Takashi Iizuka interview by Danny Russell (September 17, 2010)

From Sonic Retro

This is an interview conducted by Danny Russell, with Takashi Iizuka. This interview mostly deals with Sonic the Hedgehog 4 and Sonic Colours.

The Interview

Danny Russell: With the successes of Capcom’s recent Mega Man 9 and 10 as well as Nintendo’s New Super Mario Bros., has Sonic Team considered making new Sonic games in the style of the old Mega Drive series (using the original graphics, sounds and core gameplay mechanics)?

Takashi Iizuka: Sonic 4: Episode 1 is probably going to fit into that mould. While the graphics are obviously greatly improved upon the original Mega Drive version they try to implement the original controls and much of the original feel.

Danny Russell: You mentioned the iPhone version of Sonic 4: Episode 1… are there any plans to release the game on other handheld platforms like the Nintendo DS or PSP?

Takashi Iizuka: Currently there are no plans for that.

Danny Russell: A Sonic game is listed to come out for the Nintendo 3DS – can you tell us anything more about it? Is it going to be a 2D side-scrolling game, for example?

Takashi Iizuka: Unfortunately we can’t say too much about the Sonic 3DS game. What we can say for now is that we’re trying to release this game as soon as possible.

Danny Russell: When you decide to add a new play mechanic to a Sonic game, what is the thought process that goes into that?

Takashi Iizuka: It’s quite dependent on what kind of Sonic product it’s going to be. It depends on the content of each product. What’s common for all these titles is that the team tries to implement something surprising and new every time they come up with a new title. In the case of Sonic Colours, this new experience is obviously coming from Sonic’s new colour powers, so its dependent on the product. The concept and the high-speed nature of Sonic also improve the gameplay but the surprise that you want to give to the users is what drives the team to create new ideas.

Danny Russell: Are there any plans for Sonic Team to work on any new or old franchises?

Takashi Iizuka: Obviously because the development team have just recently finished the development of Sonic Colours and Sonic 4, they are still in the process of thinking of what they want to move on to, but the team wants to try for some new ideas, gameplay and products. It’s still pretty much up in the air.

Danny Russell: Would you like to?

Takashi Iizuka: Yeah, we want to create something new – that’s the bottom line!

Danny Russell: Considering the upgraded port of NiGHTS to the PS2 in Japan a couple of years ago, are there any plans to re-release NiGHTS to XBLA or PSN?

Takashi Iizuka: Unfortunately there are not any plans for that.

Danny Russell: Are there any plans to get Masato Nakamura back to do more music for the Sonic series?

Takashi Iizuka: It’s probably quite difficult because Mr. Nakamura has become a huge artist in Japan so he’s probably really hard to get hold of.

Danny Russell: How about Richard Jacques?

Takashi Iizuka: Richard still has a relatively close relationship with Sega’s Music Studios. The team would like to keep their relationship with him and possibly work on future projects as well.

Danny Russell: In the past ten years, most of the 2D Sonic games have been worked on, at least partially, by Dimps. Could you explain what the special relationship is between Sonic Team and Dimps?

Takashi Iizuka: We have an interesting relationship with Dimps. It obviously started with the Sonic Advance series and we have been working with them specifically on 2D Sonic titles – mostly for handhelds. Sonic Team believes that they are very good at that genre. We really respect their game design experience, their technology and the methods they use. So we would like to maintain a relationship and potentially also work on future titles as well.

Danny Russell: What do you consider your greatest achievement during your time at Sonic Team?

Takashi Iizuka: It’s very difficult for me to come up with one title that I’m most proud of because I have a long history with Sonic Team starting from Sonic 3. Now I’m in a position where I’m the producer of Sonic titles, the new one being Sonic Colours. I’ve experienced different positions and different difficulties but, you know, looking at the entire Sonic franchise I’m proud of, probably, everything.

Danny Russell: After the recent announcement of ChuChu Rocket! coming to the iPad and iPhone, can you confirm that a version for XBLA or PSN will follow?

Takashi Iizuka: No, other than the things we have announced we can’t say anything about it.

Danny Russell: Can you elaborate on Sonic Colours’ “Sonic Simulator” stages? There are some elements of classic layouts in existing videos such as Green Hill and Marble Zone. How far will these touches of nostalgia extend to the other Simulator stages?

Takashi Iizuka: In terms of the “Sonic Simulator”, the multiplayer side of Sonic Colours, there are a few classic Sonic moments spread throughout the stages. We can’t really say which one is which yet or how many there are to find as this is something that the users would want to find out themselves when the game is released. It’s something that they’ll have to keep their eyes out for!

Danny Russell: Thanks very much for your time, we really appreciate it!

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