With upcoming, downloadable, side-scrolling platformer Sonic 4, SEGA is taking the speedy blue hedgehog back to his Mega Drive roots. But what of Sonic Colours, the Wii and DS adventure game due out later this year? What roots, if any, is that game digging up?
And following the likes of Sonic Unleashed, Sonic and the Secret Rings and Black Knight, should we even care?
Sonic Team head honcho Takashi Iizuka tells Eurogamer that, yes, you absolutely should care, because he's well aware of what you thought about Unleashed's night-time levels and is doing his utmost to make sure you never have to endure similar agony again.
Eurogamer: Is Sonic Colours a reaction to criticism of Sonic Unleashed?
Takashi Iizuka: Yes. The team deliberately looked into the daylight stages of Sonic Unleashed.
After the release of that game the team had a lot of good feedback, particularly of the daylight stages. That's how the project initially started - focusing on the good side of the previous project.
Eurogamer: What do you think about how Sonic Unleashed ended up?
Takashi Iizuka: Initially the purpose of separating the daytime and the night-time was to give more variety to the gameplay.
One is, obviously, the speed side, which you saw in the daytime stages, whereas the platforming and more the technical side was the focus of the night-time stages. In that project it was completely separated from each other. It was two different gameplay types.
But now, looking back at the reviews and the critics and all the stuff from the fans, we can see that the daytime stages were better received than the night-time stages. That's how we look back to the project, and this is how it affects the current project.
Eurogamer: Why have you decided to make Sonic Colours exclusive to Nintendo platforms?
Takashi Iizuka: This is because the development team was... not comfortable, but had a lot of experience with the Nintendo platforms. They thought they could capitalise on their past experience. That's why they went for the Wii and the DS.
Eurogamer: Will Xbox 360 and PS3 versions be released in the future?
Takashi Iizuka: It's hard to say, for the time being. Going with Nintendo platforms doesn't mean the team doesn't have any experience at all with the PS3 and 360. They have the experience from Sonic Unleashed working on those next-gen platforms.
At this point in time it's hard to say whether Sonic Colours will be released on those platforms. But it's something the team might look into in the future.
Eurogamer: How did you approach incorporating motion control into the Sonic experience?
Takashi Iizuka: It depends on what kind of titles you're developing, even within the Sonic franchise.
For example, we released Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii. That was designed to incorporate motion controls even though it was still a Sonic action game.
But in the case of Sonic Colours, the starting point was on the pure speed of what makes Sonic Sonic. In that sense the team felt the motion controllers were not the main control that should be incorporated.
They limited the use of motion controls. In this case it's solely limited to when you're using the colour powers. That's because the motion controllers are not as responsive as the direct digital or analogue input.
On the other hand, the other Sonic title that's currently in development, Sonic Free Riders for Xbox Kinect, is obviously specifically designed to incorporate Kinect features.
It's hard to say what is good and what's bad. It depends on what kind of titles, even within the Sonic franchise, you're trying to develop.
Eurogamer: How do you feel when you read old-school Sonic fans slagging off the Sonic franchise and what it's become?
Takashi Iizuka: The fundamentals of both games, the 3D Sonic or the 2D side-scrolling games, are the same. Sonic is all about the speed and the platforming. It just comes down to how the gameplay differs when you're playing in 3D and 2D side-scrolling.
I understand there are differences in the ways users interpret the 3D side than the fans who particularly like the 2D classic side of the game.
This is why we're releasing two different types of Sonic games this year - to please the 2D classic fans who have been playing from the Genesis [Mega Drive]. Sonic 4 is more for those fans.
There are also fans who like the 3D Sonic games which have been released in the past couple of years. Sonic Colours is probably more for the users who appreciate the 3D side of Sonic.
Eurogamer: But how do the negative comments make you feel? Do you ignore them?
Takashi Iizuka: It's more that those fans are not positive towards the recent 3D Sonic games because we've been releasing only 3D Sonic games in the past couple of years.
It's hard to please both 2D and 3D fans at the same time, in the same title for instance.
This is why the team decided to release two different types of Sonic games. It's always hard to dodge every negative perception or make everybody happy with just one title. So we're giving two options to the users.
So, either way, you'll be pleased.
More on Sonic Colours
Eurogamer: How is development of Sonic 4 being shared between Sonic Team and Dimps?
Takashi Iizuka: First and foremost Sonic Team gave a product brief to Dimps so that we can make sure we're all on the same page when creating this title.
Then we had Dimps' level designers come up with the initial concepts of the stages. Then it's going back and forth and discussions - Sonic Team giving the direction and suggestions.
That's how the level design and gameplay has been developed into the current state.
Eurogamer: What platform games have you enjoyed recently?
Takashi Iizuka: I'm a fan of the genre, and as part of my learning and part of my job, I play quite a lot of the platform games that have been released in recent years.
I've been a big fan of the Mario franchise since I was a child. I've been playing mostly Mario games, including the recent ones.
Eurogamer: What is it about Mario Galaxy 2 that makes it so good?
Takashi Iizuka: It's hard to specify what makes it really good. But it's a game I enjoyed. I see a lot of ideas. To be a very good platformer it's almost like ticking the right boxes.
Eurogamer: LittleBigPlanet is a platformer that allows players to create levels and customise characters. Any plans for similar features in future Sonic games?
Takashi Iizuka: It's something the team is not looking into at the moment. Sonic games, it's pretty clear that how good the level design is directly affects the quality of the game.
The team believes the speed and the tempo is crucial. Sonic Team are the professionals at doing it. It's hard to leave it up to the users because it's quite difficult.
We have, however, allowed this feature through PlaySEGA, which allows our users to create their own levels. But in terms of future Sonic games, this is not in the plan.
Sonic Colours is due out on the Wii and DS "holiday 2010". Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 will be available to download from Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network "late 2010".