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Exclusive interview: Co-op and combat will help redefine an icon in ‘Sonic Boom’

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In an effort to recreate gaming’s iconic blue hedgehog, SEGA will launch a new franchise for their speedy mascot later this year across multiple forms of entertainment media. To accomplish this, the newly created Sonic Boom universe will be introduced to fans through various Nintendo-exclusive video games and even a TV series appearing on the Cartoon Network. Speaking exclusively to Examiner, Big Red Button CEO and creative director of the upcoming Wii U title, Bob Rafei, and SEGA of America’s senior director of marketing Marcella Churchill recently answered a few questions about the upcoming Sonic rebranding.

Upon first looking at images from Sonic Boom, it is clear that the series is receiving a facelift. However, there is more to the new games than just simple character redesigns. The upcoming titles are being built around a number of new gameplay elements that gamers might not normally associate with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise such as combat mechanics, exploration focused maps, and four-player co-op. To help give fans a better idea of where the classic series is heading, Rafei and Churchhill took the time to discuss many of these changes at length.

Sonic Boom is definitely a different take on the series, what was the reasoning behind doing this? How did fans influence this decision?

(Bob Rafei) SEGA approached us with the idea of creating a co-op Sonic title with strong emphasis on action, exploration and adventure. It was an opportunity to try something different with one of the most iconic gaming characters. We are able to create a fresh approach on Sonic that will feed into every way that fans experience the franchise.

Fans were at the heart of this evolution and kept in mind at every turn. We have nothing but the utmost respect and reverence for them and all of our creative choices were made with them in mind.

With this new style of game, how will it change gameplay?

(Bob Rafei) Fun gameplay set in an epic adventure setting with an engaging ensemble cast and story were our main objectives. To make the experience fun, we started with fluid character navigation with responsive controls. Next came the addition of combat, which is not typically associated with Sonic games], that added the dimension of collaborative, shared gameplay experience. We further developed the team’s personalities based on established traits from canon through character and story. This in turn defined their individual mechanics with unique play styles resembling these personalities. We’re also introducing a new unique mechanic with the Enerbeam used in combat and traversal.

What were some inspirations for this new world? With the ability to play as different characters, why was multiplayer not implemented?

(Bob Rafei) The underlying theme of Sonic Boom is teamwork and within this context, Sonic is stronger with his friends and teammates. Co-op play will be featured throughout the game’s entirety and a character will never be alone, even in single-player mode. The idea behind this is not just to build a strong sense of teamwork amongst the characters, but also for gamers – friends and families alike – to play together collaboratively. That said, there will be special moments throughout the game within several Hub environments where players can access optional four-player modes.

While the 3DS and Wii U versions feature their own stories, will they be connected at all? How will features on the two versions differ? Will the TV series be connected to any of the game stories?

(Marcella Churchill) There is a strong degree of connectivity throughout the Sonic Boom universe that includes the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS games, a brand-new CG-animated TV series on Cartoon Network and an extensive merchandising program. From the onset of this project, it was very productive to get both the game and TV teams together at key moments to help define a consistent world with basic rules that we developed together and built on for each discipline.

The games and TV series share a similar cast of characters and environments but also possess unique differences so the respective development teams make choices that are best suited for their mediums. The TV series actually lends itself as a prequel to the plot of the games. For the games, a different storyline was crafted for each platform to take full advantage of the unique offerings of each game system. In fact, the Nintendo 3DS game is a standalone adventure that shares key characters, events and lore of the Sonic Boom universe. That said, both plots remain within the same canon.

Will there be any microtransactions in Sonic Boom? What role will DLC play in the game, post launch? Could we see Zelda make an appearance like we have seen with Sonic: Lost World?

(Marcella Churchill)There will not be any micro-transactions in Sonic Boom. There is currently no news on DLC for the game.

Those were all the questions asked and answered, thus concluding the interview. The Sonic Boom universe will be delivered to fans later this year with two different tiles exclusively for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. SEGA has also partnered with Cartoon Network to air a new CG animated television program that will expand upon the stories of the video games.

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