SEGA is pushing Sonic into uncharted territories
While Takashi Iizuka, head game designer at the Sonic Team, is overseeing the development of Sonic Boom, all the core work is being done entirely by Western Studios. Why the drastic change? Why the scarf? Why does Knuckles look juiced up? Why the dubstep in the trailer reveal?
\”As part of completely thinking about the West, we wanted to make sure we had Western game developers and make it a part of Western television,\” Iizuka explained while speaking with Polygon. \”We wanted to make sure it was developed best for Western audiences primarily; this was very important.\”
\”The whole thing started with the television series,\” he elaborated. \”Our previous series, Sonic X, was made in Japan and influenced by Japanese anime; the main audience it was made for was in Japan, although it came to the West as well. So Sonic Boom is something made specifically for the Western audience. For the TV series to be successful, we pretty much had to make it for that audience, and the games tie into that strategy.\”
The Western development of the television series and game is all part of a \”synergy\” effort, Sega of America producer Stephen Frost told Polygon. Bob Rafei’s involvement in production of the game is no coincidence either, his experience with the Uncharted and Jak and Daxter franchise, both character-driven adventure game, is why SEGA specifically chose him.
\”One of the things is, if you think about it at a high level, all the key aspects of this new initiative for Sonic, whether it’s the cartoon, the game or the toys, is centered on the Western side, and we wanted to be unified in that,\”Iizuka continued. \”It’s very challenging to create an initiative like this where everything works in a nice synergy if you have a lot of people scattered around the world. Granted, we\’re doing our [animation] stuff in France, but really, the leads of each group are at Sega of America. And it was really important — I think this is where many other initiatives might fail — is that we really we see each other every day, we\’re talking to each other every day, and that was really important.\”
\”Sonic Team is great and they make really great speed-oriented games, but this game is not just about speed,\” he added of the title’s emphasis on combat. \”Speed is an important aspect of it, but exploration, combat and the strong narrative of the storyline are very big aspects of the game, more so than I would say in the past. So again, we wanted a strong storyline and art design that Western audiences can resonate a little bit better with the synergistic relation for all of us at Sega of America is why we drove toward a Western developer across the board.\”
Bob Rafei also claims that Sonic Boom will have a focus on story and will adopt a \”wide linear\” gameplay approach, making it more of a series of classic sandbox levels rather than a true open world game.
\”There’s moments where you\’re funneled back to the main gameplay and we have to do that also for the necessity of cooperative play, where we didn\’t want to have the two characters venture off in two different directions,\” he elaborated \”It’s a classic structured game, so we have the critical path, and part of our project pillars, among many, was to make sure that it’s accessible to new fans. So we want you to be able to finish the game but for fans who want more, you will have to find the additional, the secondary paths and all the hidden secrets.\”
And if you hadn\’t already guessed it, Sonic Boom is pulling quite a bit of inspiration from the Uncharted franchise, scarf and all.
\”We were exploring different outfits and we went through a lot of iterations and the scarf was something I\’ve used in the past and it works for me and it works for the character,\” he said. \”Really, the history of that comes from the old western days, with John Wayne, and as a kid watching a lot of those westerns, that really stuck with me. And you see the use of the afghan in a lot of action movies because of the soldiers and what’s happened with more association with the Middle East. So that DNA made its way into what makes a character action hero nowadays.\”
\”I was part of the team that created Uncharted, so it’s hard to take the DNA out of that,\” he said. \”We\’re making the games we want and want to play and it’s hard not to tap into, what feels right to you. And given our past with a lot of team members worked on Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, so you want to make sure we\’re not just doing the same thing. We took the best of what we know from those games and applied it to what works for Sonic canon. That was really important to us, not to make another Ratchet and Clank game or another Jak and Daxter game. It was important to make sure that it feels like a Sonic game.\”
As previously explained, the development team is looking to push a collaborative effort between the characters while having them maintain their own unique abilities.
In regards to Amy Rose, Rafei explains that she won\’t be hanging in the background as a subordinate character this time around. Instead, she will be more \”capable, agile and graceful\” for Sonic Boom, with her own authoritative attacks.
\”I want to bring more girls into gaming and have them play characters that they can associate with and not feel like they\’re created by just a bunch of men,\” Rafei said. \”I want her, if it’s just me purely, and I\’m sure the Sega team agrees with me, I want her to be see as a very capable character adventure character in herself. If she was to break out and have a game of her own you\’d probably get an idea of what that would look like based on this game.\”
Frost promises that we\’ll find comfort with the new Sonic despite all the changes that have been made. It’s the new collaborative player effort that long time Sonic fans will have to adapt to.
\”Not specifically towards that but for me, Sonic is about joyous movement,\” he said. \”Everything he does is that too maybe. But it’s a key thing. The reason we repeat this stuff is because, from a foundation sense, it’s what so important about these properties. And we wanted each character to navigate and do everything in their own unique way that really sells their personality. For example, Amy is very graceful, she’s like a ballerina. Everything she does which would normally be difficult for someone, she does with so much fluidity and grace. And yet, it balances out because she’s so awesome.\”
Finally, Iizuka confirmed to Polygon that the entire Sonic Boom universe won\’t make it to Japan for the time being. The show will debut in North America and France later this year, while the game is still \”coming soon.\” It should also be reiterated that the Sonic Boom universe is not a replacement to the main franchise headed up by Sonic Team.
Western support for the Wii U has not been abundant so I\’m personally excited to see SEGA’s efforts be successful. Any objections?