Q&A: Sonic and the Secret Rings' Yojiro Ogawa
We spoke to the producer of Sonic and the Secret Rings about bringing the first game in the series to the Nintendo Wii.
After the disappointment of Sonic the Hedgehog on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, fans of Sega's porcupine mascot have had to pin their hopes on the Wii game Sonic and the Secret Rings. The game sees Sonic caught up in an Arabian Nights-themed adventure as he tries to piece together the missing pages from the famous story. Although the main adventure is notable for featuring only the famous blue blur as a playable character, the multiplayer game will feature such famous recurring characters as Tails while up to four players battle it out in a series of minigames.
The game is currently undergoing the last few tweaks for a March 2007 release in the UK and a February 2007 release in the US. We caught up with the game's producer, Yojiro Ogawa, at a preview event in London. After spending some time steering Sonic using the Wii Remote for the first time, we sat down with Ogawa-san to talk about what we can expect from the finished game and what it was like producing the first Sonic game for Nintendo's new console.
GameSpot UK: This is the first Sonic game for the Wii, so please explain a little bit about why you wanted to bring the franchise to Nintendo's console.
Yojiro Ogawa: As a company, Sega usually tries to develop games for multiple platforms. As for Sonic titles, we already have the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions. Once we started looking at Wii hardware, [we found it] very different compared to the other platforms, so from there we started to think that we should create a separate Sonic title just for the Wii. Another thing that we thought was good was that the Wii hardware's target audience probably matches that of the Sonic audience, so that's why we thought Sonic would be a good fit.
GSUK: With the game now fairly complete, have you been able to make some interesting uses of the Wii Remote?
YO: In this title, we have two gameplay modes: adventure and party. We wanted players to play for a long time, and we did a lot of experiments with different configurations. We tried the Nunchuk controller and other things, but we ended up knowing that holding the controller sideways would allow players to play the game for a long time without getting tired. As a contrast, in the party mode, we wanted players to fully use the controller in different ways.
GSUK: How does the story for the game relate to the Sonic universe and other recent games in the series?
YO: In this title, we don't follow the original Sonic stories, but we wanted players to experience a different story. This time, Sonic jumps into a storybook, and while players can control Sonic only, you will be able to see characters, such as Knuckles and Tails, through the game. They will just appear as characters from the book.
GSUK: How do Sonic's abilities change as you progress through the game?
YO: As many people know, Sonic is a superhero who does not usually power up, but this time he will have support from a ring that he's wearing. In this game, we will have 100 skills that you can equip Sonic with. There'll be eight stages with 100 missions, and you will have to combine your skills in order to complete them all. Basically, skills can be divided into three types: speed, attack, and a third "special" one. Speed will allow Sonic to go faster or slow down more effectively, whereas attack will increase the power of attack and the effectiveness of defence. The special one is really hard to explain in words, but you will be able to use the number of rings to do something different or special.
GSUK: How long is the adventure mode, and what sorts of locations can we expect to discover?
YO: If players just want to go through the story, it will probably take about 10 to 15 hours as we have eight different stages. These are all based on the themes of Arabian Nights, with deserts and cactus jungles, and castles atop flying birds. If players would like to unlock all 100 skills, it will probably take around 30 hours. Other than the adventure mode, we also have party modes with eight different characters and also something called special book, which will have 255 things you can unlock through the game, so the volume is quite a lot.
GSUK: The release date for the game has been brought forward slightly. Can we take this to mean that all went well from a development perspective?
YO: Originally, the whole team started off by developing the Xbox 360 and PS3 games, but when they moved onto the Wii hardware, they realised it was very different. We split up the team, and we started development from last January, so we only had one year to complete this game, with the usual time for a Sonic game being two years. Since the time we could take was only one year, we had to double the size of our development team. So we created the adventure mode and party mode separately, and combining the two was a very challenging thing to do. When I look back, I feel like I did a very good job scheduling and directing because we had a lot of challenging points. I feel really good that I was able to plan ahead and that we were able to think of the possibilities for what could have gone wrong, but they went well. It was very hard work though!
GSUK: With Sonic and the Secret Rings now finished, what projects are you looking to move on to?
YO: I want to go on a project called "vacation"! After that, I have no plans currently, so I will have to think. I do have some plans and some projects in my head, but at the moment nobody else knows [what they are]!
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