In a recent interview with GameSpot, developer Big Red Button fielded several questions about the changes to character design implemented by the team in the upcoming Sonic Boom game. According the lead producer Bob Rafei, the team went through several iterations of design for each of the characters, but ultimately the Sonic Team was the final approval step for any changes that were made to the characters.
We experimented with different colors and surface features on the characters, such as fur or scales, and 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. Without their input, the character would have been a lot more alien and different from what Sonic is known for.
Head of Sega’s Sonic Team is Takashi Iizuka, who went so far as to come to Los Angeles to personally look through all the different concepts Big Red Button had designed for the potential game. Rafei said some of the designs were so jarring with traditional Sonic design that Iizuka could actually look at the screen sometimes.
I felt sorry for the guy because sometimes he couldn’t actually look at the screen–it was too traumatic seeing all the crazy stuff we wanted to do. Over the course of that meeting, when we were coming up with new ideas, 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.
Ultimately we see the final chosen character designs above. It’s obvious Iizuka got his wish, since none of the characters are wearing pants save for Dr. Eggman, who has always worn black leggings. Some small articles of clothing have been added to the character designs, such as Sonic wearing a brown bandana and Tails having a tool belt, but the most contentious change to the character models is what fans are calling bandages.
Rafei says they’re not intended to be bandages, but rather sports tape, and the design was inspired by athletes who don’t care what they look like as long as they’re doing a good job. Rafei says vanity is something people are used to in villains, but not heroes.
From my perspective, it was important the characters have a practical heroism to them and not vanity, which is more fitting for villains. The arm and leg wraps were inspired by fighters and American football players–two groups who don’t really care what they look like so long as the end result is that they kick ass at what they do.
What do you think of this explanation for why these characters look different?