Earlier this month, Sega teased a new multiplatform game in celebration of Sonic the Hedgehog's 20th anniversary. The 50-second-long trailer revealed little in the way of details: All that was clear was that two Sonics would somehow make an appearance.
Now, Sega has revealed the new game--titled Sonic Generations--will feature both classic 2D side-scrolling gameplay and a snazzier, more modern 3D version. Sega has put two Sonics together in Sonic Generations, encompassing 20 years of Sonic's history. The game will be set across the three defining eras--the 2D Mega Drive/Genesis era, the Dreamcast era, and the modern-day HD graphics era--and will give players the choice of playing each stage in either classic side-scrolling 2D (with classic Sonic and his classic abilities) or in modern-era 3D (with modern Sonic and his modern abilities).
We sat down with long-serving Sonic franchise producer Takashi Iizuka to find out more about the game and the ideas behind its conception.
GameSpot: How did the idea for Sonic Generations come about? Why do you feel it is important to celebrate the franchise's 20th anniversary with a new game?
Takashi Iizuka: The start line for the creation of Sonic Generations was to create something to commemorate Sonic's 20th anniversary. The reason to celebrate 20 years in this way is that 20 years is a huge milestone; it covers two generations (like, say, between father and son). With the crossover of the two generations, it is really important to mark this with a brand new game. Previously, we have created commemorative titles to mark other anniversaries, but this time, this game can only be created to mark this huge milestone in Sonic's history.
GS: What sets this new title apart from past Sonic games?
TI: Sonic Generations encompasses 20 years of Sonic history, and we will be revisiting many of the Sonic iconic levels that everybody has come to love. Instead of just creating new levels, we have given people the opportunity to revisit iconic stages that have been completely re-created in full HD graphics using the Hedgehog engine. Also for the first time ever, Sonic Generations will have users playing as the dream time of classic Sonic and modern Sonic.
GS: How will the gameplay in Sonic Generations work to combine 2D side-scrolling with 3D gameplay elements all in one game?
TI: In Sonic Generations, there is a playable menu, and it is in this menu that users will be able to switch between modern and classic Sonic. When entering an action level from the playable menu with either one of the characters, you will enter the level for the appropriate character; that is, with classic Sonic, you will play in 2D side-scrolling view.
GS: You’ve worked on the Sonic franchise for a long time. How do you think the franchise has grown and evolved over the years?
TI: Sonic was first created in the Mega Drive/Genesis era, and even within this era, we saw an evolution of Sonic up until around 1994. After this, we did not create Sonic titles for a while until the creation of Sonic games started once again in 1998 with Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. I still feel remorse that we stopped creating games for those four years. The continuing development of Sonic games has also led to the expansion of the franchise in to other media, such as TV and comics. Moving forward, we would like to continue creating and ensure Sonic is enjoyed by as many people as possible--not just in games but in other media as well.
GS: Do you ever feel like you have run out of inspiration when creating these games? What helps to inspire you with each new project?
TI: I have never really felt like I have run out inspiration. When developing a title, I am actually already thinking about what I would like to do next. When I am thinking about the creation of a game, I am always striving to surprise fans by coming up with something fresh and new.
GS: How do you think Sonic Generations will be received by gamers in the Western market?
TI: This is more of my wish or hope while developing the game...rather than a prediction. When developing the game, we tried to capture everything that is quintessentially Sonic throughout his 20-year history. Over the 20 years, there have been many types of Sonic fans; some who enjoy the classic 2D Sonic and some who would prefer the modern 3D Sonic. What we are trying to achieve with Sonic Generations is to have all the fans enjoy everything there is about Sonic in both of his distinctive playing styles. Principally, the action is core to this title, but there are also many other elements that I am sure will keep the fans entertained. I hope everybody can enjoy and celebrate his 20 years of history with us together.
GS: Thanks for your time, Iizuka-san.
Sonic Generations is due out on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2011. Read our First Look Preview here.