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Big Red Button's Bob Rafei Spills More Details On Sonic Boom For Wii U And 3DS

Posted by Damien McFerran

Reveals Sonic Team is involved and explains THOSE new character designs

Yesterday's news that Sega's next Sonic title would be a cross-media extravaganza complete with re-imagined characters, CGI cartoon series and Nintendo-exclusive video game outings sent the web into overdrive, with the reaction from fans ranging from delighted to highly skeptical. While some feel that Sonic Boom is a brave new direction for the blue hedgehog, there are just as many series veterans who have been here before — Sega makes big promises but offers little actual reward at the end. The dull pain of Sonic Lost World is still there.

However, developer Big Red Button has been speaking The Guardian about the game — which is coming to both the Wii U and 3DS — and is adamant that this title represents a turnaround for Sega's famous mascot.

The studio's creative director Bob Rafei — who once worked at Uncharted developer Naughty Dog — is keen to stress that although Sonic Boom looks different, it's actually inspired by some of Sonic's most beloved titles:

Sonic 2 had a ‘team’ vibe between Sonic and Tails and we wanted to recapture that plus kick things up a notch by adding Amy and Knuckles to the equation. In Sonic Adventure, the game’s structure offered exploration and discovery that opened up more as the player progressed. We believe this is a great approach and modelled Sonic Boom after it. We also love what Sonic Team did with Sonic Generations, giving the player 2D and 3D variations of the same level. Our take was to integrate 2D and 3D seamlessly within the level in a way that made sense, keeping things fresh for the player.

One of the most interesting features of the game is a tethering system which bonds players together and removes the need for a split-screen view. Constantly connected by an energy beam, players can't leave each other behind, but this mechanic has other uses — such as stretching the beam to create a catapult effect. This might seem like an innovative new concept, but it actually proves that Big Red Button has been casting a keen eye over the history of the Sonic series — a similar feature was used in Knuckles' Chaotix on the ill-fated Sega 32X.

Of course, no matter how similar Sonic Boom is to classic titles from the franchise, it's going to be tricky for hardcore fans to accept the new character designs — easily the most talked-about element of yesterday's reveal. Rafei explains why Sonic and his chums look the way they do:

The objective was to make the characters instantly recognisable as being from Sonic Boom. We explored various costume options and quickly found the limits of what works and what doesn’t. Since we wanted to push the characterisation of Sonic and friends to fit our narrative, I thought it more appropriate to make them a touch older by adjusting their head, hand and feet proportions. The athletic tape hints at a team that is ready for any action – it is about practicality rather than vanity. Given they have very clean graphic lines, it was important not to clutter their silhouettes, so any little addition had to be carefully considered. They are designed for an epic action adventure.

Big Red Button is working closely with French animation studio OuiDo, which is handling the accompanying Sonic Boom CGI TV series, while Sonic Team in Japan is overseeing all elements of the project.

Here's Rafei again:

Game and TV animation are different animals so we looked for opportunities to cross-pollinate ideas. Characters that were developed for the game crossed over to the show and vice versa. Guidelines we developed with Sonic Team for bosses, as example, were carried over to the show in effort to have consistency.

Given the lack of games which truly exploit the Wii U GamePad, it's encouraging to hear Rafei explain how Sonic Boom aims to make the most out of the innovative controller, as well as his studio's plans for the 3DS version:

The GamePad display has given us a great solution for local co-op play. We tried different solutions for our co-op camera, including single split-screen display, but ultimately this wasn't able to service our game vision. The GamePad also has a look-around mode where the player can scan the environment looking for clues and hints to secrets in the game. As for 3DS, there are some crossover plans between it and the Wii U involving special unlocks for Sonic fans who have both versions.

Sonic Boom may have divided gamers, but we're still hopeful that the Wii U and 3DS games will be outings that can be compared to Sonic's best adventures. The blue blur has starred in some truly dire titles recently and certainly deserves a fresh start. Hopefully, we'll see a title on Wii U which is good enough to sell systems and (ironically) come to the aid Sega's former enemy, Nintendo. There are still enough Sonic fans out there to make this happen — just keep those fingers crossed.

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User Comments (85)



Justaguest said:

Its all new and weird looking. Knuckles looks ridiculous but I dont think its going to extreme as poor spyro did. This one will be fun



Emblem said:

Why did you have to remind me of Chaotix?! I loved the character design of that game, such a shame those characters are likley never to be seen again.



ScorpionMG said:

i actually don't mind with this new look, it is a bit strange indeed but hey, thay are older , and i do think they might change it a bit because it's still in progress but I need more footage to see before this makes me want to get it.



dsparil said:

What are the odds that this will have the US Sonic CD theme song as hidden bonus?



CHECKit095 said:

I like the new look. But what style are they going to use for Sonic in Super Smash Bros.?



Humphries90 said:

I'm hardly the biggest Sonic fan out there, but I think it's safe to say that Knuckles' design is almost universally disliked.

The times I have played Sonic games, I loved Knuckles, he was the coolest and my favourite character. Now he just looks silly.



AyeHaley said:

I like it so far and I want to be positive about it but after the letdown that is Lost World I've become cautious.



originaljohn said:

Love the new direction and Knuckles new design makes sense to me. He punches things, so they made him look like a boxer.... Why do people not see this?



MadAdam81 said:

Echindas are fairly rounded, so they decided to stop making Knuckles so thin and lanky...
Seriously, I'm not sure how about 50 people saying online they don't like something makes a worldwide general consensus.



dartmonkey said:

I'm finding it difficult to understand the opposition to the designs. Knuckles has been to the gym, they've been bound up and had a few tweaks but it's hardly a reinvention. Importantly, each character is now be easily recognisable by their silhouette. Rafei was saying all the right things in the Polygon interview. Who knows, but it's nice to see something different.



MAB said:

Who knows, Sonic & friends might save the Wii U because the last 3 Mario games bombed big time



KarateKid1234 said:

I'm glad you guys are enjoying Sonic Boom so far. Meanwhile, tssznews users are being nitpicky as heck. Whenever SEGA gives 'em what they want, they complain. SEGA will never satisfy them. Other than that, I really can't wait for this game. The fans complained for Open World and more than one Playable Character. They got it! We haven't had multiple playable characters since....ughh......Sonic 06.



rjejr said:

They look like the new Chuck E Cheese mascot. They're making a game based on a new Sat morning cartoon for kids and the surveys probably said this is what todays kids want. Be thankful they dont give them all Jar Jar jamacian accents.

I dont care what they look like as long as the game is good.



KarateKid1234 said:

Oh yeah, and they all look three years older about. Sonic - 18, Tails - 11, Knuckles - 19, and Amy - 15? I'm also glad Amy stopped chasing around Sonic. It even stopped in my 2nd most favorite Sonic Game - Sonic Lost World. (yes amy was kinda chasing sonic around in generations. mostly in the picnic which happened at the beginning and end of the game.)



Goginho said:

@MAB Save the Wii U from what?
..and i wouldn't necessarily say the last three Mario games "bombed big time", but I guess it's a matter of perspective.



uximal said:

Not sure about the look but I am certainly feeling the game style,speed & action.. looks fun, I hope it will be.



Mooj738 said:

Rumours suggest CryEngine 3? Is this confirmeD?

I like the rebrand, its odd at first but quite needed! I hope this is similar to Donkey Kong 64!



Auracle said:

The blue blur has starred in some truly dire titles recently.

Uh, what? Sonic's most recent games have been quite good. Lost World was a mixed bag at worst. Hardly 'truly dire'.

I'm still getting the feel for this concept. I guess I can't really embrace it until I get some story details. This certainly has potential, though.




@MrMario02 As soon as I saw this I thought it was Sonic Heroes 2!

But I'm excited for this as I am for every Sonic game before it comes out as I am a sucker for the Sonic Cycle™.

The Sonic RPG that Bioware made didn't get that good a response though did it? And if Bioware can't make a good game out of Sonic, what chance does anyone have? Perhaps it's not the game, it's the characters. Perhaps people truly have outgrown Sonic?

Doubt it. I'll probably buy this to be honest. For some reason, I always do buy Sonic games because he holds such a dear place in my heart.



KarateKid1234 said:

@Mooj738 Yes, it is, in fact running on CryEngine 3. Rhis game was in development for almost a year already, as a CryEngine 3 Tech Demo shown awhile ago had this game in it. It had "Developer: BigRedButton" and "in development". All it showed was some world hubs.



KarateKid1234 said:

Now, I do NOT need to complain about SA3 as if it releases or not. Gameplay-wise, this'll probably be as close to SA3 as possible. Let's hope dor Chao Garden and/or Spin Dash!



MAB said:

I can already tell I will be awesomed by Sonic Boom... Just like I was with Lost World before it



nyallj said:

This game release trailer has blown me away! I think it is awesome, and I too, do not understand the hullabaloo about the character models.



Luigi789 said:

@MAB excuse me bombed ? what are u talking about the last 3 mario games were successful actually , its lost world that bombed



Luigi789 said:

Sonic Boom has to succeed because it finally has a open world environment and it doesn't star sonic only FINALLY !!!!!!



evildevil97 said:

This game seems like the perfect "gameplay over graphics" argument. I don't like the new designs, but I'm really liking how the game itself sounds.



Linkuini said:

Ordinarily I like to see Sonic take a different direction. A vocal portion of the internet may complain about every little change, but I suspect that many of them are the same people who insist that other popular franchises don't change enough.

That being said, there's something inherent in the TV show connection that makes me curb my enthusiasm. In my mind, a big change seems less ambitious when it seems to have "market-researched kids' show" written all over it.



PrincessEevee9 said:

@MAB If you're gonna troll at least be a convincing one.

Are you people still complaining about Knuckles? He's looking the part of a powerhouse jeez.



bizcuthammer said:

The character designs arent bad, guys... They're just different. They remind me of Jak and Daxter type characters, which i loved those games on PS2. Since Naughty Dog wont make new Jak games, and Sega sucks at making Sonic games, why not have former ND guys make a Sonic game?

Lost World was a mess. Terribly designed and awful controls from the first level to the last one. It's the worst Sonic game i've played since the 'reboot' Sonic the Hedgehog in 2006. I really hope Big Red Button makes a great game that shows Sega how to do 3D Sonic right.



Blue_Yoshi said:

The only one who needs a redesign is Knuckles, like seriously that design is very creepy, its not Knuckles enough. You could have made him slightly taller and still had him look slightly muscular.



RedRocBoy said:

Love the redesigns. Can't wait to play it. Some game journalist are saying it has a Ratchet & Clank vibe which is awesome. Just found out Lost World sold 640,000. With the install that seems pretty cool but I hope this game sells better. Game looks awesome. Can't wait.



Mahemoth said:

I'm very curious about this game, looks and sounds good. The designs don't bother me, I actually like them though I've never been much of a sonic fan.



ChessboardMan said:

I'm curious about what they're going do for the Antagonist. Are we going to see a similar redesign for Robotnik, or are they just going to make one up?



Rezalack said:

@ChessboardMan I really hope Robotnik is in it with a redesign. They could have some truely awesome giant robots done in this graphics engine.

Anyway, I hope this game will be good. It looks great so far and I don't really mind the character design changes at all. Sonic looks the strangest to me, but not hard to get used too. I don't get all the hate for the Knuckles change, I like him too, but it certainly isn't that bad. I'll wait for reviews to see how the game is, but I have a feeling it will turn out great.



Yorumi said:

I like the designs. Knuckles is probably the one I like the least but it's kind of growing on me. He's typically been more of the power character and this brings it out more. Hopefully the game play is really good I did love the sonic adventure games.



Knux said:

Aside from Frakenux, this DOES look promising. However, I still need to buy and play Lost World first.



Reala said:

idk about this one not a fan of the art direction at all, but if it plays ok I can overlook that, I think knuckles ate big the cat or something though he really looks weird to me.



Knuckles said:

I'm offically skeptic, Sonic 2 X Adventure X Chaotix. I own and have played Knuckles' Chaotix, it doesn't play like Sonic 2, and moves too slow for Adventure.



Reala said:

Well if nothing else at least the world now knows what Brock Lesnar would look like if he was a furry cosplayer thanks to this game.



mamp said:

@RupeeClock Since japan thought put a bandage on your nose and/or cheek makes you look sporty.
Anyways on the game I don't care how it looks I'm still skeptical because it's sonic and I've been let down by sonic countless times. Even certain games handled by top devs (like sonic chronicles made by bioware and was still a terrible game).



HyperSonicEXE said:

"Since we wanted to push the characterisation of Sonic and friends to fit our narrative,"

They're not your OC's, they're storied, beloved, already existing characters! You DO NOT morph a successful character into something that "fits your narrative" - DeviantArt, Newgrounds, and the like have done that already and it's awful every time, because IT'S INCONSISTENT. Tails' flight gear and Amy's dress pass, because it makes sense for the characters. The stray spikes on the back of Sonic's head were already a fantastic touch and distinguishable. But Sonic and Knuckles' "morphing" of their frames and these stupid bandages (WHICH NO ONE WEARS IN REAL LIFE) are absolutely out of left field.

I wish the best for the game, but I wouldn't be hurt if this got scrapped, as-is. Worse, now Knuckles is a "big" character, which also means he's going to be outright stupid in order to fit their narrative.



Interneto said:

@HyperSonicEXE " But Sonic and Knuckles' "morphing" of their frames and these stupid bandages (WHICH NO ONE WEARS IN REAL LIFE) are absolutely out of left field."

There are no Sonic and Knuckles in real life, sis.



Ibrahim77X said:

@MAB I agree with you on NSMBU and NSMLU, but I hope by "bombed" you mean "not that good sales." Because if you're saying SM3DW was bad, then I feel sorry for you.



Tritonus said:

"The GamePad display has given us a great solution for local co-op play. We tried different solutions for our co-op camera, including single split-screen display, but ultimately this wasn't able to service our game vision."

THIS!!! I have been saying for a while that the GamePad is PERFECT for this, and I frankly don't understand why it's not in SM3DW and DKC:TP...



HyperSonicEXE said:

That's not a valid argument.
The whole reason for giving Sonic and co. bandages was, assumedly, to appeal to an active, younger generation, specifically, tween boys. Humans. That's in the slideshow. Now, I may not be in high school, but I have nieces and nephews and I often show up at anime and game stores where this audience shops — I've not seen bandages as part of the fashion.

It's just silly, and out of touch.



ModernMARVEL said:

Honestly, a mere day and I'm from hating the designs to loving them. Amy'll still take some getting used to though. I really hope this game succeeds, but the Sonic games I like always seem to fail...



NintendoROCKET said:

Are you kidding me!? The fact that Sonic Team IS working on it is what we DIDN'T wanna hear!! D:< When the Sonic Team keeps letting us down, it's pretty rare that they actually finally make a revival. They should just let Big Red Button make a Sonic game themselves & see if it's any better than what they're currently making! And the worst part: we now have to worry about those AWFUL designs being permanent. Once again, Sega is ruining Sonic by trying to make him more "epic." He's already cool enough! Just leave his design & personality as it is gosh dangit!!
OK, I got that all off my chest. Please Sega, let Big Red Button make this themselves.



Interneto said:

@HyperSonicEXE Well, it wasn't supposed to be seen as an argument.

Not everything has to be seen as a marketing factor to sell merchandise - like for example those bandages they are using.

It's just that in fact Sonic and Knuckles do not exist in real life... That's all I meant.



CueamWabut said:

Knuckles looks weird tall and fat! Amy dress is't the same now. I DONT LIKE IT!!!! i hope they change it.



DanMan82 said:

This will either be a really good game or a really bad game. imo, I think they should have kept the character's current designs from the SEGA games. I'm still getting used to the new ones...



FJOJR said:

I honestly don't know why SEGA didn't continue to build on what they did in Unleashed/Colors/Generations. Hope they don't forget all that hard work to turn the hedgehog around can be squandered with another 2006 debacle.



CanisWolfred said:

I just want to mention that I was expecting the character design changes to be more of a shock than they were. Outside of the Unusually long legs, I don't see much that's really bad...or even all that different. Sure, Tails looks like a Mechanic for once, and Knuckles looks more like a heavyweight boxer (which he kind of always was), but those are at least relatively natural, and if there are any other changes, they don't really stand out, for better or for worse.



Marioman64 said:

sooo they were changed to look obviously different on purpose? Like when they changed Spyro? look what happened to him



Blaze said:

Why are their bodies so disproportionate? It looks as if their legs got stuck under a rolling pin~



RetroJosh said:

I love how their designs are what people are talking about the most instead of the actual game. Knuckles should of always looked like this because he is a powerhouse character, and it certainly separates him from Sonic.
Is this what the Sonic fanbase is? Complaining about character designs and not buying the game because of that. Pathetic, accept that things change or you'll never be happy.
Personally, I'm stoked. Exploring levels as my 4 favorite Sonic characters with a Jak & Daxter vibe? Yes please.

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