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Interview: SEGA On Bringing Sonic Lost World to Wii U and 3DS

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Takashi Iizuka tells us about the ambition of Sonic's latest adventure

Gone are the days when Sonic and Mario were in bitter opposition, smack-talking each other in adverts and fighting for the affections of millions of gamers. Now we have cross-overs and Nintendo-system exclusives, with Sonic Lost World arriving on the Wii U and 3DS to continue the rather cosy relationship and provide a welcome third-party exclusive during this most competitive of release windows. Fans of the SEGA mascot are rightly optimistic, as recent years have delivered some solid and reasonably well-regarded adventures that have, if not taken the blue blur back to his glory days, at the very least restored faith and confidence.

What Sonic Lost World does deliver is an evolution of sorts, adopting the mechanics seen in previous titles while incorporating some parkour moves and tubular environments, in the process adding even more variety to the gameplay. There's also impressive ambition with the 3DS release too, which in many ways strives to match up to its HD console compatriot.

Ahead of the arrival of both games in Europe this week (29th October in North America), we were fortunate enough to talk to Takashi Iizuka, the producer of Sonic Lost World and Head of the Sonic Team. We took the opportunity to learn more about the game, design philosophies behind it and broader issues with the Sonic franchise.


NL: Thank you for joining us. First of all, can you give us a background on the team working on Sonic Lost World for the Wii U?

Takashi Iizuka: After the development of “Sonic Colors” ended, a few core members started the experiments for “Sonic Lost World”. And after development of “Sonic Generations” ended, all the members got together and development for “Sonic Lost World” fully started.

NL: And can you give confirm the team that’s working on Sonic Lost World for the 3DS?

Takashi Iizuka: We’ve co-developed the game with Dimps, which we have been cooperating in handheld Sonic titles for long time.

NL: While we’ll move onto specific details, how would you summarise both versions of Sonic Lost World to prospective consumers?

Takashi Iizuka: This game is like going into the rabbit hole in “Alice in the Wonderland”, an action game where you can experience many strange and fun experiences.

On 3DS this is the 1st 3D type action game in the history of Sonic’s handheld game. The twisted platforms and color powers are implemented very well and is a very good title which allows a great experience of 3D Sonic.

NL: The design choices of Sonic Lost World are immediately eye-catching. We’ve seen a mix of circular 3D levels and 2D sidescrolling levels; can you tell us more about how this game is structured between these styles on each system?

Takashi Iizuka: In 2011’s “Sonic Generations”, we have made a title which reviewed the 20 years history of Sonic, so for the next title, we wanted to create and deliver a new experience in the gameplay which we never had in this 20 years. So we challenged to drastically change the structure of the “environment”, which we didn’t change so much in the past.

Also in the 3DS version, we wanted to challenge the 3D action and not just 2D style.

NL: What were the primary sources of inspiration for these 3D levels and the rotating stages?

Takashi Iizuka: To the 3D levels which you move forward, we only had a gameplay style featuring speed. So the 1st thing we thought was to add more gameplay feature of platform action. During the term of thinking the idea for it, we came up with an idea of having a twisted tube type level like “Jack and the Beanstalk” which may achieve this fun gameplay, so we started the experiment.

NL: To clarify for our readers, is the 3DS version a recreation of the Wii U game or a different, unique experience?

Takashi Iizuka: Story and universe of the game is common with Wii U, but all levels are newly designed for 3DS. So for players who played the Wii U version can also enjoy the game in a fresh feeling.

NL: Was it challenging creating these kinds of 3D stages on the 3DS hardware?

Takashi Iizuka: In the 3DS console, simply because of the processing power, restructuring the 3D world was very difficult. Specially in Lost World we had to design the twisted environments which is one big feature of this game, the calculation of the polygon collisions are a lot more complicated, so we are doing various things to solve this.

We came up with an idea of having a twisted tube type level like “Jack and the Beanstalk” which may achieve this fun gameplay, so we started the experiment.

NL: The portable iterations of major Sonic releases have often followed a different style to home console equivalents, with the hardware’s capabilities no doubt important. How closely does this 3DS version match the design and style of its Wii U equivalent?

Takashi Iizuka: One feature in Sonic Lost World is 360 degrees action, so the challenge on 3DS was to apply this 3D action game in 360 degrees action like in Wii U. Of course we couldn’t make it exactly the same, but by using the same texture as Wii U, applying the twisted levels, how you see and feel should be very close to the experience you get from Wii U version.

NL: We’d suggest that, in their early days, 3D Sonic games perhaps struggled to find the right gameplay balance, but that Sonic Colours and Sonic Generations delivered stronger experiences. Do you agree with that assessment, first of all, and can you outline whether you feel development lessons, the power of the available hardware or perhaps a mix of both help with improving the formula?

Takashi Iizuka: Yes there was a struggle in 3D Sonic games. From the 1st 3D type Sonic game Sonic Adventure, we tried various levels and environment in 3D. This is because we felt there is more possibility for improvement in 3D type Sonic. So in Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, we added new gameplay on top of the existing Sonic titles to make a high quality game.

NL: There are 2D side-on stages included as well, of course, but how much content in the final game is made up of these stages and, on the other hand, 3D stages?

Takashi Iizuka: Well… I think you will feel the 3D and 2D stages included are almost half and half. Although you say 3D, there are many stages which are not tube type, and even in 2D stages, there are some which are partly 3D so I think you can’t just separate the types into just 2.

On 3DS you will also have some levels which you need to clear the requirement to move forward.

NL: At what point was it agreed that Sonic Lost World would be a Wii U and 3DS exclusive, and when did development start?

Takashi Iizuka: I think the timing we started thinking about Wii U was when Nintendo presented 3rd parties their prototype. Before then, we didn’t confirm the platform. And when Nintendo showed Wii U for the 1st time at E3 (2 years ago) we were developing the game on Wii U.

The development of Wii U was moving on first, but the console was not confirmed yet in the beginning and the development was based on PC first. The platform was confirmed after several levels in the beginning were made. 3DS development started after we already had the basic stage structure and main story of the Wii U version had been confirmed.

NL: How much did the feature-set of the Wii U and its GamePad influence design, and can you give an example if it did shake up or give birth to any new ideas not possible before?

Takashi Iizuka: As we started the development before we knew about Wii U, basic action and story weren't influenced. But as the touch panel and gyro-sensor on the GamePad was a very interesting feature, we decided to use them in Color Power.

Also, as Wii U has 2 monitors to use, 2P VS and 2P co-op was a feature we thought we must have too.

NL: How much did the feature-set of the 3DS influence design, meanwhile, and are there any stand-out concepts that we won’t have seen before in Sonic Generations or the various DS games?

Takashi Iizuka: When we developed Sonic Generations, it was our 1st time of development on 3DS, so it was very difficult. But this time, we were able to develop knowing about what we can do on 3DS, so from the beginning of the 3DS development, we planned a game which fully utilizes the 3DS console. Challenging to 3D action is 1 reason, but we also use the gyro feature in Boss battle and special stages too.

NL: Do you feel this is a game that makes exciting use of stereoscopic 3D, or do you feel that playing in 2D is as enjoyable?

Takashi Iizuka: Of course we recommend stereoscopic 3D play, but you can enjoy the game itself fully on Nintendo 2DS too. The action game itself is 3D but we also have cut scenes of the story in 3D movie, so if you have 3DS please enjoy this game on stereoscopic 3D.

NL: We understand that there’ll be item sharing on the Wii U that utilises Miiverse, can you explain how that’ll work?

Takashi Iizuka: Miiverse is a feature which you communicate using a message, so it may feel a strange explanation of item sharing. As this feature was a feature of sharing message and picture, we thought sharing data of item can be achieved too. No need to think difficult, you just “share” your item in the internet, and then players worldwide will use your item and depending on the people who used your item, the item comes back with improved power. Players who shared will be happy having your item coming back with improvement, and player besides that will be happy having different items getting shared every day.

We wanted to bring this “connectivity” between the players worldwide.

NL: Two player co-op is included on Wii U, but can you shed light on how this will work and how involved in the action player two will be?

Takashi Iizuka: In 2P co-op the second player will be a support to 1P (Sonic) in the game. Using the Wii remote controller, 2P will control the RC Gadget which flies around Sonic.

The 1st RC gadget you can use is helicopter and has ability to bomb, but there are other various RC gadgets with various features.

When we developed Sonic Generations, it was our 1st time of development on 3DS, so it was very difficult. But this time, we were able to develop knowing about what we can do on 3DS.

NL: Is co-op possible in any way on the 3DS, and was there ever consideration for a form of cross-play with the Wii U?

Takashi Iizuka: No we don’t have co-op on 3DS. In 3DS, you will need the same amount of console for whom players you want to co-op with, and we thought that is a rare case. So instead, we applied the versus game play which you simply can enjoy with many players. As the game design is different to Wii U version, we are not thinking of cross-play.

NL: With the abilities to send Tail’s remote control vehicles from the 3DS version to the Wii U, can you confirm whether this is an online function or limited to local wi-fi only? Is there also a reverse, where Wii U players can assist 3DS gamers?

Takashi Iizuka: Transferring RC gadget from 3DS to Wii U is only for near Wi-Fi connection. In Wii U you can only use helicopter in the beginning so you can create RC gadgets in 3DS and transfer them to Wii U. There is no feature for transferring RC from Wii U to 3DS.

But please don’t worry that you may have to buy 3DS to get a new RC gadget on Wii U. In Wii U we have the item sharing using Miiverse so you can get the RC gadget even without 3DS.

NL: The competitive racing seems to make natural use of the GamePad screen on Wii U. Can you confirm how many players this supports at one time, and whether it’s both online and offline play?

Takashi Iizuka: You have 2 monitors using TV and GamePad so VS play is up to 2 players too.

We didn’t wanted to use the split screen in the versus play, so we limited only to 2 players. Wii U version is limited to local play.

Versus play in 3DS can be played by maximum of 4 players. Of course applied to online and offline both, and also applied to Download Play which allows versus play with those who don’t have the game too. So if you can introduce Sonic Lost World to players who don’t have the game with this versus mode, we are very happy.

Please enjoy the versus battle between worldwide players on 3DS.

NL: This title sees the return of some Wisp powers from Sonic Colours, so can you outline how they’re used and which powers are included?

Takashi Iizuka: From Sonic Colors, Laser, Drill, Rocket, and Hover are used again, but we also have new powers for this title too.

In the Wii U version, we applied the control using GamePad so you can use Eagle where you tilt the GamePad to fly, and Rhythm which you touch the panel taking a rhythm to hop in air, and etc.

Also in 3DS we have new color powers too, for example, Quake which you tilt the console to control like rolling a ball, and Lightning which you move by zapping between enemies and objects.. Also there is Asteroid which you destruct the platform and move on will allow you to glide in the air if you get bigger. This floating is very fun so please try this out.

NL: How integral are these Wisp powers to the level design?

Takashi Iizuka: In Wii U version you won’t see them constantly, and will be used in some stages as an additional tool to complete the level.

In 3DS, the color powers are more essential to the level design than Wii U version. After you clear 1 world, you will be able to use a new color power, and in the next world, there are many opportunities prepared to use them.

NL: In terms of the longevity of this title, how many stages are included, and will there be plenty of hidden collectibles and tasks beyond the core game?

Takashi Iizuka: If we reply exactly, we may give away the enjoyment of whom will be playing, so we won’t. But we have more than 30 levels, so it’s large compared to the previous titles,. We also have Extra stages which we couldn’t include in the main story, so please enjoy.

NL: If this can perhaps be seen as a continuation of the Sonic Colours part of the series, are you confident that future releases will also be on Wii U, after Sonic Generations missed out the Wii?

Takashi Iizuka: Wii wasn’t a HD console so we weren’t able to release Sonic Generations. But even though, we knew that there are many platform action game fans in Nintendo console, so we are willing to have these fans to enjoy our titles in the future too.

NL: With Sonic Generations seeing a 3DS release, and now Sonic Lost World, are you confident that the 3DS will remain part of the plans for new Sonic games?

Takashi Iizuka: We can’t confirm the future, but personally, I feel 3DS is a best console for kids to enjoy a game, and to those consumers, we hope to deliver Sonic titles in the future too.

NL: We’ve seen more classic and new Sonic games released on smartphone platforms, so does this have any potential impact — in your view — on the future of the series on devices such as the 3DS?

Takashi Iizuka: Smartphones are the best device to enjoy simple control and shortburst gameplay. But to enjoy a full sized game like Sonic Lost World, smartphones which don't have buttons are not the best. So in the future, I feel that games that are best for each platform will be provided.

NL: Overall, what are your thoughts on the capabilities of the Wii U, in terms of features and the processing power that it offers development teams?

Takashi Iizuka: From Sonic Colors, Sonic Generation and to Sonic Lost World, as we release the titles, spec of console has been improved. Thanks to the improvements of the processing power, in Lost World we were able to apply 60fps even in 3D action, which we weren’t able to achieve recently in Sonic.

NL: How happy are you with the current reputation and standing of the Sonic franchise with long-term and new fans?

Takashi Iizuka: Recently, in Japan, US, and UK, we have events held for Sonic Fans, and every year I attend the events also, we have fans that are very young to adults who are even older than me, and they are all coming to the event for Sonic which I’m very happy about. But we want to make Sonic known to those people who don’t play the games, so this is our next challenge!

NL: What’s the most important message about Sonic Lost World that you want to share with Wii U and/or 3DS gamers?

Takashi Iizuka: I feel that after buying the Wii U console, there may be certain amount of consumers whom didn’t have the chance to fully enjoy this great console yet. Sonic Lost World contains the feature and the convenience of GamePad, new enjoyment and potential using Miiverse, which allows this title to let player fully enjoy Wii U.

Not just for Sonic fan, but it is a title that has the volume and gameplay which all platform action fans would enjoy, so for players who already have Wii U, please try and enjoy this game. And please brag that you played this Wii U version.

With the 3DS, If you want to play a 3D action game, this is what I really recommend. Not just the 3D action but great cut scenes and plenty of volume, I feel this title is a “must buy” title for 3DS user.

Please enjoy this Sonic Lost World, the strange world made in 3D.

NL: Thank you very much for your time.

Takashi Iizuka: Thank you.


We'd like to once again thank Iizuka-san for his time.

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User Comments (50)

Smitherenez

#3

Smitherenez said:

I will get this next week, but I won't be playing it for a while because of the upcoming exams...

AdanVC

#4

AdanVC said:

Great interview! Too bad we still have to wait 2 more weeks in America :(

sinalefa

#5

sinalefa said:

Thanks for the interview and the picture. I only knew him by name. Despite the very similar name, he looks nothing like Takashi Tezuka :p

The-Chosen-one

#7

The-Chosen-one said:

Sega has to make sonic a first party character.
he really fits into the Nintendo world.
an adventure game where sonic and mario would team up against a super villain lol.

Emblem

#8

Emblem said:

Really looking forward to the two player races, i hope there are lots of tracks to choose from.

Dreamcaster-X

#10

Dreamcaster-X said:

I hope this plays as good as it looks!! I have mine pre-ordered. Can't wait for the reviews to hear about the new gameplay style & controls!!

retro_player_22

#11

retro_player_22 said:

Got my copy pre-order for the Wii U so I can't wait for the game, if it's good enough I may get the 3DS version at a later time.

lazyinsu

#13

lazyinsu said:

Sonic Lost World got a 9 from Famitsu... Shall be interesting to see what NintendoLife gives it.

JQuest

#14

JQuest said:

Gosh! I have so many games to get this holiday, and so little time to play them all!

On a side note, who else want those Sonic and Tails plushies in that pic as much as I do??

ElsaGamer

#15

ElsaGamer said:

Very nice. I have to say, I wasn't interested in this game at first, but now I am highly considering getting it. I'm sure Super Mario Galaxy had at least SOME influence on some of those small planet-esque levels, Mr. Iizuka :P

Jazzer94

#16

Jazzer94 said:

So ready to play this, gonna take my time for my first play through to learn the stages then speed run them for my second time round.

element187

#17

element187 said:

". Thanks to the improvements of the processing power, in Lost World we were able to apply 60fps even in 3D action, which we weren’t able to achieve recently in Sonic."

Translation, the sub HD twins couldn't provide 60fps gaming in a game of this caliber (i'll concur, the only games on the subhd twins that were in 60fps were a janky hot mess)...... and the Wii U is only on par according to the trolls, so how does one explain this discrepancy? Are the developers from SEGA wrong. or do you think the trolls were wrong about the Wii U's capabilities?

Ryno

#18

Ryno said:

Looking forward to this and Mario 3D World this holiday season!

unrandomsam

#20

unrandomsam said:

@element187 That doesn't explain why Sonic Adventure 2 Battle on the Gamecube managed such a perfectly solid 60fps. Multiplatform is the reason.

All Stars Racing Transformed already proved that Wii U could do 60fps properly. (At least for me it was never in doubt).

Problem is the rest want to make a PS3/360 game and then do as little effort as possible to get it on the Wii U.

B3ND3R

#23

B3ND3R said:

I cannot wait for this game :) if Generations was an example of where sonic is going now, I am happy.

Kirk

#24

Kirk said:

I'm still not fully convinced by what I've seen of this game so far.

Gioku

#26

Gioku said:

Sounds like they've worked hard on the 3DS version, too! Can't wait! :)

JustinH

#27

JustinH said:

I was confused about how the Miiverse functionality would work before. I'm definitely more confused now.

tudsworth

#28

tudsworth said:

@element187 The only fully 60fps titles I can think of on the PS360 right now are ports of indie titles (which, you know, aren't all that complex, graphically, and even some of those have problems with dropping frames) and Metal Gear Rising : Revengeance; which was hardly a hot mess, but clearly took a hit in the graphical department compared to some of its hack-and-slash contemporaries, namely Ninja Theory's DmC game (in 30fps) and the most recent God Of War (also in 30fps, and it had some issues with framedrops when I played it).

The fact that a lot of games having the extra effort put into them for the Wii U (Rayman Legends, Sonic Lost World, NFS Most Wanted) are pushing a full 60 frames per second, sometimes at 1080p resolution, while looking superior to their contemporaries on Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber, really says something about the capabilities of the Wii U in the hands of a developer who gives a damn.

Now the real issue is getting more developers to give said damn. Not that this is likely, but I like to be optimistic.

JaxonH

#30

JaxonH said:

Getting both day one, already pre ordered. Amazing looking games if you ask me, but unfortunately they'll be going on the shelf of unopened games along with Windwaker HD, Pokémon X and Pokémon Y (and by that time Deus Ex Human Revolution, Batman Arkham Origins and Assassin's Creed 4). No time for anything until mid 2014, when I finally beat Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, my newfound fave game of all time.

thomin

#33

thomin said:

Amazon informed me that my copy is already in the mail...So I'll be busy tomorrow, playing this game... :D

Genesaur

#37

Genesaur said:

Cash sunk. Preordered this one along with Wind Waker HD, as soon as I learned about that Ganondorf figure.

JuanitoShet

#38

JuanitoShet said:

This game looks pretty damn fun. I'm hoping to pick it up somewhere down the line.

BUT, A Link Between Worlds comes first. So maybe after that. :B

Volmun

#40

Volmun said:

YES!!! Sonic Lost World DEADLY SIX Edition just terned up!!!! 8D takes the sting of not having pokemon X away....

AJWolfTill

#41

AJWolfTill said:

This would definately benefit from a demo in my opinion. It looks fantastic but I have no attachment to Sonic so will need extra prodding.

sikthvash

#42

sikthvash said:

opens post yeyeeee! My copy of the Deadly Six Edition arrived too!! Thank you Shopto! Really enjoyed Sonic Generations (albeit the boss battles were very poor) - this is looking to tick all the boxes for me! Planning to revisit Sonic 3 & Knuckles shortly too! - nice interview by the way

Cohort

#44

Cohort said:

This could be the best Sonic game we've seen in years.. I haven't been remotely interested in the series since Sonic 3 came out, Lost World has me intrigued..

AlexSora89

#45

AlexSora89 said:

Excited.

Gonna download it this very midnight, or at least, that's the plan anyway. Between this, Pokémon, Dream Team Bros. and Donkey Kong Country Returns (not counting VC games, eShop titles and even DS games), I have a LOT of games to enjoy this time around.

Man, the 3DS games' drought is nothing but a distant memory, now.

FilmerNgameR

#46

FilmerNgameR said:

Hey NL you should've asked him if Crush 40 will still perform more songs in future Sonic games. Their songs are epic. :D

MadAdam81

#48

MadAdam81 said:

Can't wait, but I may need to for a week and a half for more money (thanks Pokemon... lucky you are such a fun game you can get away with eating my money).

Genesaur

#50

Genesaur said:

"2P will control the RC Gadget, which flies around Sonic." Why does player 2 not control Tails? Why is it not Tails?!

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