Sega Producer Omar Woodley and Sega PR representative Aaron Weber have spoken to GameSpot about all things Sonic. On the agenda first was the reason why they decided to skip the Wii U this time around with Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice. The answer is partly due to the developers Sanzaru Games having prior experience developing for the Nintendo 3DS and also that the Nintendo 3DS version of the original Sonic Boom was the stronger version.
GameSpot: Since the Wii U version was less successful last time, and the 3DS was already more popular, why not try to do the Wii U version again but better? Why shift completely to the 3DS?
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.
Basically, we took a lot of that feedback and we tried to fix what consumers and the fans felt was not truly “Sonic” in the last game or what were problematic areas: the character swapping; some of the special abilities weren’t fluid enough; the size of the levels were enormous and the users felt lost in this huge labyrinth. And also, users really felt that the speed wasn’t there. The speed that represented Sonic wasn’t true, so we went back and kind of reestablished and reworked a lot of our methodologies on how we designed the levels.
We really wanted to focus on fluidity of gameplay. So in this version we’ve actually decreased the size of the levels about 40%. We’ve cut a linear path through the main part of the level, so you can literally sprint through the whole level and have that fast Sonic experience. We’ve put all the exploration aspects on the periphery of the levels. We’re keeping the exploration because that is what Sonic Boom is. It’s a way of us taking Sonic out of his classic legacy gameplay, his arcade vibe, and it’s giving him a more real-world presentation, a more adventure-based presentation for a new generation of gamers.
We’ve also tied the game more closely to where the animated series is at this point. Last year we launched the game right at the beginning of the animated series. There wasn’t really a great following because the train was literally just leaving the station at that time. So nobody really knew what Sonic Boom was. A lot of the core fans said, “That’s not Sonic.” But I think this time around Sonic Boom is one of the leading cartoons on the Cartoon Network. We have established the merchandising already in stores so the message is pretty clear what Sonic Boom is.