In addition to our great time interviewing Takashi Iizuka during Summer of Sonic, we also had the pleasure of seating down with Kazuyuki Hoshino , the Sonic Team staff member responsible for creating such characters as Metal Sonic. It was possible to find out his thoughts on such topics as character design and what has been his favourite character during his time at SEGA.
SEGA Nerds: How does it feel to know that you were responsible for creating some of the most memorable characters in the history of SEGA – like Metal Sonic?
Hoshino: Being on the floor, out there today [during Summer of Sonic], and seeing all the fans and their excited faces and getting a sense of that buzz in the air is really really hugely satisfying.
SEGA Nerds: You’ve been involved the making of art for a lot of SEGA titles. Is there a particular process or research method that you do to come up with original designs?
Hoshino: So when creating a character in the fore front of my mind is that this character is linked to the game design. So, you know, unlike the character design for an anime or a film or something – when we create a character it has to tie in with the game-play.
So for example, Sonic is invincible while he is jumping. He turns into a ball and has all the spikes around him. So this is a visual representation of what is happening in the game.
And another thing that has influence while creating a character is when I’m creating that character – what I think is cool at the time, of you know, is going around at the time around me in my environment or the industry would have an influence on me and what I think is cool. The overall output of the character design.
In the old days, there wasn’t really like a formal process, but these days when we create a character we ensure to get input from for example SEGA Europe or from the marketing department. We get input from input from various parts of the SEGA business to ensure that this character that we create is something that will be loved by many people.
But having said that, you know, the premise is this character that we come up with – that we are getting input on – there is what I want to achieve with that character and there is that at the forefront. There is this sort of core thing that we are working towards – that I am driving but I get feedback from the various parts of the business to ensure that it is something that will be done by many.
SEGA Nerds: What was your favourite character to design whilst working at SEGA so far?
Hoshino: Metal Sonic would be my favourite character. The reason being is that Metal Sonic is the first character that I created that actually plays a central role in the Sonic Universe. There was a Mecha Sonic but was created by someone else, and Mecha Sonic hasn’t had the longevity that Metal Sonic has had.
Metal Sonic has continued to appear in many Sonic games and he has been loved by many throughout his time. He was always created to be a character with longevity. So I would say Metal Sonic is my favourite.
SEGA Nerds: Were there any particular challenges you faced when being a designer on modern Sonic games, especially considering the jump from 2D to 3D?
Hoshino: So rather than a design perspective, I’m going to talk about this from a character design perspective. So when the game is 2D you only have to show the character from the best light possible. So you only have to show the character from certain angles.
Where as when you create a game in 3D you have to ensure that the character looks cool from every angle – including from behind. So the key challenge is to make sure the design – parts that you wouldn’t have seen before – is now created in a 3D model and looks cool from every angle.
So that was the key challenge.