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Jeremy Jastrzab
28 Sep, 2011

TGS 2011: Sonic Generations Interview and Preview

PS3 Feature | The developers talk about their Generation.
Despite populating the fond nostalgic memories of many a gamer, the Sonic franchise has never quite been able to recapture its critical acclaim, despite many attempts. Having infiltrated popular media such as comics and cartoons though, Sonic has shown some impressive staying power and brand recall. 2011 marks the 20th anniversary since Sonic first raced across our screens, so the developers have come up with quite a treat: Sonic Generations.

To give us a low down on what makes Sonic Generations so special, three of the game’s leaders were on hand to tell us all about it. These were: Takashi Iizuka-san (Producer), Hiroshi Miyamoto-san (Director) and Jun Senoue-san (Sound Director). After getting some hands of time with both the PlayStation 3 and 3DS versions of the game, we got to have a chat with this panel of fine gentlemen.

A gathering of extraordinary gentlemans: Miyamoto-san, Jeremy-san, Iizuka-san and Senoue-san.

A gathering of extraordinary gentlemans: Miyamoto-san, Jeremy-san, Iizuka-san and Senoue-san.
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On the question of what was taken into account when this title was conceived and what it will do for the fans, Iizuka-san mentioned that the team felt that this was the most appropriate way of celebrating Sonic’s 20 year anniversary, and a way of looking back at looking back through Sonic’s history. Furthermore, that it will allow the players to recognise the Sonic elements from the past, while giving the newer players (who may only know the modern Sonic titles) a chance to experience the classical gameplay style. It was also mentioned that the team had done their best to pick the best levels from the past, and try to fit in 20 years of history into the one comprehensive package.

Miyamoto-san stated that is was not entirely the case that Sonic Generations was looking to purely play on nostalgic feelings. He went onto explain that the title was looking to add new experiences and to allow for new ‘interpretations’ of the stages, which all originated in previous games. Following up with a question on the sorts of new experiences, Miyamoto-san gave Green Hill as an example, where the modern level had to be adapted to be more action-orientated, while the original had more focus on loops and S curves. It was mentioned that the updated design will allow players to discover new paths and new ways of getting through the level as quickly as possible.

Isn't this what you're meant to avoid when time travelling.

Isn't this what you're meant to avoid when time travelling.
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When asked about the difficulty between balancing the integrity of the classic titles and the expectations of modern games, both Iizuka-san and Miyamoto-san agreed that this was the most difficult aspect of the development. However, the developers had a plan to try and make sure that the classic stages had their integrity intact, while adding in the modern perks. Apparently, they all spent hours playing through the original titles, in order to extract the appealing essence of each. And by doing so, they felt that this allowed them to recognise the best aspects of the original titles and they are confident that they managed to strike a good balance.

When talking about what was missed, Iizuka-san mentioned that there was no way that they could fit in all of the past Sonic titles into Generations. After all, there are over 60 Sonic titles overall, particularly when spin offs are taken into account as well. So for example, there will not be any elements included from Sonic Pinball. Instead, there was a focus on the more mainstream titles, which Iizuka-san claimed was a tough job in itself. In the end, the development team settled on a set number of titles from each era that they felt were the best and most representative of what Sonic is about.

So are you modern...

So are you modern...
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When talking about the handling of sound and music within the game, Senoue-san chipped in that players will definitely be hearing familiar sounds and melodies. In the case of the classic tunes, they had been composed with their original spirit intact, while trying to reflect the new additions to the game, and modernising the sound quality. While the treatment was applied to the more modern tunes, has been more along the lines of updating the tunes so they all fit together with the overall game.

When speaking about the structure of the game, Miyamoto-san mentioned that players will be able to go through the game “chronologically”, meaning that players will start off with stages from the very first Sonic title and play through to the most recent ones. However, it was mentioned that it will be possible for players to focus on one ‘era’. The option will be there to play through purely as classical Sonic, or as modern Sonic. Or possibly even a mix of the two. Either way, the developers wanted to make sure that there was some freedom of choice for how the players wanted to progress.

... Or classic?

... Or classic?
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Each of the three panelists was asked what they thought made the ‘essence’ of a Sonic title. Miyamoto-san summed it up in one word: Speed. After all, this is what made Sonic famous. For Iizuka-san, it was the core evolution across the years in gameplay and action, that the Sonic gameplay style was its own and came about long before Sonic was a star in the other mediums that people may remember him by. Senoue-san returned to music for his answer, saying that to him, Sonic was about a mix of “catchy and edgy”. And despite this being something of a contradiction, he felt that this was essential to the character and something that he wished to bring out in the music as well.

And finally, when asked about which style or era they preferred, all three laughed and emphatically proclaimed “we like both!”

The game itself was on display in the corner as well. While playable from both the modern and classic perspectives, the PlayStation 3 version had one level playable: Seaside Hill from Sonic Heroes. The classical perspective was more about platforming and speed, while searching for the numerous new paths that could get you to the finish line quicker. Interestingly, you could actually spot different parts of the level in both the back and foreground. Otherwise, the modern perspective was still within its action orientated ways. Experienced Sonic players seemed to receive both perspectives quite well, with a Spanish gentleman from Meristation blitzing ‘S’ ranks for both. Incidentally, the game tries to add an indicator for players, which will tell you if there is some sort of hazard coming up, possibly taking out some of the trial and error from the game.

Some things will always remain.

Some things will always remain.
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As Sonic fans cling onto the potential revival of their favourite franchise, Sonic Generations is trying to take the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, too many false starts in the past, such as the failed episodic ventures with Sonic 4, have left many quite weary. Something that is encouraging though, is it’s definitely trying more than the recent spate of HD ports and it’s clear that the developers have their intentions in the right place. As such, Sonic Generations has the best chance yet to move on from past failures. The question then though, where to after that?

PALGN would like to thank Sega for organising this interview, as well as Takashi Iizuka-san (Producer), Hiroshi Miyamoto-san (Director) and Jun Senoue-san (Sound Director) for the lovely chat.

Related Sonic Generations Content

Sonic Generations Launch Trailer
02 Nov, 2011 Sonic Boom.
Sonic Generations Review
01 Nov, 2011 And every night, I lay awake, and I find no conclusion. Every night, it just stays the same, and I dream of an absolution.
Sonic Generations Review
26 Nov, 2011 How does Sega's magnum opus fare on 3DS?
2 Comments
2 years ago
I think this game will be it, the ultimate closure for fans who were left hanging after the Dreamcast era. Only a month to go now!

Good article, all signs look positive... and OMG Shadow the Hedgehog is in one of the screenshots!!
2 years ago
ok so we've seen Tails and Shadow now? Can we confirm that we're in stage 2 yet? Gameplay still seems good though. Stage 1.5?
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  03/11/2011 (Confirmed)
Publisher:
  Sega
Year Made:
  2011

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