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What were your expectations when Iizuka was made head of Sonic team, and did he meet them?

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First and foremost, I would like to state that this is not a bash Takashi Iizuka thread and anyone who aims to derail the topic to that end is undermining the point of this topic. The point of this topic is to share what your expectations were when Takashi Iizuka was put in charge of Sonic Team and whether or not he met them. I know a lot of us had different expectations and reasons for them when Iizuka was put in charge after Unleashed came out, and I am curious if he met them or not and why, not to mention how you feel about them.

Now, with that out of the way, with the Sonic movie finally giving us our first take of how they envisioned Sonic and due to how different it is from anything else that is considered official in any capacity, it got me thinking about what my expectations had been for Takashi Iizuka when he was promoted to head of Sonic Team. I remember reading about it in a magazine article (shame I can't remember the magazine for the life of me and I know I don't own it) and they highlighted his history with the franchise and he wanted the next game to focus on the iconic image of Sonic running. Those were all things that excited me, but what most stood out to me at the time, especially since I was still in my very anything western made sucked mentality (aw the joy of ignorance and uncalled for bigotry) was that he was going to unify the franchise into a single coherent image. I interpreted that to mean there would no longer be a narrative and creative divide between japan, the creators of Sonic, and the rest of the world. Finally, my love of Sonic as told from a Japanese perspective would be the single vision for the franchise going forward. To me it looked like a bright future that would be full of engaging stories (engaging not good - big difference), fun character moments and interactions, more playable characters than Unleashed offered, and a grand sense of adventure that only the Japanese had ever captured in my eyes. Then reality set in.

Disappointment, is really the only thing I can say about what came after Takashi Iizuka was put in charge. Sonic went from being a laid back adventurer with an attitude problem to a jerkass comedian. Other playable characters did not return (except in BOOM! but I'll get to that) and there was no sense of adventure. Suddenly the western takes, especially the comics written by Ian Flynn, were more truthful to what I loved Sonic for and in a strange way it was Ken Penders and not Takashi Iizuka who was responsible for the Archie comics becoming more like the games. This was especially troublesome going forward as Sonic in his Naoto Oshima design and his Yuji Uekawa design would eventually become separate entities, and you also got the BOOM! sub-franchise, and now the movie. Somehow, the unification to a singular image was not only a forgotten comment in some magazine article, but even the Japanese interpretation of him was being fractured. It was utter madness that was only further compounded by a lack of quality or what even seemed like common sense decisions. Sure there were a few good decisions, like making an entire game out of some bonus level ideas for a compilation that eventually even revived Mighty and Ray, but there was no adventure, no fun character moments, no engaging stories. Only multiple playable characters eventual returned, but the games they were attached to were at best disappointments.

There has almost been nothing but consistent disappointment for me since Takashi Iizuka was put in charge of Sonic Team so I can confidently say that he did not meet my expectations. Was that because my expectations were skewed from the start? Maybe, but as some of them were based on Takashi Iizuka's history with the franchise and what that magazine article claimed it was probably also because of factors that I could not account for as well. But what about everyone else. What were your expectations when Takashi Iizuka was put in charge of Sonic Team and has he met them or not?

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You mean the first time when I was 8 years old or the second time when he was inexplicably put back in charge after deciding the best course of action at one point was to make Shadow shoot everyone and swear like someone in elementary school?

 

Because I was 8 years old the first time and I didn't expect very much at all (beyond "he was the only one willing to do it after Naka left") the second time so it's hard to consider whether my expectations were actually met.

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Well if I recall correctly, he officially received the title as Head of Sonic Team after Unleashed released with Colors being the first game made with him in that position. Before that was just being the director for certain games or even the head writer. But as for the actual position of head of Sonic Team I don't remember him being assigned to that until after Unleashed. My memory could be faulty or I was just misinformed so feel free to correct me.

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Sonic Team USA was Iizuka's studio, and that happened to be the one that made all of the mainline Sonic games while the Japanese portion of Sonic Team worked on stuff like Phantasy Star Online and Billy Hatcher and overseeing the Dimps' output up until STH '06. For the purposes of what this thread seems to be asking, whether or not he had the formal title that Naka still retained at the time but was disinterested in following the original Sonic Adventure, the Sonic series was under Iizuka's control at two separate points; which is why I felt Iizuka was singularly unsuited to be given the franchise reigns back after Sonic Team USA was reabsorbed into Sonic Team following Unleashed and had very little expectations for what he would do with it.

 

 

But, again, following Naka's abrupt departure and the studio spinning in circles for the next few years afterwards among different people who all seemed to leave for Nintendo, he was probably the only one who was willing so I assume it could be worse.

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Man, if he's been in charge since Colors, he's been a disappointment and a half. Maybe it's unfair to place all the blame on him, but if he's responsible for the current direction, all I can say is yeah, not a fan. The pushing of all the characters besides Sonic into the background, the simplistic stories, the poor characterization, the lame jokes, all of it has made me yearn for the monster of the week formula that ended with Unleashed, and that wasn't a particularly good direction either. It became stale after a while, but even that is preferable to what we've been getting since Colors. 

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What the hell--how did I end up here?

Um...when did he become director?

3 hours ago, Sonic Fan J said:

I know a lot of us had different expectations and reasons for them when Iizuka was put in charge after Unleashed came out, and I am curious if he met them or not and why, not to mention how you feel about them.

Oh, nevermind.

3 hours ago, Sonic Fan J said:

, no fun character moments,

Didn't Mania have a number of quirky character animations, though?

2 hours ago, Sonic Fan J said:

Before that was just being the director for certain games or even the head writer.

Wait, seriously? What the heck happened?

1 hour ago, ThePrinceOfSaiyans said:

all of it has made me yearn for the monster of the weak formula that ended with Unleashed,

I guess the Time Eater, The Deadly Six, and Infinite weren't things then.

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32 minutes ago, DabigRG said:

What the hell--how did I end up here?

Um...when did he become director?

2010 is when he officially became head of Sonic Team according to resources.

To the main point, I was hoping somebody would bring new life into Sonic and I thought Unleashed was a step in the right direction. Colours was fun but lacked the depth and interactions that Unleashed had. But Colours came out in the same year as the infamous Sonic 4 Episode 1 so...

What followed seems to be hit or miss games. Sonic Generation: Good - Sonic 4: Episode 2: Not so good - Sonic: Lost World: Opinions mixed

I tried so hard to keep an open mind regarding Sonic Forces but...it's clearly shallow. It spits on Tails character development, it brings a new character in that had so much potential and wasted it with a simplistic and dull backstory, if you can call it that. The levels are as shallow as the story and apparently, they did that deliberately? I'm sure somebody had a quote about the level design where they said they made them simple or something.

He also appears to lack vision. Was it him who said that Eggman isn't capable of conquering the world on his own? He made Mighty and Ray "sealed" despite knowing the fans often request them. Giving the credit to the "Mania Project" for letting him bring them back. Yet he's the head, right? He could've thought of a way to bring them back 10 years ago if he cared enough about the fans.

So...all in all...he's been a massive disappointment. Even when he talks about something critically acclaimed like Mania, he still manages to paint himself as an imbecile.

Sorry that I got dangerously close to turning this into an Iizuka bashing post.

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The monster of the week formula is very specific. Eggman unleashes some new monster that either does his bidding or that he relies on, the monster eventually grows beyond Eggman's control, and Super Sonic has to show up and save the day. The Time Eater fulfills the Super Sonic requirement, but doesn't grow beyond Eggman's control. The Deadly Six grow beyond Eggman's control, but there's no Super Sonic final showdown, and they aren't even the big bad of the game. Eggman is, with a copy-paste boss battle from Sonic Colors. Infinite doesn't require some Super Sonic final showdown and he doesn't grow beyond his control. None of them really fall into that specific formula. Chaos does, Shadow/Biolizard do, Metal Sonic does, and Dark Gaia does. The only real exception to the rule during this era is Black Doom. Sonic '06 is a unique case as well, but only in the sense that Iblis and Mephiles didn't do his bidding, nor were they his underlings. He still sets off the events that eventually lead to the formation of Solaris.

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I've never really paid all that much attention to who's in charge of the series, especially not as far back as when Iizuka took over, so I can't say I had any specific expectations for him. As for what he's accomplished, I'm certainly not happy with where the series has ended up, but I also feel like the problems with the series go beyond any one person. I think it's easy to put the blame on him for everything because he's a name we're all familiar with and he's surely responsible for some bad decisions, but in reality there's a lot of forces at play and it feels like nobody knows what to do with Sonic anymore.

So, it's just kinda middling disappointment. I'm not happy but I'm not frothing with rage either.

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23 hours ago, -dan- said:

2010 is when he officially became head of Sonic Team according to resources.

 

I know, I read the OP afterwards. :sweat_smile:

 

 

23 hours ago, -dan- said:

The levels are as shallow as the story and apparently, they did that deliberately? I'm sure somebody had a quote about the level design where they said they made them simple or something.

Did they say that?

Cause I know there was some report that the game proper didn't start development until little over a year before it was due, so....

23 hours ago, -dan- said:

He made Mighty and Ray "sealed" despite knowing the fans often request them. Giving the credit to the "Mania Project" for letting him bring them back. Yet he's the head, right? He could've thought of a way to bring them back 10 years ago if he cared enough about the fans.

That sounds more like giving them the spotlight for their work than anything.

Or about Mighty and Ray, anyway.

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37 minutes ago, DabigRG said:

Did they say that?

Cause I know there was some report that the game proper didn't start development until little over a year before it was due, so....

Did some fact checking. The quote that I recalled was one I first saw on this very forum and it was by Shun Nakamura.

Quote
  • Narrator (10:13): "Since it's a long-running series, the gameplay of this latest game was designed to be easy for new users."
  • Nakamura (10:24): "Many games feature complex and intricate gameplay. However with Sonic, it's more sloppy but easy. Above everything else, we wanted this game to be a non-stop action experience. Often with games, there are many moments where one must take time to aim before shooting. But in this game, you simply press and hold the button to attack. So you can really enjoy ultimately just dashing like a maniac through the stages."
  • Narrator (11:00): "This emphasis on simplicity can be seen throughout the game. The game has stages that can be tackled in pairs by Sonic and the player's customized character. But to keep it simple, the button for switching between characters has been eliminated."
  • Nakamura (11:21): "Normally there is a button for switching between characters. However in this game, Sonic comes forward when the boost button is pressed, and the Avatar comes forward with the attack button. As a result, the player doesn't need to think about switching characters. Instead of sticking to Sonic's traditional style of gameplay, we decided to design the game to be as simple and enjoyable as possible; focusing more on the excitement of dashing through the stages, without having to think about, you know, complex game controls."

From this, it sounds like they were trying to simplify things for those new to the series. Just had the opposite effect of alienating the veterans. The original topic that talked about this interview is here:

The tweet in the opening post didn't really supply any sources of the quote or explain much about the interview. That was later supplied by @Gabriel on the second page, which I linked so if you click that, it should take you straight to the second page.

48 minutes ago, DabigRG said:

That sounds more like giving them the spotlight for their work than anything.

Or about Mighty and Ray, anyway.

I don't mind him giving credit to the Mania team. It's just the implication that he wouldn't revive them unless given an opportunity. Maybe I'm wrong in thinking that the head of Sonic Team has a say in almost everything Sonic Team related. How he said it makes it sound like he lacks vision for the franchise.

Perhaps I'm overthinking things.

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19 hours ago, Tornado said:

Sonic Team USA was Iizuka's studio, and that happened to be the one that made all of the mainline Sonic games while the Japanese portion of Sonic Team worked on stuff like Phantasy Star Online and Billy Hatcher and overseeing the Dimps' output up until STH '06. For the purposes of what this thread seems to be asking, whether or not he had the formal title that Naka still retained at the time but was disinterested in following the original Sonic Adventure, the Sonic series was under Iizuka's control at two separate points; which is why I felt Iizuka was singularly unsuited to be given the franchise reigns back after Sonic Team USA was reabsorbed into Sonic Team following Unleashed and had very little expectations for what he would do with it.

 

 

But, again, following Naka's abrupt departure and the studio spinning in circles for the next few years afterwards among different people who all seemed to leave for Nintendo, he was probably the only one who was willing so I assume it could be worse.

Well that's some interesting information that I hadn't known about Iizuka, thanks for sharing that.
That said though, my point of reference was indeed when he received the official title after Unleashed as I said above, and looking at how you felt about Iizuka then I can think of a certain birthday cake meme that would describe it well if I'm not misunderstanding it. Still that would be rude to put a meme in your mouth and would not advance my topic any. Still though, in a way your expectations appear potentially met if only because you had no good expectations for him and it seems he proved those expectations right. It's kind of sad in a way to me as I personally can't stand being right about things not working out well.

16 hours ago, -dan- said:

Sorry that I got dangerously close to turning this into an Iizuka bashing post.

No worries, you still managed to mostly get your points across without going into a hate spiel. And if I'm reading things correctly, I'd say your expectations were that if you kept an open mind he might surprise, which he didn't.

16 hours ago, Diogenes said:

I've never really paid all that much attention to who's in charge of the series, especially not as far back as when Iizuka took over, so I can't say I had any specific expectations for him. As for what he's accomplished, I'm certainly not happy with where the series has ended up, but I also feel like the problems with the series go beyond any one person. I think it's easy to put the blame on him for everything because he's a name we're all familiar with and he's surely responsible for some bad decisions, but in reality there's a lot of forces at play and it feels like nobody knows what to do with Sonic anymore.

So, it's just kinda middling disappointment. I'm not happy but I'm not frothing with rage either.

Maybe it's just part of me being a fan of creators of a work as much as I am a fan of their work that skews my perspective so, but even then, this thread was less about putting blame on anyone, and more discussing our expectations for Iizuka's appointment to Head of Sonic Team in an official capacity and whether he or not he met them or not and why. As I said in the OP my expectations were perhaps born from false pretenses to begin with. As a result my expectations were perhaps unfair, but regardless they had a reason for existing and Iizuka failed to meet them. Was that his fault? That question I can't answer because what happens in SEGA and Sonic Team for how the franchise is addressed is only perceived by us through the end product. That doesn't change us having expectations though. To an extent it's almost like the US presidency; you have an elected official who spends a ton of time creating expectations to get elected and then fails to meet them either for having simply lied, being stopped by Congress or the Supreme Court, or some mixture of the two and other factors. The fault may not lie with Iizuka, but then again he could also have met someone's expectations. Just take @Tornado in this very thread. He expected Iizuka to be a bad fit and Iizuka has met those expectations regardless of the reasoning behind them.

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I find it hard to have any thoughts about Iizuka, he doesn't seem to have much of an artistic presence. I mean, I played Naka's post Sega game, Rodea the sky soldier for a few minutes and I immediatly felt Naka's presense in that game. Giving me mild Billy Hatcher/ NiGHTS/ Sonic Adventure vibes. Same with others like Yu suzuki, he has an immediate presence in his games i feel. I never have that with Iizuka. I tend to imagine him to be a bit of a Yes-man saying what he thinks we want to hear and doing what he thinks Sega wants him to do.
That's just my interpretation tough. I don't know.

But honestly, I think Sonic's biggest problem is more a "too many cooks in the kitchen" aproach rather then a bad leader. Granted, a great leader could have create balance in the chaos, but still. I look at the results of recent Sonic games (Ignoring Mania which probably flew below the radar of most Sega executives) and I can just feel that board room filled with several factions of disagreeing managers stuck in an eternal rope pulling competition.

I just don't get the sense Sonic has any vision or focus anymore. Makes me wish Sega would just turn it into a competition. Just make 3 entirely diffrent Sonic games, make them seperate subseries if you must like Sonic Boom, and have them compete on the market so  you can see what aproach works. Sounds more fun and productive then releasing shapeless Frankenstein monsters that try to be everything and end up being nothing.
Heck, it'd be a brilliant marketing move, tell Sonic fans that each bought game was litteraly a vote for future games and you got superfans buying multiple copies to ensure their Mania 2/Adventure 6/ Unleased 4 or what have you.
Sonic Forces versus Mania would have been great if Forces actually stood for something like Mania did.

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