Sonic Boom's first character redesigns were 'more alien and different'

By Steve Watts, Mar 17, 2014 8:15am PDT

Sonic Boom is making some pretty bold revisions to the look of Sonic and his assorted animal friends. Not all of those went over smoothly with the Sonic Team in Japan, and creative director Bob Rafei recently recounted how Sega helped temper some of their wilder ideas.

Rafei told GameSpot that their original redesign for the characters tried a variety of color and surface textures like fur and scales, and he acknowledges that in those versions they "lost some of the spirit of the character."

"They were great guardrails for us to understand when we were deviating too far from the character," he said. "Without their input, the character would have been a lot more alien and different from what Sonic is known for." Sonic Team head Takashi Iizuka notably "couldn't actually look at the screen" because the studio's ideas were "too traumatic" for him. "We had a very sincere--just two adults talking--conversation about why a character should or should not wear pants, and that was a very surreal moment in my life and my career," Rafei said.

Other changes were practical considerations. Knuckles is much bulkier to get across the idea of a stronger character, but also to have a more identifiable silhouette. Many of the characters are sporting arm and leg wraps to show that they are concerned with function over fashion, as opposed to the new Eggman design that is meant to look very prim and militaristic.

Sonic Boom is due this year, and is catering itself towards the western market. Rafei previously said that western properties need to balance story and humor together, and a Japanese developer finding that balance for western gamers can be difficult.

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