Sonic Boom: Sonic the Hedgehog's Shocking Reinvention

“Cross-media collaboration,” “fresh initiative,” and “franchise strategy” were just a few of the phrases used to describe Sonic Boom at a recent Sega press event in New York City. When I sat down for a one-on-one with Sonic Team lead Takashi Iizuka, he even added “new branch” to the growing list of marketing-spun descriptors. While buzzwords were as abundant as gold rings in the Blue Blur’s fantasy world, though, Sonic Boom can be best summed up as a new game, animated television series, and toy line all existing in the same universe.

The goal is to earn Sonic some Super Mario-like exposure and appeal by introducing him to a wider, younger audience. The show—which will include 52 11-minute episodes aired in half-hour blocks—is co-produced by Sega and OuiDO! Productions; it will run on Cartoon Network sometime during their 2014-15 season. The series will give equal time to stars Sonic, Knuckles, Tails, and Amy, and will include other fan favorites such as Dr. Eggman, as well as some original characters. Only a proof-of-concept was shown at the event, but showrunner Evan Bailey told me Regular Show was a good point of reference; he also cited The Simpsons and Spongebob as inspirations. Bailey, who’s also serving as executive producer, couldn’t reveal many specifics, but said Sonic Boom, while aimed at the younger set, will include enough adult-aimed nods to keep parents entertained.

Rafei, who founded Big Red Button following a 13-year art-directing stint at Naughty Dog, describes Sonic Boom as a “real solid character-adventure story.” Departing from the franchise’s action-platforming roots, players can expect more exploration, and a heavier focus on combat, narrative, and personalities. And, as in the show, the whole gang gets equal screen time.

In the game, this translates to each character possessing a particular strength and playstyle. Rafei explains: “A major pillar was to make sure each character’s personality came out with their attributes; so Sonic is more speed-based, Knuckles is all about power, and Tails is more about distance and using gadgets.” These attributes also seep into each character’s style and design, a decision that will undoubtedly clog Twitter feeds with franchise purists’ disapproval. Most notable among the makeovers is Knuckle’s increased size, which Rafei justifies with “we wanted to make sure new fans recognized him as the power-based character…the bruiser.” Sonic now also sports athletic tape around his wrists, hands, ankles, and feet, and a hipster scarf around his neck—perhaps a holdover from Rafei’s days designing Nathan Drake’s wardrobe? Coincidentally—or maybe not—when I sat down with Iizuka, who’s assuming a more supervisory, hands-off role, he also referenced Uncharted (and Tomb Raider) when describing Sonic Boom.

In terms of gameplay, the Wii U version supports local 2-player co-op and, as Rafei says, “works off a classic hub and spoke system.” Solo players will be joined by an A.I. companion, and characters can be hot-swapped at hubs and before boss battles. Regardless of how many live players are participating, all four anthropomorths will show up when it’s time to put the hurt on a boss baddie. Levels will support a “wide linear approach to gameplay,” according to Rafei, offering an accessible critical path for fresh fans, while seasoned players will find things more challenging on less-traveled routes.
Sonic Boom: Sonic the Hedgehog's Shocking Reinvention | agus murod | 5