After nearly a decade of splintered fanbases and below-average titles, the future of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise is looking extremely bright. And Sonic Team boss Takashi Iizuka is leading that charge.
Some may say that fact is rather surprising, given his hit-and-miss track record ? the excellent Sonic Adventure
series followed by the rather weak Shadow the Hedgehog
Since then he's taken a very hands-off approach to running the house of Sonic, particularly following Yuji Naka's departure in 2006. But it's safe to say that he's learned a lot from his time away from the development helm.
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
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.
I already had a good chat with the producer just over a month ago
? today, I wanted to learn more about what Sonic Colours
' design means for the Sonic
franchise as a whole, why the change from post-apocalyptic settings and 'epic' storylines, and what he actually means when he said this game was intended for a 'younger audience.'
SPOnG: Where do the inspirations come from for each of the Wisp powers?
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.
SPOnG: You've said that you looked back at Sonic Unleashed when designing the gameplay elements of Sonic Colours. Did you look further back into the series for other inspirations?
Takashi Iizuka: Sonic Unleashed
was actually more specialised in the high-speed action of the series, and we certainly took something from that. But if you look at many of the other Sonic
titles, such as Sonic Adventure
and the classic games, you'll find that the series has always been about speed and platforming in equal measure.
is going back to the origins by focusing on that balance. 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.