I had a good look at Sonic Generations during E3 - you can read all about the City Escape demonstration and how the two styles of gameplay work in Green Hill Zone here - and itís looking like a title that will really put the hedgehog back on the map. Just in time for his 20th Anniversary too.
After the demonstration, I had a few moments to ask Sonic Team leader Takashi Iizuka some fun questions before I had to dash off to my next appointment. Hereís what he had to say in five minutes.
SPOnG: Were you influenced more by Sonic Unleashed or Sonic Colours in designing the modern stages to Sonic Generations?
The people who created Sonic Unleashed
and Sonic Colours
are working on this game, so the level design is truly inspired by both games.
SPOnG: Whatís your personal favourite way to play - Classic or Modern Sonic?
Well, Iíve been involved in the Sonic series ever since the Mega Drive days, so I have a little place in my heart for that style of gameplay. On the other hand, I do like the modern Sonic style too. Moving forward, I would love to find a way to truly merge these two different styles into one. In Sonic Generations
we currently have those two styles together but as separate stages. Iíd really like to build a game where we can see both working at the same time.
SPOnG: Sonicís main trait is his speed, but the faster you go the less control you have as a player. How do you offer a satisfying high speed experience without any frustrating moments?
Youíre right about that balance, and it is also true for the older Sonic the Hedgehog
titles. As a result, we definitely have a limit on things during the high-speed sections of the game. We want to make sure that the type of movements the player can do will allow Sonic to move without causing frustration. In the platforming segments, we have made sure that you can have precise control over speed. So weíve definitely tried to fit the gameplay appropriately for each style.
Thatís not to say that the high-speed running segments dominate the modern Sonic stages - we also switch the gameplay tempo a little bit by changing to the side-scrolling platforming segments at various points in the level, and that adheres to the precision I talked about before.
SPOnG: What do you look for in choosing the stages that go into Sonic Generations, on both console and 3DS versions? As an extension to that, what are your favourite levels in the Sonic franchise?
It wasnít just up to me, but rather a lot of different people who contributed to the stage selection. We had an internal survey back at the Japanese development team, as well as international SEGA territories in Europe and America. We also reached out to the community and conducted a survey on the Internet to see what levels people enjoyed the most from the Sonic franchise. So from all of that we picked the favourite stages.
And actually, some of my favourite stages are in Sonic Generations
(laughs). The concept of the game is to essentially go through all the eras of Sonic, starting from the Mega Drive era to the modern era. All of the stages are re-interpreted versions, but Mega Drive, Dreamcast and Next Gen are all represented.
SPOnG: How challenging was it to re-imagine some of these stages - City Escape in particular, seeings as you already had a 3D stage from Sonic Adventure 2 to work with?
In terms of City Escape, we already knew the answer for the modern re-interpretation, because in terms of gameplay experience it is very similar to the Dreamcast era. But the real headache came in making the stage as a classic Sonic level. It was really challenging - we constantly asked themselves how we could translate different elements of the level in a manner that was fun to play in 2D. It involved a lot of trial and error to get to the stage where we are today.
SPOnG: It was quite fun seeing the little Easter eggs youíve planted in the City Escape level - the Wanted posters for old forgotten characters like Bean the Dynamite and Bark the Polar Bear for example. What sort of references ?
(Laughs) Thank you! Well, since this is a celebration of the Sonic the Hedgehog
franchise, there are definitely other elements like that poster in the game that we hope will really surprise fans. We wonít announce all of them because we want the fans to discover them, but in the future we will certainly reveal some of the ways in which we are providing this level of fanservice.
SPOnG: Thank you for your time!