Takashi Iizuka interview by Pocket Gamer (September 2nd, 2011)
From Sonic Retro
This is an interview with Takashi Iizuka conducted by Mike Rose for Pocket Gamer, and is mostly focused on the then upcoming Sonic Generations. Paragraph breaks in the original interview have been removed for easier reading.
For years, Sonic fans have been clamouring for a Sonic title that takes the series back to its roots, with classic 2D side-scrolling and less of this 3D mumbo jumbo. With the 20th anniversary of Sonic's first outing, it appears that Sega has finally listened, with the upcoming Sonic Generations looking mighty tasty. Original Sonic Team producer Takashi Iizuka has had a hand in almost every Sonic title since Sonic and Knuckles, but he's taken more of a backseat when it comes to defining what exactly Sonic is. Now he's back in full control, ready to shift gear and bring Sonic back up to speed. Pocket Gamer sat down with the Sega legend and asked the questions that are on everyone's minds.
Pocket Gamer: How did you choose the levels to bring back from old Sonic games for Sonic Generations?
Takashi Iizuka: Everyone on the team has their own personal opinions about which are the best Sonic levels. But we didn't want to make the decision purely internally, so we tried to get the opinions of a wider range of people. We did a survey internally first of all to get ideas from people on the team - not just the guys in the studio, but anyone in the company. Then we did an online survey, where we asked our users and got their feedback.
Pocket Gamer: Will we see more old levels resurrected after Sonic Generations?
Takashi Iizuka: Sonic Generations is a bit of an odd release, as it was made as part of Sonic's anniversary to commemorate his existence. So we took the liberty of putting together classic Sonic and modern Sonic, with their different game mechanics. It's something that we only allow ourselves this one anniversary title, and we probably won't do something like this in other Sonic titles.
Pocket Gamer: How will the game use the 3DS functionality?
Takashi Iizuka: So in the 3DS version of this game, we decided to make all of the levels side-scrolling, even the levels that we picked for modern Sonic. We wanted to make the best use of the 3D vision, as it's one of the key features of the console. So there's a lot of moments where we use the depth of the stereoscopic 3D to enhance the gameplay. Some examples - in Green Hill Zone, there are the famous totem poles in the background, and these will fall into the foreground in certain circumstances. Then in Mushroom Hill Zone, you see some moments where Sonic will be rushing through the vines, and these will be thrown about by his speed.
So there are all kinds of different gimmicks and ideas that make use of the 3D vision. But not only that, but we're using other features of the console too, such as StreetPass. We haven't announced the StreetPass details yet, but you'll be able to interact with other Sonic Generations players and exchange certain elements of data.
Pocket Gamer: How do you feel about the 3DS? Do you see yourself making more games for it in the future?
Takashi Iizuka: The best part of the 3DS is obviously, as the name shows, the 3D view, and the fact that it is made available for everyone, so you don't need to buy special equipment. With the console version of Sonic Generations, we have 3D vision, but players obviously need to have the right equipment to enjoy it. That's really the best thing about the 3DS - and yes, I would like to continue making games for the 3DS.
Pocket Gamer: So do the levels differ between the console and 3DS versions of the game?
Takashi Iizuka: Between the console version and the 3DS version, the selection of levels are quite different. The only level that appears in both versions is Green Hill Zone. The reason is, we wanted to celebrate the anniversary of 20 years of Sonic by including levels from every Sonic title. But obviously, due to size limits, we could only choose a selection of levels So when we made our selection, we realised how difficult it was to choose from all the games and all the levels, and it was just not possible to select so few of them. That's when we decided to select different levels for each version of the game. So if you buy both the console and 3DS versions, you get to the see the full vision and scope of the history of Sonic.
Pocket Gamer: Sonic is still hugely popular, but Sonic games of the last several years have been less well received than those from, say, 15 years ago. Why do you think that is?
Takashi Iizuka: So originally it was more or less the same team working on all the different Sonic titles, but after a few years, for various reasons, we started to delegate Sonic games to different groups of people. And everyone in the office has their own idea of what Sonic should be, so we started to see slightly varied, slightly different directions of Sonic games. I was conscious of this, so I'm now back with full responsibility of all things Sonic. I have control over the direction of not just Sonic Generations, but all the Sonic titles that we will develop in the future. So I have more control, and hopefully this will provide better appearances for future titles.
Pocket Gamer: What's next for Sonic?
Takashi Iizuka: Sonic Generations sort of acts as the end of one period. After Sonic Generations, we will work on new Sonic titles. There's going to be a whole new adventure, of course. For the digital and mobile space, we have Sonic 4 - Episode 1 is already out, and we've already started creating Episode 2. We're going to continue to explore the reimaginationing of classic Sonic, but at the same time we will also keep looking into the gaming space around modern Sonic games.
- Original interview at Pocket Gamer