Q&A: Sonic Team on Sonic Unleashed

Sonic Team director Yoshihisa Hashimoto talks about the tech behind Sonic Unleashed, making the hedgehog a brawler as well as a speedster, and why he thinks this will be the best Sonic game since the Dreamcast era.

Sonic's had a patchy history in recent years, with some of the blue hedgehog’s recent efforts failing to impress fans. Developer Sonic Team is looking to trump all of the recent offerings with Sonic Unleashed, a new game that puts the focus back on speed, as well as introduces an action/fighting game element with the introduction of the Werehog, a new form Sonic takes during certain parts of the game. We spoke to Sonic Team director Yoshihisa Hashimoto about the new game engine they built for Unleashed, why they decided to add the Werehog, and how this game will stack up against the great Sonic games of the past.

GameSpot AU: From what we've seen of the game so far, the emphasis seems to be well and truly back on speed. What sort of things does your new engine--the Hedgehog Engine--do to facilitate that sense of speed?

Yoshihisa Hashimoto: The Hedgehog Engine we developed has excellent ability in expressing detailed light and shadow and data streaming, in addition to all the other features that usual game engines have. To accommodate Sonic’s super high speed, longer levels have more than 15km of distance, making it impossible to mount everything on memory. So in order not to go under Sonic’s speed, we are streaming terrain (geography) data in high speed. Also, a lot of effort has been put into developing shader and blur processes to give a sense of speed. Also, sound effects and other things are employed to emphasize the speed.

Meet the Werehog, Sonic's brawling alter ego.

GS AU: What's the plot? We hear Dr. Eggman/Robotnik has sliced up the world somehow?

YH: Eggman has used the vast force of the chaos emeralds and shot out a chaos energy cannon right into the planet, thus waking up the gigantic ancient monster, Dark Gaia, from its eternal sleep. When Dark Gaia wakes up, the world is subsequently torn apart into seven pieces. Sonic, who was at the site when the chaos emerald energy was vacuumed up, experiences changes in his body. His hair grows, his fangs and claws come out, and he’s turned into a monster--the Werehog.

GS AU: What other characters can we expect to see from the Sonic universe? Will Sonic be the only playable character?

YH: This time we focused on Sonic gameplay; 99 percent of the action is played as Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Werehog. In the story, Tails makes his appearance, and users can play a shooting game controlling his aircraft, the "Tornado."

GS AU: The game switches gears when it comes to night, with Sonic turning into a Werehog. We hear these sections become more like platform/fighting game. Why did you decide to switch up gameplay in this way? How much of the game will be at night?

YH: The percentage would vary according to your play styles and your tastes. But generally, about 60 percent will be daytime play and about 40 percent nighttime play. The Werehog sections are centered on fighting, platforming, and puzzle-solving play. That means its game nature is much different from Sonic the Hedgehog, and its format is rather like action games, which is popular among general users. One of our aims with the Werehog is to approach those who love action games but never played Sonic. This will be an easy introduction to deliver them with Sonic’s charm. And another is to provide original big fans of Sonic with fresh plays with the Werehog and to make them love him even more. We can do this big challenge because we have confidence in the contents of Sonic the Hedgehog’s adventure this time.

GS AU: Tell us more about the abilities Sonic will sport as a Werehog?

YH: He has stretch arms. And he is powerful. He fights by hitting enemies from long distances, holding, lifting and throwing them using his extendable arms. He can climb cliffs with his stretchy arms and shift from pole to pole in Tarzan-like manner. He can also destroy rock walls and doors that are blocking his way with powerful punches.

GS AU: Can you talk about online or multiplayer modes at all? What are you planning for both?

YH: We have no plans for online or multiplayer. However, in the future we may consider the possibility of additional maps via online if there is the demand.

GS AU: Sonic Team's back in the driving seat again for this one. Obviously, the team has a lot of experience in Sonic games. What sort of improvements can we expect? What little things have they tweaked to make the experience more fun?

YH: They have appeared in so many Sonic series products around the world, starting from Genesis. We have extracted and taken in all the good points from those games and integrated them with original ideas. So Sonic Unleashed is the grand sum of all the Sonic the Hedgehog games. I think we can offer the best Sonic the Hedgehog game since we made the first Sonic 3D game on Dreamcast.

As for the adjustments and twists we made on Sonic; first of all, we greatly increased Sonic’s speed itself compared with the past titles. I think it is a very easy-to-understand change, which highlights the Sonic concept more clearly. Thanks to this, difficulties with production dramatically increased, such as more challenging level designs, increasing amount in creating data, demand for higher data-streaming speed, and much harder behavioral controls. And in order to condense the good points of past Sonics dynamically and efficiently, we adopted game design that alternately mixes gameplay seamlessly: 3D and 2.5D points of view. This made it possible to contain both the dynamics and speed of 3D and the fast-changing acrobatic and precise actions of 2.5D without failing anything.

GS AU: Yoshihisa Hashimoto, thanks for your time.

Written By

Randolph is the managing editor of GameSpot, and needs more time to play games.

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Discussion

83 comments
GameSpotFan1987
GameSpotFan1987

My opinion on the matter : I believe that the game directors are right in calling Sonic Unleashed 'the sum of all good things' because, by the look of things it really does seem like it is packing the great sense of speed from the earlier games with the action-adventure parts from the 'modern times'. Anyone who says that the older Sonic games had no sense of speed, they should play Sonic 2! Especially the Chemical Plant level, where you'd go so fast Sonic would shoot off the screen! I am sure that all Sonic fans who know what I'm talking about will have to agree with me! I must also add that even though such speeds have also been tempted or pulled off in the 'modern' Sonic games, quirky camera movements or sudden re-positionings would make you lose your sense of direction. For instance, you're running on a high speed and all of a sudden the camera decides to make a 180 degrees turn, thus facing the opposite direction of where you're actually going. That or unhandy controls make the camera do that. But no matter how many words are spilled about past successes (or failures) we must all agree on one simple thing : Sonic is nothing more then awesome, and the music scores they pick out for their Sonic games are always cool to listen to no matter how often you listen to them! I myself am a fan of rock and metal, so I can personally always appreciate the speed in the songs. Plus, it's a good establishment to who Sonic is, what is view on life is and the way he thinks or acts. All in all, the music in Sonic games is always just cool! To finalize this rant, I really hope that Sonic Unleashed will live up to my expectations. But I guess that we all have that hope now don't we! This game is looking out to become, I don't know .. A modern-day remake of the original Sonic games, Sonic 2 or 3 .. You know, something like that

asixjo
asixjo

the game really needs to come out on a new sega console to be a big hit they need to bring out a dreamcast 2

eliteman24
eliteman24

From what I can see, this whole Werehog thing looks like a copy paste from Shadow The Hedgehog

KOSMOSEngineer
KOSMOSEngineer

I REALLY hope this is good. I love sonic and I miss him. I'll keep an open mind about the werehog thing, but I think they'd be surprised how well a sonic game would do with just speed. Think of the Sonic/Shadow levels from Sonic Adventure 2, if a game was all levels like that I'd be happy.

Mariois1
Mariois1

Let's face it, the game 'might' do good but with other games coming out for the Xbox 360 its not going to sell all that much. This game for the Wii is going to sell a lot more.

CatChick2
CatChick2

I dunno how the whole 'Werehog' thing will turn out. It seems like a stupid add-on to get more people to buy the game, but I'm willing to try it.....

megamaster32
megamaster32

At least you only control the tornado and aircraft of tails

satreed
satreed

i think the game is gonna be great bt i dont wanna get my hopes up coz it might dissapoint me like the other sonic games. especially sonc heroes. the best sonic game ever was sonic 2 on sega mega drive.

gamemanyeah
gamemanyeah

It's most likey going to be the best sonic game.

SmashSamurai
SmashSamurai

@minimullen: Are you nuts?! You won't buy the game because Ryan will not voice Sonic? Man, are you said! First; there is no such thing as a proper voice! There can be more than one voice actor for any fictional character; Second; you must be a sad person in reality! Sonic's speed is what defines how cool he is; not a voice actor that foolish Sonic fan wannabes like you want to voice Sonic again! And third; considering how great the Day and Night gameplay looks; Sonic can do without Ryan voicing him; because the gameplay and some other stuff overwhelm the voice acting in coolness and importance! So, minimullen, just get over it! Ryan won't be coming back! And complaining and begging Sega for him to return will not make it any more possible! Besides, not buying the game for a voice actor over the millions-of-times better gameplay is so ridiculous! This game looks great, by the way.

MasterLink01
MasterLink01

looks pretty goo. but i still am skeptical about the werehog areas. this better not have nearly the amount of load times the last sonic game did. i almost punched a baby out of sheer frustration

ICRMON
ICRMON

This game looks so cool! I've never had any problems with Sonic games, and it looks like this one will deliver big time. I wish it would come out for PC! Werehog could cause a problem, though. . .

erazor521
erazor521

You've got to be kidding me. There is actually a comment demanding that Ryan Drummond should return. As if that's going to make the game any better. That would be like Nintendo rehiring the voice actor from Hotel Mario hoping it will make the next seven Mario parties better. Seriously Drummond fanboys. Get over it.

stan105
stan105

looks cool but kinda worried about the werehog gameplay -_-. And hopefully this will give sonic a start back to his glory days

Elite_Baller
Elite_Baller

No Online Multiplayer? This just crushed my hopes for this game.

TheYoshster
TheYoshster

Best game since Sonic Adventure my @$$!!!! No game can beat SA1 or SA2!

MattJCorcoran
MattJCorcoran

60/40? -_- Wonderful Sega. Wonderful. I get really excited when they do something right, but why couldn't it have been closer to 80/20? SA2 was good. It's the reason I bought a Dreamcast. But the only Sonic games that were anywhere near perfect were 'Sonic 3 & Knuckles' and 'Sonic CD'. At least it doesn't look like they're adding any new characters to try and complicate storylines even more. But I agree with the people who say they should've used Knuckles instead of the Werehog. They could've done what they did in S3&K. Make him decently fast, but still the fighter.

Tebbit
Tebbit

This is the sonic game everyone has been waiting for I think, Its just 2D Sonic, but with 3D graphics, at least most of the time. Looking forward to this!

MichaelRD777
MichaelRD777

ok,most of you guys are saying that the game will suck because of the werehog.c'mon,the demo isn't even out yet and you're already bashing the final product.play the demo first.it should be released a few weeks before the final product comes out

slickvic1990
slickvic1990

i think the werehog segments are gonna drag this game down. think about it, all the best sonic games focus on SONIC THE HEDGEHOG!!!! it was when new playable characters were introduced that sonic fell off. (with the exception of old games like sonic and knuckles)They should just stick to sonic, and thats it. whenever they try to get "creative", they mess up

tuznecote
tuznecote

I've been hard on the werehogs gameplay but it could be fun... well to be honest it looks a tad more fun than the forced sonic levels i have seen in the recent trailer :(.

DarkSmokeNinja
DarkSmokeNinja

So far this game sound like the perfect Sonic game to buy.

Willy105
Willy105

50% perfect, 50% average That makes for an above average game!

star77241
star77241

"popular among general users" This explains a lot. They're trying to cater to new people. They need to go back to the original formula. They could add minigames as unlockables that would have stuff that they would like to try. Then they could see the response to the minigames and add what people liked to the actual game. This is as bad as what Ubisoft did to Rayman with the Raving Rabbids.

Oozaru_Kakkarot
Oozaru_Kakkarot

Werehog...ok...whats with the strechy arms?... Its sad...on a bad day with an army of blood thursty lepercons trying to eat me I could still write a better story then the past 5 sonic games put together...seriously sega...if ur gameplay is gunna suck atleast give us a decent story...

FireCrossHalo
FireCrossHalo

STOP adding new crap, the werehog...seriously? could be bad could be good, but i think it will be bad, change my mind sonic team!!

minimullen
minimullen

A character is not complete without a proper voice, Sonics Current voice actor does not cut it. I will not purchase a Sonic game until Ryan Drummond Comes Back.

cloud12892
cloud12892

Please, please, PLEASE let this be the game that sonic gets back on the track of awesome games. I am half/half about the werehog but if this game is good then this should tell the developers to make games like this again. If not then i am gonna be sad to day that sonic is officially dead for games. Why can't they use the Sonic Adventure formula in which each character has a role in the game like SA 1 and 2. I hope this game is good.

sonicnewgen360
sonicnewgen360

ya know I hate to say it but I think Sega is losing it, waht was wrong with the way sonic used to be! they're turning him into some wierd fantasy franchise he used to be more like scince fiction. Now I am pretty pleased with the sonic gameplay but do they have to stick that stupid werehog in it? if they want you to play as a powerful character why can't you just be knuckles? I'm been sceptical of this game ever since I first heard about it and all this stuff sega is doing is making me start to dislike sonic and don't even get me started with sonic chonicles . Hopefully sega might go back to the way sonic used to be like in sonic adventure or heroes.

AzureWind213
AzureWind213

november can't come soon enough. I sure hope the speedy stages are as good as they look!

Senor_Kami
Senor_Kami

Hmmm... I hated Sonic Adventure so i'm not too happy to hear this game is going to be as "good" as that game. The videos make it seem like its more like Sonic 1-3 and CD though.

deadlycolour
deadlycolour

I loved Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, this game should be awesome but if its anything thats gonna kill this game, its going to be the werehog, just hope the were hog is good

BelmontMaster
BelmontMaster

As long as the fighting system isn't to bad, this game will probably get a 7 max review from anyone.

Ardus
Ardus

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Ardus
Ardus

Gay Knuckles would whoop the Werehog's ass with his bare fists.

darkknight109
darkknight109

"This is crap.. you obviously don't like Sonic and never liked it at all. All sonic games since Dreamcast are awesome, some have more bugs and other less." Either you never played Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog, Sonic 2006, or Sonic and the Secret Rings or you're being blinded by fanboyism. And before you start, I am one of Sonic's biggest fans. I still hold that SatAM Sonic was easily the greatest cartoon ever made and the Sonic games up to and including both Sonic Adventures represent some of the finest examples of gameplay, level design and musical innovation seen in a video game. The ones that have come since are of a distinctly more mixed bag and even some of the ones I did enjoy (Sonic Rush and its sequel, Sonic Advance 3 and the Sonic Riders games) failed to capture the same magic the original Sonic had due to an increased emphasis on image instead of focussing on gameplay like they should be. Sonic used to create his own image and define what cool was. Now, it seems, he tries to mimic what's currently popular and just comes off looking like a poser...

bwats84
bwats84

sonic adventure 1 & 2 were great....hopefully they have kick ass music like from those two games.

bwats84
bwats84

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Anderjak
Anderjak

I think the fact Hashimoto was more than willing to admit none of the 3D StH games have gotten anywhere near the same quality as the Adventure games at least proves they know the games have not done nearly as well both critically and financially. From what I've seen of the videos, the level designs are back to a more classic look, and are pretty well done. Considering the past games have had less and less gameplay with Sonic by having more and more characters to mess with, it's refreshing to see it pared down to just two "full" characters, Sonic and the Werehog. Keeping it to a small number without completely singling out Sonic might be the best maneuver, considering the variety it offers. It helps that we can still play as the Tornado once or twice. I'm giving this one a chance.

xDuke
xDuke

mjc0961 Posted Sep 11, 2008 5:00 am PT "a new game which puts the focus back on speed, as well as introducing an action/fighting game element with the introduction of the Werehog" Yeah, contradict much? "It's going back to speed just like all the other games were too EXCEPT for this part where he turns into something else to slow everything the **** down like all the annoying **** you had to do with other characters in Sonic Adventure 1 and 2." This game is already fail, just like the one being developed by Bioware. Sonic is dead. Let him rest in peace already. " Dark_knight109 Posted Sep 11, 2008 1:10 am PT You know, every new Sonic game we get the same schpiel: "We're putting the emphasis back on speed/Sonic, we're putting a lot of work into it and this one is going to be the one to top the Sonic Adventures." And every time it turns out to be a huge lie with each game a larger and more fragrant steaming pile of crap than the last." Agreed 100%. They couldn't even get a port of the very first Sonic the Hedgehog game to run without problems. A port for crying out loud! How much more do they have to screw up before SEGA starts firing these dip-****s? --- This is crap.. you obviously don't like Sonic and never liked it at all. All sonic games since Dreamcast are awesome, some have more bugs and other less. You shouldn't come here talking about sonic if you don't even like it. Now for everyone saying that 3D sucks and 2D rocks, have you ever played, or even saw pictures or videos for Sonic Rush? I don't think so, because the game is so great and you never even mentioned it.

moose3469
moose3469

this game has the potential to be good. If the platform werewolf sections are made like Ratchet and Clank or other such games i will be contempt with the switch. The speed sections look great though, I have high hopes for this game, but i have been let down in the past. We shall see, until then ¡Viva la Hedgehog!

DDR_Midian
DDR_Midian

"Sonic 3d = Fail Sonic 2d = Epic Win" They probably don't know considering how many people think Sonic Adventure 1&2 are awesome.. and rightly so.

Witchsight
Witchsight

Sonic 3d = Fail Sonic 2d = Epic Win They already know this, why do they put so much effort into forgetting? Learn from Braid and Castle Crashers and everything else.... 2D is still alive, stop ignoring the option NAO!

EnaVRi
EnaVRi

This game should rock, or else Sonic will be lose it's popularity...

blackie8
blackie8

well if they said sonic was going to be3 the only character then they added tails hmmm better stick to their word

BatrozX
BatrozX

At first I was just optimistic...but now that Hashimoto mentions that there's a minigame with the Tornado... O_O I'm 75% sure this game is going to rock.I've missed the Tornado and it's about time it returned. I loved Sonic Adventure, and I liked the sequel too. I really don't think that making a 2D game with 3D graphics will make Sonic games better, I mean, look at Mario, in his 2D games he just jumps and stomps, but in his 3D games he does things differently and so should Sonic. As long as there is enough platforming on Sonic's stage than just running and more running, this game will be a BLAST. And the hedgehog engine...looks beautiful. And...NO multiplayer, that's also some good news, leave the multiplayer stuff for other games, no the epic ones (just like Mario).

Mattyrock
Mattyrock

While I'm still not postivite on this Sonic title, let's just hope they don't f*** it up like last time. The Werehedgehog thing is kinda intriguing, but I'm still not impressed because I fear the speed stages when trasisting to 3D view, the controls. I'm worried about the loose controls (like in Next-gen which sucked), hopefully they can make it right this time. I'd wait for a demo and rental.