Sonic Boom’s early designs were “traumatic” for Sonic Team

Sunday, 16th March 2014 22:07 GMT By Brenna Hillier

Sonic Boom introduces a new look for the blue hedgehog and his buddies, but it’s a much more conservative style than some of the early concepts big Red Button came up with, which gave Sonic Team boss Takashi Iizuka the willies.

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Speaking to Gamespot, Big Red Button’s Bob Rafei said his team took a while to nail down its look, starting off with some wild ideas.

“Sonic Team and Sega were very open-minded about our approach, and accepting of a lot of things we were doing. Ultimately, because of some of our really wacky ideas, we did find the boundaries of things we could and couldn’t do,” he said.

“We experimented with different colours and surface features on the characters, such as fur or scales, and quickly Sonic Team came back with their discomfort of that. They were great guardrails for us to understand when we were deviating too far from the character. Without their input, the character would have been a lot more alien and different from what Sonic is known for.”

Early in the process, Sega brought Iizuka in to look through Big Red Button’s concepts and give feedback.

“I felt sorry for the guy because sometimes he couldn’t actually look at the screen – it was too traumatic seeing all the crazy stuff we wanted to do,” Rafei said.

“Over the course of that meeting, when we were coming up with new ideas, we had a very sincere conversation about why a character should or should not wear pants, and that was a very surreal moment in my life and my career, but it helped us understand the rules of clothing in this universe.

“Any small adjustment went a very long way, so we had to be very careful.”

The full article contains some discussion of Sonic’s scarf and Knuckles’s sports tape, if you’re keen.

Sonic Boom is a transmedia franchise including 3DS and Wii U games as well as a new cartoon series. It was designed for western audiences and isn’t planned for Japanese release. Sonic Team is currently working on a new Sonic game separate from the Sonic Boom franchise.



  1. salarta

    Sounds like more of the plague running rampant through companies as they work on existing IPs: radically changing things that really don’t need changing, and in many cases have absolutely no business being changed, just to look new and different. Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, the list is endless. And now, apparently Sonic joins that list.

    That the team had all these radical concepts going so far that even Sonic Team, a team that has been doing very poorly at capturing what made Sonic so appealing in the first place, shrank away shows that the current team understands the franchise even less.

    #1 6 months ago
  2. TheWulf

    Oh SEGA. You’re at your best when you’re being experimental and not giving a damn. And this is so the opposite of that. Change needs to happen, for novelty’s sake, paradigm shifts are good things. They need to remember that they’re no longer appealing to men going on 40-50 now, nor should they be, they’re appealing to the new generation of Sonic fans who have no preconceived ideas of how Sonic should look.

    It’s this obsessive attachment to SAFETY FIRST that’s holding everything back. Gotta play it safe, make it homogeneous, generic, inoffensive, boring, the same as what everyone else is doing, has to be acceptable, agreeable, common, it has to be a round peg for a round hole, appease the lowest common denominator. Mundane, mundane, mundane!

    Are we really all so conformist that we absolutely crave stagnant, unchanging familiarity forever and ever? Sigh. It’s hard being such a bloody mutant in that I don’t want that. Frankly, it’d rock if they did something interesting, like having Sonic ‘partially converted’ by Robotnik so we’d have a cybernetic hedgehog on our hands, or just… anything new.

    At least they finally did away with the corporate mascot gloves. Guh, those things were taaaaaacky.

    Still, at least they’re trying to be a bit different, but I wish they’d allowed Big Red Button to go with some of their crazier designs. Honestly, I’d love to have seen some of their crazier designs. I hope they release all of those to the public, so we could see what could have been, perhaps what should have been if SEGA weren’t such utter wusses.

    #2 6 months ago
  3. TheWulf


    For maybe the first time, I respectfully disagree with you. I actually like change, so long as it’s change to make things more interesting, and so much less homogeneous. For example, if Thief had shot the story a few hundred years into the future so we had atompunk and old fashioned computers, perhaps with a black, characterful protagonist? Well, I’d have been all over that like a dog on a steak.

    The thing is is that they actually sacrificed what it was supposed to be about. The character became a wholly generic bad arse, a pretty faced Aryan boy with all the charm of Gordon Brown (and I say this as a left winger), and the game itself was a generic, scripted action game with very little thievery involved whatsoever.

    They could almost have called it Overly Generic Third-Person Action Game with Entirely Linear Levels, no Plot, no Character, and Some Pretence Toward Thievery that we Only Half-Heartedly, Dismissively Include: The Thiafening.

    Change isn’t bad, if it’s change for the better. If it’s change for the more novel, the more interesting, the experimental. Change is only bad when it’s change to make things more safe, and more generic. I get where you’re coming from, I really do, but I don’t think that we should be afraid of change. I’m terrified that this is what publishers are programming into us…

    A lack of change, of novelty, would be the worst thing ever.

    I do sympathise, but not all change is bad. I mean, look at Telltale’s jump from traditional point & click to what they’re doing now. If they never changed, they’d still be making those point & click games, and whilst they were good, they’re nothing on stuff like The Wolf Among Us.

    #3 6 months ago
  4. TheWulf

    Maybe mixed atompunk and teslapunk. I could just about imagine a bizarre city dominated by gigantic tesla coils, with lightning arcing between the poles endlessly, back and forth, providing power to the various homes of the city. Now that, that… that would have been something to see.

    Gods damn it, now I actually want to see that. Someone do that!

    #4 6 months ago
  5. salarta

    @TheWulf Change is good, but the problem is unwarranted, excessive change just to make the IP look different.

    I didn’t include Mortal Kombat in that list because unlike nearly all attempts at change of old IPs lately, Mortal Kombat actually got it right. Combat-wise, they brought back a lot of the mechanics of the original trilogy without tacking on unnecessary extras like weapons you take out or move sets you switch through. Story-wise, they took the lore, acknowledged the fact they had already done stuff with it, but then reset back to the point of origin and using exactly what we know about the characters and events from there. It’s alternate universe, but it’s an alternate universe that doesn’t act like the prior 3-4 games had no value, and it doesn’t, say, make Kitana or Sonya into drugged up prostitutes in a desperate attempt to make them look new and edgy.

    I can’t comment on Thief because I never played it, but if the idea you mentioned is anything akin to “Let’s take Legend of Zelda, and for the next main installment of the franchise, make Link into a space marine on the spaceship Epona with a lightsaber Master Sword, darting around the Hyrule galaxy on his quest,” then I’d oppose it. It might be an interesting idea for a clearly labeled alternate universe spinoff, but not for a main entry meant to be the new direction for the whole franchise.

    In sum, change can be good if it’s done right. It’s incredibly rare for any company to do it right. Most companies have people in the mix that either try to make the IP fit sales gimmicks and popular trends, or people that believe their so-called “genius” is more important than the IP they’re supposed to be respecting.

    #5 6 months ago

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