EGM Interview with Takashi Iizuka

Interview Data:

  • Interview Date: 03 February 2004
  • Interview Topics: Sonic Heroes, Japanese and American Games
  • Interview Source: EGM external.png

Electronic Gaming Monthly : Press Start : Afterthoughts: Sonic Heroes (Part 2)

EGM: Yuji Naka famously declared 2003 to be "Sonic Year" for Sega. Do you think this has turned out to be the best year ever for Sonic and Sonic Team?
TI: Yes. I truly believe that this has been a Sonic Year, thanks to the McDonald's Happy Meals, the Sonic X anime, and Sonic Heroes. I'm not calling it that just because of Sonic Heroes, but because Sonic was exposed a new generation of players — not just the fans we've had for a while.

EGM: We've heard rumor of another Sonic GBA game coming out next year… any word on it yet?
TI: I can't make an official announcement today, unfortunately, but Sonic Team is constantly working on new Sonic titles. You'll see it very soon.

EGM: Sonic Heroes teases players with a CG scene of Metal Sonic, but you have to finish the game with all four teams to face him! Do you think that'll be too much challenge for most players?
TI: Well, if you know who that character is the moment you see it in the CG, you're a very hardcore, old-school player, and you should be good enough to get to him. A regular player wouldn't even know who that is. I don't see it as torturing them.

EGM: The Special Stages seem to draw inspiration from the bonus areas in Sonic 2 on the Genesis. Are those your favorite Sonic special stages?
TI: It's not just that I liked it; I brought it back because it also serves the purpose well. The Special Stages help to refresh players' minds with a change of pace after each level. Also, it's helpful to get bonus items there, just as they acted back in Sonic 2.

EGM: The boss battles in Sonic Heroes are really unique — you're usually fighting a boss while traveling through a stage or arena at the same time. Why the change from the norm?
TI: The boss stage designer had a new concept in mind with this game, because he didn't want the game to lose the momentum built in the normal stages. In many action games, you're moving quickly through the regular stages, but the momentum completely stops at the boss. Here, we keep the momentum on the move while you fight the boss.

EGM: Now that you've brought back some neglected characters (like Big the Cat and Vector the Crocodile), do you plan to bring back even more obscure Sonic characters in the future? Like maybe… Mighty the Armadillo?
TI: Those old-school characters are all somewhat similar to the way that Sonic is: they're fast-action cool characters. Even Charmy and Espio used to be like Sonic…for this title, though, we brought them back in a very different way.

EGM: Which of the Mega Drive Sonic games is your favorite, and why?
TI: I was the designer of Sonic 3 and Knuckles, but my favorite is still Sonic 2.

EGM: We can't interview you without confessing our love for Nights into Dreams. After recently appearing in PSO Episode II and Sonic Pinball Party, do you think that the character might show up again soon?
TI: I was the main designer on Nights, and it's funny how that question pops up in every interview I've ever been to, even though the game's eight years old now. I have some very strong, loyal fans out there, and I promise that as long as I'm with Sega I will create Nights again… I just don't know when. There are no plans as of now. The more I hear from the fans about their love for the game, the more reasons I have to consider it as my next project.

[Editor's note: In case that's not clear enough for fans' tastes, Iizuka adds "While I would love to create a sequel to Nights some time in the future, there are no plans for such a project at this time."]

EGM: You've obviously had a very busy year…have you had time to play any games? Do you have a favorite besides Sonic Heroes?
TI: This year has been hellish for me. Normally I find the time to check out the big titles, but this year… I had no time. Now that Sonic Heroes is done, I want to check out some of the really good American-developed games like Jak II and Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando.

EGM: The current generation of systems is just now hitting its peak. Do you feel that you're ready to think about games for the next generation already, or would you still like to explore current consoles?
TI: I'm very interested in new technology, but I just released my first multiplatform game, and I still want to develop new games for this generation.

EGM: The Japanese gaming market is perceived as being in decline, while U.S. and European game sales remain strong. Do you develop your games with a global audience in mind? Do you think Japanese game sales will rebound to their former glory?
TI: I'm definitely aware of the situation in Japan. Sonic Team is based here in America so that we can focus on the global market. We've always tried to create our games based on an international marketplace. The culture in Japan is very unique, so only a small handful of titles can really sell well there. Japanese people are very influenced by what others are buying and playing, so only the hottest games really sell.

EGM: Satoru Iwata famously declared at last year's E3 that "Mario will never start shooting hookers". Would you ever make a game where Sonic does that?
TI: (Laughs) I have no plans for that! And I have a good reason: It's been 12 years since Sonic first game out, and everyone who experienced it back then are now old enough to have their own children. It's a chain of Sonic fans that's forming, and I'd like to keep this chain going. If I changed Sonic to appeal to adults, it would cut the chain right off.


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