Game Development:Sonic Heroes
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From Sonic Retro
Revision as of 00:56, 30 April 2011
Sonic Heroes went through many ideas and changes during the development process. What follows is a collection of items related to the game's development.
Though Sonic Adventure 2: Battle, Sonic Adventure DX: Directors Cut, and Sonic Mega Collection had been released on the Nintendo Gamecube after Sega's departure from console manufacturing, there had not been a new 3D title in the Sonic the Hedgehog series since 2001. Knowing that the gaming public would be putting a lot of pressure on the group to see if they could still produce a quality, hit title without the backing of a Sega console, the team decided to try and appeal to as wide a userbase as possible, appealing to both old and new fans alike. Soon, work began on Sonic Heroes by the denizens of Sonic Team USA, once again led by Takashi Iizuka. Not wanting to simply make another Adventure title for fear only core gamers would purchase the title, the idea was thought up of having the game use a team-based system of gameplay, which had been experimented with in the nearly-forgotten Sega 32X title Chaotix.
Remembering the amount of chatter on the Internet about the lack of "Tails" in early Sonic Adventure 2 promotional material, fan's continuous clamor for the inclusion of their favorite characters, and requests to bring back those that had been used once or twice in obscure titles, it was decided that the playable roster of characters in Heroes would be the biggest yet. Having four teams with three members each, it was hoped that any complaints would vanquish with the satisfying of these demands.
Not just using the main cast of the two Adventure titles, it was decided that three of the Chaotix - Espio the Chameleon, Vector the Crocodile and Charmy Bee - would be resurrected for production of the game. Redesigned just as the classic cast had been to fit into the modern style by Yuji Uekawa, Iizuka decided to treat the Chaotix as if they were new characters, ignoring certain traits that had been established in the Japanese Chaotix manual that would have contradicted their intent in the game. Additionally, two new characters were created specifically for Heroes, those being E-123 Omega (a clear homage to E-102 Gamma who could not return due to story reasons) and Cream the Rabbit. Though drawn up for the game, the team felt that it would be better to first introduce the young rabbit girl and her pet Chao Cheese in the Game Boy Advance title Sonic Advance 2. Establishing her in the hand held title, it was done for two reasons, the first to make players familiar with her, the second to help make the handheld sequel feel fresh in comparison to its predecessor. The flying rabbit was also featured in a cameo in Sonic Adventure DX for similar reasons.
One character that was never intended to be playable, but was reintroduced regardless, was the fan-favorite villain Metal Sonic. Listening to fan demand that wanted to see the return of the mechanical menace, the team enlisted the original designer of the character, Kazuyuki Hoshino, to help with the redesign. Having been a part of Sonic Team for quite a while (including the Art Director for both Adventure titles) it only made sense for him to be involved in the reintroduction of one of his most successful characters. Though the redesign was in some ways drastic, and was teased in nearly every promotional trailer, the look was only briefly glanced at in-game.
Instead of restricting the game to just one platform, the development team wanted to have separate releases for all three major gaming consoles at the time, and the PC. In order to do this, Sega acquired the rights to use the RenderWare engine, a middleware platform for graphics rendering. Even with this additional work, the process of porting the game to the Playstation 2 and the Xbox proved more difficult than first anticipated, due to the team's unfamiliarity with consoles.
In order to hype up the release and reaffirm Sonic's status in the gaming world, the year of 2003 was called "The Year of Sonic" in numerous interviews across the board. With the premier of the animated series Sonic X, the first McDonalds Happy Meal tie-in in nearly a decade, and the release of multiple Sonic-related titles (including the port of Sonic Adventure and the Game Boy titles Sonic Pinball Party and Sonic Battle) the character of Sonic the Hedgehog was pushed in all corners, something that hadn't been done since the original release of Adventure. To add to the excitement of the new release, a demo of the game was included with some early copies of Mario Kart: Double Dash, hyping the console the game was first developed on. However, Sonic Heroes was only released in Japan that year on December 30th, not seeing western shores until February of 2004 and missing the coveted holiday push altogether, an unforseen delay in production being the cause.
The following is a collection of early renders for most of the characters in Sonic Heroes. Taken from Vision-Scape.
Level Concept Art