In an interview with GameSpot, Big Red Button lead Bob Rafei talked about his team’s approach to the Sonic series with the recently-announced Sonic Boom. Specifically, he addressed questions about the much gawked-at redesigns of the main characters–and how they could’ve looked a lot weirder.
According to Rafei, Knuckles’s buffed-up redesign was “to make him look more like the bruiser he is,” distinguishing his shape from the rest of the Sonic Boom ensemble. “… they all have distinct shapes so you can quickly [internalize] the variety between them.” It seems that Knuckles’s shape dictated a larger, heftier frame to emphasize his role in the team.
As for the sports tape and bandannas, they’re supposed to show off the “practical heroism” of Sonic Boom‘s protagonists; notice how Dr. Eggman doesn’t have any, instead opting for prim-and-pressed military garb. Said Rafei, “The sports tape is meant to show the characters are not vain; it’s just a part of their daily routine.” And Sonic’s bandanna? “It comes from the lone ranger, the cowboy, even the snowboarder archetypes–it’s all practical as a requirement against the elements.” Both design choices, says Rafei, “[come] down to a practical need of the character adventuring and not vanity.”
Even with as much flak as Rafei and his team have gotten for the redesign, their initial plans seem to indicate that Sonic and his buddies could’ve appeared a lot more foreign than they do. “Early on, when we had our first review of all the crazy things we wanted to try … We experimented with different colors and surface features on the characters, such as fur or scales…”
So why isn’t Tails covered in reptile skin? Clearly, Sega was less adventurous than Rafei and Big Red Button: “… quickly Sonic Team came back with their discomfort of that. They were great guardrails for us to understand when we were deviating too far from the character.”
Skeptical Sonic fans needn’t worry about where Boom fits into the Sonic world: the game will be canon as well as visually distinct. “[M]y inspiration, along with the rest of the art team’s, comes from a lot of Miyazaki, Disney, and Pixar films,” said Rafei. “[W]e wanted to dive into some archetypal things for the environment–specifically nature versus industry.” … “When you see more of the village and of the environments we’ve built, you’ll see their lushness and organic quality, and that’s really important to establish early on. Not only is it canon, but subliminally you want to protect that [natural beauty]. Then, when you see the robots and machinery associated with the villains, it becomes a very archetypal conflict that just fits right into the Sonic universe.”
Even though they started with some wild ideas, Rafei and his team aren’t approaching development lightly. “Change just for the sake of change is not a worthy goal by itself … We want Sonic fans new and old to instantly recognize the team’s individual [strengths], and we didn’t want Tails, Knuckles, and Amy to feel subordinate to Sonic, either in visual appeal, personality, or, most importantly, gameplay.”
Rafei, who worked on Crash Bandicoot, Jak and Daxter, and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, knows his way around the game industry and, more importantly, he knows how quickly it changes. “No other entertainment medium evolves as fast as the gaming industry. … This rapid evolution really lends itself to experimentation with classic and iconic titles,” he said, stressing the need for Sonic and his friends to adapt. “How many shades of Batman have we seen in the 75 years?”
Source (story and images): GameSpot