Yojiro Ogawa interview by Kikizo (February 20, 2007)
From Sonic Retro
Kikizo: What was behind your decision to base the game's story on the book, 1001 Nights?
Yojiro Ogawa: Since, as a company, we usually produce titles on multiple platforms, and we already had the Xbox 360 and PS3 version of Sonic under development, as a company we were told that we would also need to release a Sonic title for the Wii close to launch. When the team looked at the controls and the hardware, we realised that the hardware was very different compared to the 360 and PS3 version that was under development, and that we wouldn't be able to convert the game to Wii. So we started a completely different title. Also, since the key word for the Wii console was 'Revolution', we though we would like to revolutionise Sonic as well. And that is why I thought it would be very interesting to have Sonic go into a storybook, that would be a very new concept for a Sonic game, and that's how we came up with the Arabian Nights story.
Kikizo: In the game we have some of the characters from the Sonic universe associated with characters from the book, for example Eggman plays the King of Persia - but are there any links between this story to the core Sonic the Hedgehog series story?
Yojiro Ogawa: The familiar characters do appear in the story, but we don't have any links to the previous titles - we just wanted to create something different, in a different environment.
Kikizo: Let's talk about the control, obviously we've had demos of this game previously at the shows, did you receive any feedback from players of these earlier versions of the game, and were there any changes or improvements to the control that you've made since then?
Yojiro Ogawa: The reaction that we received, for example at E3 or TGS, we were aware of the kind of reactions we were going to get, including positive and negative - we did anticipate certain comments in advance. So we didn't really make changes based on these opinions and feedback, but originally we had this game so that you perform a 'speed break' or a 'time break' by just shaking the controller, we changed this function because the sensors were not really picking this up very well, so this was changed. But other than that, we didn't have anything specific that was changed.
Kikizo: So that's kind of similar to Super Monkey Ball on the Wii, right, because at first you had to shake the controller to jump but then they changed it allow you to use the button instead?
Yojiro Ogawa: Yes, since the controller is very unique with Wii, we will probably see the developers' plans change during development, as it is very different to work with. For this title, the team did originally intend to have the controller be used with just one hand, so that if you have an advanced player, they would be able to play it with one hand today, but we had the idea of just having the players twist their wrists but the X and Y axes didn't quite pick up the values we expected - especially the left and right movements were very difficult. So we changed to having it tilt left and right by holding it sideways. And also, as we were saying about the shaking of the controller, some people could actually perform the shaking of the controller by just dropping it down, but other times needed to lift then drop, or even lift, drop then lift again - it really varies, and depends on how the players use the control, so just having one shaking movement, it differs very much.
Kikizo: Are there any other methods of control we may see in the game?
Yojiro Ogawa: The team actually did a lot of experiments until we ended up with the way we use the controller in the game today. But I personally felt that using two controllers was splitting the controller up when in both hands, and I didn't feel that was very efficient, so in order for the players to experience a very new gameplay style, I wanted to have it the way it's used in the game today.
Kikizo: Have you had time to try the control with Super Mario Galaxy, and what is your opinion on how that title controls on the Wii?
Yojiro Ogawa: My opinion on Super Mario Galaxy, I feel it is a very great game, and the balance of using two controllers is probably calculated very well there, so I feel that is another gameplay style that people can pick up, but personally I feel the way we're using it today fits very well with this game.
Kikizo: I have heard there are a hundred new skills in the game which seems like a lot of new stuff for players to learn, could you maybe tell us what some of your favourites are?
Yojiro Ogawa: I will need to think through the list in my mind to try and decide! There are some different types of skill that we have in the game. There are three types, one is attack, one is speed, and the other is special. An attack allows Sonic to either increase his ability to defend or attack; speed allows to increase speed or slow down by different amounts, and special allows for a more special skill - one of them is for him to use the number of rings he has and do a very special skill! It is hard for me to come up with a favourite skill we have in the game, but one that I think users will enjoy is called Splash Jump which allows Sonic to jump over perhaps a wall that usually would only be jumpable after you turn on a switch. Another skill allows Sonic to slide through spikes where usually he would be damaged, but instead he slides through them.
Kikizo: Is the game still going to use the features of WiiConnect 24 in some way?
Yojiro Ogawa: The team originally planned to have connection on WiiConnect 24, but there were a lot of reasons that we can't so this title won't use that feature, even though we were developing for it and we did have a lot of plans.
Kikizo: We know there are a lot of other Sonic characters in the game as part of the story, but are any of them going to be playable at any stage during the game?
Yojiro Ogawa: Well there are two modes in the title, adventure mode and party mode, and in adventure mode you will only be able to play as Sonic, and you will only see the other familiar characters within the cut-scenes and the stories. In the party mode, you will be able to choose from eight different characters that people are very familiar with, and these party games will consist of forty different mini-games.
Kikizo: What was behind the name change from Wild Fire to Secret Rings?
Yojiro Ogawa: Originally we did want to proceed with Sonic Wild Fire, but we had a lot of discussions globally with each territory and I felt that we should choose a title that could have people think about the Arabian Nights theme and tone, and that is how we ended up with this title. Some of us were probably inspired by Aladdin in making the fix to the title.
Kikizo: With the story based on 'Arabian Nights', many of Sonic Team's fans are going to immediately think of NiGHTS, and the rumour of a new NiGHTS for Wii has just recently come up again I think in the Japanese press. Are you maybe trying to drop a hint?
Yojiro Ogawa: Haha. It is very interesting to hear this from the audience. But we currently do not have any plans for NiGHTS. [For the record, Kikizo believes that this is categorically not the case. But what were we going to do, start a fight with Mr Ogawa about it?].
Kikizo: I am not sure about the extent of your personal involvement in the new Sonic on Xbox 360 and PS3, but you must be aware of the issues the game has in terms of glitches, control problems and loading time. One thing a lot of customers have been asking is, how these issues can be in the final product, is there anything you can comment on in relation to this, for example the QA [testing] process of development?
Yojiro Ogawa: The reason why we probably ended up with what we see today, involves a lot of reasons. One is that we did want to launch the title around Christmas, and we had the PS3 launch coming up, but we had to develop for Microsoft's 360 at the same time and the team had an awful lot of pressure on them. It was very hard for the team to try and see how we were going to come out with both versions together with just the one team. It was a big challenge.
Kikizo: In one of our previous Sonic Team interviews, [Sonic Rush producer] Akinori Nishiyama told us how he is a big fan of the 2D style of Sonic gameplay and was keen to work on a sequel to Sonic Rush if it sold well, can you give us an update on any new 2D Sonic?
Yojiro Ogawa: Sonic is supported by fans, and this is why he is still here fifteen years on! And if there is a lot of demand for a sequel to Sonic Rush then it might happen, but we will have to see! So, probably we will be creating a 2D-style Sonic game again, but we don't know when and we don't have any details yet, but we might.
Kikizo: Thanks for your time Ogawa-san and good luck with Sonic Wii.
Yojiro Ogawa: Thank you!