some representation this year!!! Oh yeah…and tell them T-Bird sent ya!

Game Music 4 All Website.

…and ok, here’s another excuse for Duane and BrandO (parental warning! Naughty words ahoy!)…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNC9dpy2EYU&feature=related[/youtube]

Ohshima: I Wanted A ‘Back To The Future’ Sonic

sonic_cd_4Sonic Team legend and Sonic the Hedgehog co-creator, Naoto Ohshima, spoke to Gamasutra about some of his past work, including his time directing Sonic CD and the inspiration for the blue blur’s sneakers.

After discussing NiGHTS Into Dreams, attention turned to Ohshima’s Mega CD project and the reason behind time travel – a theme he has since revisited with Blinx: The Time Sweeper on the Xbox. “I wanted a Sonic where the levels changed on you — where Sonic would go really fast, like in Back to the Future, and bang, wind up in a different place.”

Ohshima also spoke of the time-travelling cutscene, displayed whenever Sonic reaches a speed in Sonic CD that sends him to the Past or Future. The original plan was to have an instant change, following a sonic boom, but apparently it was not technically possible so the loading cutscene stuck.

Ohshima: What I really wanted to do was just have this sonic boom, with a flash, and have the level change on you instantly. We just couldn’t manage it on the hardware, though, so instead there’s that sequence that plays while it’s loading. (laughs) I kept fighting and fighting with the programmers, but they said it just wasn’t possible.

Gamasutra: I bet they probably could have done it.

Ohshima: I know! (laughs) If Naka was doing the programming, I think it could’ve been done.

Speaking of Yuji Naka, the designer also spoke of how his team worked in Japan on Sonic CD in tandem with Naka’s SEGA Technical Institute in the U.S. on Sonic 2.

We exchanged information, of course, talking about the sort of game design each of us was aiming for. But Sonic CD wasn’t Sonic 2; it was really meant to be more of a CD version of the original Sonic. I can’t help but wonder, therefore, if we had more fun making CD than they did making Sonic 2 [because we didn’t have the pressure of making a “numbered sequel”].

Sonic the Hedgehog’s original design came up again, with discussion of how the character was created for the American market leading to questions of Sonic’s iconic blue, red and white colours. Ohshima said that, as we know, the blue was to symbolise SEGA, but what was more interesting was yet another tenuous link between Michael Jackson and the blue blur. Apparently Sonic’s shoes are directly inspired by Jackson’s Bad album cover. “I also thought that red went well for a character who can run really fast, when his legs are spinning.

Naoto Ohshima left SEGA many years ago to lead Artoon, but now has management duties at sister development studio Cavia, which recently finished Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles and is working on Square Enix’s Nier. But with this change in approach to more Western, adult-oriented games, does Oshima still have time in his life to go back to the mascot platforming gig?

Ah, well, I’m making a game like that right now. (laughs) I can’t quite talk about that yet, though. In more general terms, the game needs to be something that anyone is able to play, and it needs to have one thing or element that is brand new, that hasn’t been done before.

Shine on, you legend. Shine on.