When Sonic Team director Takashi Iizuka speaks, it’s usually confounding. Most people chalk his facepalm-worthy quotes up to a mistranslation. That excuse has always been weak. I don’t care if you’ve had a one-on-one interview with him in the past, making excuses for his excuses is weak Scarred Sun has called-out Iizuka before for his consistently lame justifications for genuinely poor efforts. If there’s any proof that Iizuka is a lazy, clueless director of this franchise, this quote is undeniable proof.
Nintendo Power finally nutted up and asked a question that was worth asking: “We enjoyed [Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1], but the physics felt a bit off compared to the Genesis games. Is that something you’ll look to tweak in future episodes?” Iizuka’s answer:
In this title, we have not done a straight port of the gameplay [from the Genesis games], but rather updated it with actions which could not be done in the previous titles, like ceiling-running. These changes probably made for a different feel to the longtime Sonic fans. We’re happy for feedback like this, and we’ll make sure we can improve the quality even further in upcoming titles.
Yes. The engine of Sonic 4: Episode 1, with all its negatives, has a positive and it’s something that you apparently couldn’t do in the previous games: ceiling-running. Oh wait, you can do that in the 16-bit games. What a great trade-off. The game is constructed poorly to better suit a feature that was already in the game. Iizuka was a level designer on Sonic 3 & Knuckles. He didn’t know about the ceilings in that game? I think I’m out of chain to yank.
Saying that Sonic Colors will be better than the original Sonic games? Sure, bro. Next song. Saying that the 3D games are great and that it’s the fans’ fault for their failures? Cry me a river, but whatever. This ceiling-running bit? That’s ridiculous. The director of Sonic Team is indirectly admitting that he doesn’t understand or respect his franchise’s past when making a game that not only calls back to the franchise’s past, but is a sequel.
“Updated it?” What’s improved in Sonic 4 over the games that came before it? It’s inferior in every aspect of its design. That’s not opinion. That’s fact. You had “ceiling-running” before, you’re making a sequel and you decided to change everything? What’s next? “We updated the engine to remove gravity and momentum in order to make falling onto platforms much easier?” I’m convinced that it was not a premeditated decision to make the game the way it turned out. Iizuka is covering for the incompetence on the part of himself and his team at Dimps. They, and probably SOJ as a whole, are too proud to admit falling well short of expectations. Worst case scenario, they probably don’t think anything is wrong.
With him in charge, all of us are talking to a brick wall. Don’t fall for his “we’re happy for feedback like this” comment. He’s just covering up again, reaching for his best question-dodging response. He never says that he will be making changes. He’s just “happy” for the feedback that he shot down in that same sentence.
All of the desire and understanding that SEGA of America showed me and the other visitors at their HQ to improve future episodes will go to waste with Iizuka and his team in command. SOA, who I believe is referred to as “SEGA Digital” now, should force their way into this conversation. Sonic 4 is a digitally distributed game. They shouldn’t just be messengers, relaying the valid input they’ve received over the past two months, they should be in the middle of development instead of being relegated to bad iPhone ports, browser games and American P.R./customer support. Sonic is wildly more popular here in the west anyway. Conversation between all of the branches of SEGA needs to improve, because it has been painfully obvious that nobody talks to each other, which affects the quality and perception of their titles.
Before commenters do their usual song and dance about how we shouldn’t care about what the director of Sonic Team has to say about Sonic 4‘s criticisms, let me remind you that he is the director of Sonic Team. He’s not public relations, customer service or a community manager… he’s in charge and has the most influence on the series. What he says carries the most weight and is indicative of how future titles will play out. It is important.