It may surprise you to hear that Takashi Iizuka’s favourite character isn’t, in fact, Sonic. “I’ve always liked Shadow as a character,” the producer of Team Sonic Racing tells us, “but I really wanted him to have a cool car, so we went back and forth with the creative team on the exact stylings of what is in the game now.” In the game, each racer has their own unique kart, with customisation options to fine-tune its performance and appearance. Shadow the Hedgehog is a Speed-class character with a suitably moody-looking motor and a higher top speed than other racers. For those who aren't familiar, Team Sonic Racing offers 4-player offline split-screen action (or 12 players online) with the focus on using teamwork to win, rather than speed; with players sharing power ups and using special moves to help each other out.
“Power-class characters can smash through objects on the racing course, and Technique-class characters perform well even on rough terrain,” Iizuka explains, adding, “those who are skilled at the wheel may prefer a Speed-type character, while those out to aggressively target other racers on the track may prefer a Power-type. Anyone looking to reduce their stress while racing may prefer a Technique-class racer, where swinging a little wide, going over ice, or cutting a grass corner won’t incur speed penalties.”
Speaking of favourite characters, Iizuka reflects, “Since we announced Team Sonic Racing, we had playable demos at E3, Gamescom, Tokyo Game Show, and more. At these shows we asked racing game fans and fans of Sonic games what they thought. What stuck with me the most about their responses was the overwhelming excitement they had over being able to select and play as some of the characters that haven’t been a focus in many of our games recently. Specifically, they were excited to race as Chao and as Big The Cat.”
Sega All-Stars and All-Stars Racing Transformed were popular partly because they featured characters from a number of different Sega franchises and contained modern presentations of series such as Jet Set Radio we hadn’t seen very much of for some time. So why, we must wonder, is Sega’s latest racer focusing solely on Sonic The Hedgehog and his pals? Iizuka says, “In the past, Sega used to always release different types of racing games, like Out Run and Daytona, so we have always been releasing a variety of different racing titles. For Team Sonic Racing it was a similar process where we wanted a new type of racing title made instead of just another All-Star game.”
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date: May 21, 2019
Developer: Sumo Digital / Sega
Because we can’t resist, we also ask about the possible return of other long-forgotten Sonic titles, but Iizuka tells us specifically that party game Sonic Shuffle won’t come back, despite admitting it “will still be well received by the current gaming audience.” However, he also tells us, “I certainly believe that a Sonic party game would be a genre that would help attract a new group of players,” though clarifies later, “we wanted a racing game that looked cool and felt more like a racing title than a party game.” Iizuka is strongly invested in co-ordinating players to collaborate. He tells us, “When playing racing games with friends, there was always one person who was winning and having a great time, while the other three players were losing and not having as much fun. Have you ever experienced that?” It’s a gaming phenomenon we know all too well…
Making a racing game everyone can enjoy
Iizuka continues, “I witness this sort of thing happening when I watch my son play with his friends, and it sometimes makes the whole game time an unpleasant experience. I wanted to make a racing game where everyone could enjoy playing and winning together, which fed into the idea behind Team Sonic Racing.” It might seem like an odd pairing for a high-speed hedgehog, which Iizuka acknowledges. Let’s face it, you’d expect spiky speedster Sonic to be the winner every time. But Iizuka explains that the kart racer was in fact a step in the right direction when it came to the developers’ vision of uniting gamers around the world online. It made sense to partner again with Sumo Digital, as the developer has a proven track record, having previously made a number of great Sonic & All-Star Racing titles.
Iizuka further elaborates on why the hedgehog’s the star attraction. “We wanted people who don’t play platform action games to get to play a Sonic game in a genre they might want to play. And we aren’t limiting this to just racing games, we want to continue providing a variety of different games for people to experience.” Iizuka feels the team aspect also capitalises on a wider positive trend in gaming. “I think a lot of online games are currently featuring teamplay as the key to victory over the single-victor type gameplay of the past. Because of this, it is very easy for more casual gamers to get introduced to the fun, and thus we can hopefully grow the number of people who enjoy playing games in the future.”
He later adds, “Regardless of you being one of our many Sonic fans we have all over the world, or if you are new to a Sonic game, we hope this game allows you to have fun with others, teaming up online to co-operate and win as a team together.” We’re certainly looking forward to hauling our slowpoke team mate onto the podium....
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