Sonic Boom was supposed to be a big initiative for Sega. Not only was the company pushing two brand-new games to market - one for Wii U and one for 3DS - but it was going to support these titles with a tie-in TV show and a flood of merchandise. Things didn't quite work out that way; while the 3DS version was decent enough, the Wii U edition of Sonic Boom was a mess and scored some disappointing reviews - as well as some negative press regarding its development.
However, Sonic Boom the TV show continues to do well, and that means there's scope for more games - hence the announcement of Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice yesterday.
Sega producer Omar Woodley and PR representative Aaron Weber spoke to GameSpot about the new game, why Sonic is skipping Wii U, and much more besides.
The hot topic is surely the lack of a home version this year, to which the pair replied:
Aaron Weber: Sanzaru [the game's developer] was already focused on the 3DS; they already had the structure built, and they already had the systems in place. So it was just a natural step for us to go with 3DS. So that was the main focus for us.
Omar Woodley: And the 3DS was definitely the stronger of the two titles last year. We saw it both in the user and the critical reviews, and so that was what really decided it. If we're really going to focus on something, we're really going to step it up and improve all of the things that need improvement, and try to make it a really solid game. The 3DS was a very natural choice.
We weren't too happy about the Wii U [version]; we totally feel the 3DS was the stronger of the two. So [Fire & Ice] is 3DS-only. We learned a lot from all the reviews, from our events with consumers, from all the fans, and we took a lot of those comments to heart. So we went back to the drawing board and worked on a new game, with [developer] Sanzaru Games–Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice.
The furore surrounding the drastic new look of Sonic and his friends was also touched upon:
OW: I think the core fan base was expecting the classic-looking Sonic. Classic-looking Knuckles. We revamped all the characters, and I think that was one big shock to the fan base and consumers. We didn't really explain until after we redesigned them why we were doing it. But by then we still hadn't launched any animated episodes. We hadn't shown any animations. So still there wasn't a clear message as to what we were trying to do.
People thought it was just going to be a reboot, not a different direction to go with Sonic. And I think that was what was confusing to the user.
Also up for discussion was whether or not Sonic Boom and "classic Sonic" can exist alongside one another. The answer appears to be yes:
AW: Yeah, they essentially run parallel, so obviously Nintendo just announced the new Mario and Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic games, and that is like what we call modern Sonic. He's got the green eyes; the tan arms, instead of the blue arms; and no scarf. So for the really hardcore vocal fans, they can be happy with that Sonic. But likewise, Sonic Boom as a TV show is doing extremely well on Cartoon Network right now so there's this new generation coming up watching that and really enjoying that. This game is built in that universe. They both exist simultaneously.
Finally, the pair spoke about why Sonic Boom was given to western developers instead of having it developed in Japan by Sonic Team - the traditional Sonic studio. The close ties with the TV show - which is produced in the west - meant that it made more sense to work with western developers:
AW: Sonic Boom was a western initiative. And so for that we wanted to use a western developer to have that perspective. It's very different to the way Japanese developers work, and especially Sonic Team, they don't necessarily grasp everything that we're trying to establish with the adventure aspect. And so we kind of have to give them that presentation as far as what we want to do with the game and the animation. We want to have more of a Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider kind of spin on things; they are more focused on the classic style of gameplay for Sonic.
OW: For the story, we tried to tie it more to what's concurrently going on in the animated series. Eggman is a big character in the animated series. He's basically the co-star with Sonic. A lot of the episodes revolve around Eggman's shenanigans and his devious plots, and then Sonic is confronted with that, or he helps Eggman out of some trouble because Eggman's gotten in over his head. We didn't introduce any new mysterious ancient alien race or anything like we did in the previous games. We thought that that was just not the way to go this time.
Are you still excited about Fire & Ice, despite the problems surrounding the series so far? Let us know by posting a comment below.