We sat down with Takashi Iizuka, Chief Creative Officer at Sonic Team; ahead of the release of Sonic Frontiers. He explains how he was first introduced to the Sonic Franchise back in the 1990’s. With specific reference to Sonic Hedgehog 3. Over time, Takashi has grown to oversee the franchise along with the team at Sonic.
Takashi recalls how when the team first started thinking about where Sonic could go next, they were all really excited by the concept of Open-Zone gameplay and the new, ultra-modern experience it would deliver for Sonic fans. “Seeing players have fun with the game at Gamescom was an incredible moment for myself and the team”, he goes onto highlight. Building on Sonic’s legacy is Takashi’s greatest aspiration. Delivering a Sonic game that players love and helps pave the way for the future of the franchise is the CCO’s greatest motivation.
Bringing Sonic Frontiers to the fore
For Sonic, Takashi explains that he is constantly thinking of ways to surprise and delight players. With the delivery of open-zone gameplay, Sonic Frontiers delivers an entirely new way of playing that he firmly believes will excite fans.
“Staying faithful to the franchise is always part of our mindset when considering new ways to play, but I believe the team has done an excellent job that fans will love when it launches in November”.
Takashi finds working on Sonic to be incredibly rewarding. The opportunity to get to work on one of the world’s most iconic characters for the Chief Creative Officer is an absolute dream come true. He goes onto reference how seeing that realised across multiple mediums, from video games, TV shows and comic books, to the successful movies; brings a smile to his face to see so many people continue to love Sonic.
However, Takashi highlights that whilst he very much enjoys being part of the creative process and seeing the reactions from the gaming community; Sonic’s future is very much a team effort from everyone at SEGA and Sonic Team. Ever thankful that he gets the honour to be involved in such a critical role in the franchise. Making a further point of noting that Sonic wouldn’t be here today without the efforts of everyone across their incredible teams.
The Next Generation
For those seeking to go into Game Design, Takashi sees video games as a constantly evolving medium. “It is a completely unique medium that is always competing to wow players on both a technological and mechanically-compelling level. It’s incredible to think just how much AAA game design has changed since the original 2D Sonic games in such a relatively short space of time”. Takashi goes onto point out how the love for games such as Sonic Mania show that the original design of those games can still be successful today. However, with the future unpredictable, it is important to be able to identify trends and creative ideas that are compelling and fun. Yet at the same time being able to appeal to a new, modern audience whilst delivering an experience your core fanbase will love. A point that he makes a note of being critical to modern-day game designers. Something the team at Sonic have always strived for.
“Game designers can come from many different backgrounds and disciplines, but having a core understanding of what excites players while implementing your own creative ideas is essential”.
Takashi explains that while it’s important to have personal goals and ambitions, recognising that AAA game development is a team effort is critical for success. Being able to identify creative ideas and communicate openly and efficiently with the team is an incredibly valuable skill to hone your craft.