We talk to Sonic Team's Game Designer Takashi Iizuka
Sonic had his 30th anniversary this year, so we decided to talk with Sonic Team's game designer about the long journey and proud memories.
With the 30th Anniversary of Sonic the Hedgehog being celebrated this year, we've had the chance to catch up with the long-time Sonic Team designer Takashi Iizuka, to chat about his journey throughout the games industry and what the iconic blue hedgehog means to him.
GR: What was your relation to Sonic the Hedgehog before you started your career at Sonic Team?
Iizuka: I joined SEGA in 1992 and joined the Sonic 3 team as a game designer in 1993, so I've spent almost all of my time with Sonic.
GR: What is your favourite memory from your time with Sonic the Hedgehog?
Iizuka: I have so many memories and I can't pick just one, but one big thing is that being involved in Sonic production led to me coming to live in the US three times. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that Sonic changed my life.
GR: Which Sonic game would you consider your favourite, and why?
Iizuka: Of the titles I worked on, my favourite is Sonic Adventure 2. Of course, I like the content of the game—the characters, story, game design, sound, etc. But on top of that, we had a close-knit development team and we had a lot of fun while making it, so the title holds a lot of good memories for me.
GR: Sonic's friends other than Knuckles and Tails haven't always been fan-favourites, how have the sometimes-fierce criticism affected the Sonic titles?
Iizuka: As we make Sonic titles, we always listen to fan reactions after a game releases for reference. Shadow was originally intended to appear only in Sonic Adventure 2, but he was popular among fans after the game released, so we brought him back in Sonic Heroes.
GR: Did you have any opinions on the first design of Sonic from the 2020 live movie, and what did you eventually think of the movie?
Iizuka: Initially, he was designed to match the movie team's desire to make a realistic-looking Sonic. But after the fan reactions after the trailer was released, we did a course correction to shift from "a realistic Sonic" to "bringing Sonic to reality." I'm glad we were able to do that.
GR: If you would recommend a Sonic game to people who haven't played Sonic yet, where do you think they should start, and why?
Iizuka: Among the 3D action Sonic games, I would recommend Sonic Generations or Sonic Colours since they're easy to pick up and play. The 2D classic series is a great fit for beginners as well, so we're currently working on Sonic Origins, which lets you play four classic titles.
GR: Is there any genre you would like to explore for Sonic the Hedgehog?
Iizuka: I'd like to take on genres other than platform action, like we did with Team Sonic Racing in 2019. Platform action games tend to focus on single player, so if we release games in other genres something that lets you play with lots of people would be good.
GR: What does it mean to you personally that Sonic the Hedgehog is now 30 years old?
Iizuka: It makes me truly happy that people still love the character I've dedicated more than half of my life to. I am deeply grateful to the fans who have supported him for so long.
GR: What are you most proud of from your time with Sonic the Hedgehog?
Iizuka: I think it might be the fact that Sonic games transcend barriers of language and race, and are played by people everywhere. We'll continue to work to bring Sonic to many people and regions all over the world.