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Could a Thousand Monkeys with a Thousand Typewriters Make a Better Sonic Game than Iizuka?

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My main gripes with Iizuka is that he's insistent on constantly catering to casuals by dumbing down Sonic games since and making them too easy Colours, while long time fans who want a more challenging experience have had nothing, and stories that are so simple to the point where nothing is ever explained or there's plot elements that contradict each other in the same game (Infinite's backstory and Omega appearing at the end of Sonic Forces a both prime examples of what I'm taking about).

If the 30th Anniversary game still have the same issues that people have complained about for years, I will firmly believe that Iizuka, Kishimoto, & Nakamura are out of touch with not only Sonic fames but gamers in general, and that Sonic team needs new leadership.

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While there have been a lot of questionable decisions during Iizuka’s time as head of Sonic Team, it’s hard to tell how many of those he was responsible for and how many were made by Sega’s higher ups. I think a lot of people just blame him for everything because he’s the only name they know.

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47 minutes ago, Johnster4 said:

My main gripes with Iizuka is that he's insistent on constantly catering to casuals by dumbing down Sonic games since and making them too easy Colours, while long time fans who want a more challenging experience have had nothing, and stories that are so simple to the point where nothing is ever explained or there's plot elements that contradict each other in the same game (Infinite's backstory and Omega appearing at the end of Sonic Forces a both prime examples of what I'm taking about).

If the 30th Anniversary game still have the same issues that people have complained about for years, I will firmly believe that Iizuka, Kishimoto, & Nakamura are out of touch with not only Sonic fames but gamers in general, and that Sonic team needs new leadership.

I'm bummed about the decreased difficulty of Colours and Forces too (I think Generations and Lost World were fine though, so it's not a consistent trend).

However it's worth remembering that kids pay their bills far more than us hardcore fans.  I'd definitely like it if Sonic games were as well-rounded as other family-friendly titles like Mario, but I could believe the idea that Mario developers get the time and budget to make a fully-featured game that a casual gamer can get a satisfying experience out of, AND THEN make additional content that only hardcore players will enjoy, while Sonic games just don't have that luxury.

The ideal is that they start including (well designed, not cheap) hard modes for longtime fans and/or post-credits levels that are challenging AND just as interestingly put together as standard stages like Mario does (not just pieced together from blocks and platforms on top of the existing stage geometry like Forces' extra stages).  But if they can't budget to include "properly done" content like that for hardcore fans and make the decision to adjust the difficulty level so the vast, vast majority of players (kids and casuals) have a good time with the game over us, then like... I get it.  It's sad for us but I get it.

 

Once again it's worth remembering that Iizuka approved everything about Sonic Mania, which I think most would say had a difficulty level on par with the classics?  I mean it sure as hell had the frustrating outdated lives and game over system of the classics if nothing else, and I can say from live experience, it actively harmed the product for casual players for them to do that.  That was a product primarily aimed at grown-up fans, and Iizuka didn't mandate a casual gamer difficulty on that one.  The difficulty of Colours and Forces was clearly a conscious decision to appeal to a particular demographic, and that can't always be the minority of folks who are nerdy enough about Sonic to spend time discussing the games on the internet (and that's not derogatory, our detailed feedback is helpful to an extent, but we are much much fewer than the majority of "people who play Sonic games").

But regardless of all the above "I get it"... I always hope the next game they will prioritise splitting the difference and making a game any Sonic fan can enjoy to the same extent.

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Sega in general seems to be simultaneously a control freak when it comes to Sonic as a franchise, but lazy in game development (only two rookies for level layouts for Forces?)

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So much is wrong with how this franchise handled from top to bottom I don't think removing Iizuka would change much. Like you really can't point to a single person to remove and expect everything to change for the better, massive shifts in thinking, planning, development need to be made before we start seeing any big positive changes 

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2 hours ago, SBR2 said:

Can I be honest? I think people learn like maybe 1 or 2 names and attribute every problem they have with a franchise to that single name without realizing that whether it's game development or movie production or whatever there's usually way more voices than just one on a project.

In the example of Sonic Team if Iizuka and Kishimoto happen to be directly involved games that have the same problems every time then it's seems reasonable to connect the dots and say the problem is their game design philosophy rather than the higher ups.

It also doesn't help that there's interviews where Iizuka has stated he has a lot to control with the series since becoming the head of Sonic Team.

https://spong.com/feature/10110209/Interview-Sonic-Colours-Producer-Takashi-Iizuka/3

Quote

 Takashi Iisuka: I see Sonic as more of a laid-back, enjoyable and fun experience. I kind of rediscovered that through Mario & Sonic in a way, because that game was very much a 'pick up and play' affair that everyone can jump in and enjoy. I think that's a better direction for the Sonic brand, and that's why Sonic Colours has a much more fun, enjoyable kind of setting.

SPOnG: Is it safe to say then, that future Sonic titles will have the same kind of colourful, simple, laid-back feel that Sonic Colours has?

Takashi Iizuka: Yes, that's the vision that I have.
 

https://www.pocketgamer.com/articles/032963/sega-producer-takashi-iizuka-talks-sonic-generations-and-what-the-future-holds-for-the-blue-hedgehog/

Quote

Sonic is still hugely popular, but Sonic games of the last several years have been less well received than those from, say, 15 years ago. Why do you think that is?

So originally it was more or less the same team working on all the different Sonic titles, but after a few years, for various reasons, we started to delegate Sonic games to different groups of people.

And everyone in the office has their own idea of what Sonic should be, so we started to see slightly varied, slightly different directions of Sonic games.

I was conscious of this, so I'm now back with full responsibility of all things Sonic. I have control over the direction of not just Sonic Generations, but all the Sonic titles that we will develop in the future.

So I have more control, and hopefully this will provide better appearances for future titles.

 

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He is the boss, of course he will say that it's "his vision", he have to. It doesn't mean that he have that much control in real life. Especially in that games that he directly made as a director where not really exactly the same vision than the few latest games.

He seems more to have a control on some stuff, but most interview shows that he doesn't have control about everything. In an interview about Sonic Forces, Nakamura and Kishimoto talked about how the west shaped some things (the lack of music with lyrics in Sonic Lost World), and talked several time about the reception of stuff in western branches. This show for me that there is a bit of a "design by committee" tendencies in SEGA (at least for Sonic), in that they have to worry about how some things will be accepted in other branches of SEGA.

So I don't think that there are real evidence that he is a "control freak" (which is a strong word, imo), especially when he wasn't the producer of the last big game and let someone else manage it while he was working with a different team on Sonic Mania, team that doesn't seems that have talked that the experience being really unpleasant. The Sonic Team seems to be opinionated on some things, but seems to also accept ideas and inputs from people they work with. Yes, sometimes they have an opinion of what should be done, but mostly that's normal, that's their IP.

The Sonic Boom show more a difference of vision, which sadly… happens. And to be fair, if the project started in bad terms… people are human, if you have problem with someone, they'll accept less.

 

I feel it's more the fan searching a simple answer, because it's easier to handle. If it's "bad man Iizuka", it give an easy solution to the problem, that will magically be solved. Which is more simple to handle than a complex problem. I don't think that there is a "magical" solution for Sonic. Removing whatever is the power of Iizuka won't change the problems in the vision of Sonic, that are more complex than just a single or a few person causing the problem.

If it was just his doing, SEGA would certainly have not much problem of making him less important with how much he have been criticized. They have shown their ability to make his life hard several time when SEGAStudio USA existed, I don't think that 15 years after the end of this studio (and his semi-independance) they would have that much issues to do that.

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5 hours ago, Wraith said:

I've always felt like the idea that kids don't like difficult games was a myth. Minecraft and Fortnite are leagues more complicated than Sonic.

The difficulty hit feels like it had more to do with adult critics and casual players bouncing off of Unleashed and embracing Colors with open arms, and I want to emphasize adult here because it seems like every time I read about a person actually having trouble with a Sonic game, it's an adult and not many of the actual children they're worried about. This isn't even getting into the fact that Sonic was largely easier than his contemporaries already, Unleashed aside. I'd bet making the games so easy to finish has alienated more people on the whole and made them less memorable with their target audience.  Sonic Mania was popular with gamers of all skill levels and that had a pretty decent old-school difficulty curve.

Basically I don't think they were right to lower the difficulty for a lot of reasons. At most I could see why they removed the lives system, but it had already been a nonentity long before Forces came around.

Yeah this is fair actually, I backtrack my statement a bit.  While I still think it makes sense that they're lowering the difficulty to appeal to kids and casuals, I concede that like a lot of other design choices they make, it's "sensible intent, wrong execution".  There are definitely smarter ways they could be going for what they're going for if uh, they insist on going for it.

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7 hours ago, Kazhnuz said:

So I don't think that there are real evidence that he is a "control freak" (which is a strong word, imo), especially when he wasn't the producer of the last big game and let someone else manage it while he was working with a different team on Sonic Mania, team that doesn't seems that have talked that the experience being really unpleasant. The Sonic Team seems to be opinionated on some things, but seems to also accept ideas and inputs from people they work with. Yes, sometimes they have an opinion of what should be done, but mostly that's normal, that's their IP.

While it's true Iizuka dodnt work on Mania, that goes without saying. We should look at how many projects he was involved with and if the same problems keep cropping up over and over. 

He was Sonic Series Producer & Head Supervisor on Forces after all. 

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6 hours ago, ryu238 said:

While it's true Iizuka dodnt work on Mania, that goes without saying. We should look at how many projects he was involved with and if the same problems keep cropping up over and over. 

He was Sonic Series Producer & Head Supervisor on Forces after all. 

He was working on Mania. Not doing the work directly like during the Adventure Era (it's not really his job anymore), but most things show that he was involved. He was also the one wanting the project to be more that what was initially proposed. He helped the project, and doesn't seems to have been a "control freak". And most people that actually worked with him, that actually talked with him, said more that he seems like a nice person.

About Forces, it's mostly Nakamura and Kishimoto that talked about actual decision they made in interview. Being the "head supervisor" doesn't mean that you control everything, far from it. Just reading the credit and saying "He's there and the same problem too so he is the problem" isn't investigating. Especially when he is the boss of Sonic Team, of course he'll be credited everywhere. What is interesting is taking this info with all the rest… and for me he doesn't really says "Iizuka had complete control on Sonic Forces".

Development doesn't work that way, it's not a one-man work. He have been an influence on some stuff. But he isn't the root of everything.

 

I would add that people accuse Iizuka of being the root of all evil even since the Adventure titles.

Every changes have been said to be his fault, every bad game too, from the game he actually worked a lot on it (Heroes and Shadow, two project that harmed him a lot) to the one he didn't work on, as said Tornado. He sure isn't perfect, and there is certainly some issues that have been related with him (but we also don't know what other issue he avoid).

But for me, there isn't really good evidence of Iizuka himself having too much control.

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6 hours ago, Tornado said:

This is exactly the case. I've been here long enough to remember when people were laying the blame of 06 a his feet; the final ultimate proof that the series under his stewardship had stagnated and the type of games he was making were played out and it was time for a change both at the top and conceptually.

06 being a game made at another studio in another country on the other side of the world from the things Iizuka was working on at the time.

Wouldn't that have been Yiji Naka at that point since that was the last Sonic game he was involved with before leaving SEGA?

 

6 hours ago, Tornado said:

Iizuka has made some laughably dumb gaffes (primarily in the Sonic 4 era), but I think it's dramatically underappreciated that he's the only one left of Sonic Team who is willing to put up with Sega and act as a buffer between them and whatever the series does next; and I would be extremely shocked if all the stupid mandates shit and baffling marketing decisions and poor development allocation couldn't be laid entirely at the feet of some middle management idiot at Sega of Japan and Iizuka is the guy Sega trots out to take all the heat for things.

 

2 hours ago, Kazhnuz said:

He was working on Mania. Not doing the work directly like during the Adventure Era (it's not really his job anymore), but most things show that he was involved. He was also the one wanting the project to be more that what was initially proposed. He helped the project, and doesn't seems to have been a "control freak". And most people that actually worked with him, that actually talked with him, said more that he seems like a nice person.

About Forces, it's mostly Nakamura and Kishimoto that talked about actual decision they made in interview. Being the "head supervisor" doesn't mean that you control everything, far from it. Just reading the credit and saying "He's there and the same problem too so he is the problem" isn't investigating. Especially when he is the boss of Sonic Team, of course he'll be credited everywhere. What is interesting is taking this info with all the rest… and for me he doesn't really says "Iizuka had complete control on Sonic Forces".

Development doesn't work that way, it's not a one-man work. He have been an influence on some stuff. But he isn't the root of everything.

This is where I have questions about the current state of Sonic Team, is Iizuka reasonable for anything at Sonic Team or is it only the games that get a good reception? Is he only be involved with games outside of Sonic Team?

When people praise his involvement in Mania but say he wasn't involved with Forces  it feels like like there being selective and saying he's only there for the good games and not there for the bad games, which I'm not convinced on.

I want to present a scenario that's been om my mind for a some time before this thread popped up:

Lets say for the 30th anniversary game where the game is being developed in America, Sonic Studio is the new team that is located in America ,  and Iizuka actually has full control over (for real this time) the development next game as the producer but for some reason, Morio Kishimoto is still the director, the writing is the as shallow as it was over the past decade, still caters to newcomers and casuals, and is a short and too easy game, do we go back to blaming the higher ups, until Iizuka produces a game that's good then we can turn around and say that he's doing good for the series, or do we say that this has been his vision for the series since Colours and his vision for the series isn't working anymore?

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2 hours ago, Johnster4 said:

When people praise his involvement in Mania but say he wasn't involved with Forces  it feels like like there being selective and saying he's only there for the good games and not there for the bad games, which I'm not convinced on.

Nobody here have said that he was responsible only for good things. Both post you quote says that he have made stuff other than the "good game". So no "selectiveness" here 😛

And most people says that he was LESS involved in Forces, and doesn't negate that he was involved in older Boost game, and in game like Colors and stuff. What point to Iizuka being more overseeing Mania than Forces is mostly what we can find from the devs, from interviews and stuff. For instance, we know that the wispon gameplay is mostly related to Kishimoto, that wasn't really fond of the first instance of "all are shot weapon and have an strenght and a weakness" and wanted something more adrenaline-filled. (We also know with that interview that the occidental branches have some influences, as they said that they were a bit afraid about lyrics in song because of that).

And to be fair, the recent games doesn't have exactly the same vision in every points. Gameplay vision is pretty different in a game made by Kishimoto (and in a way : even between Kishimoto boost games and Lost World) and in Generations, and Lost World and Forces are polar opposite : especially with Forces having a focus on storytelling, which is kinda the opposite from every game before since Unleashed or 2006. Samewise for the difficulty, I don't think that it's just "games are becoming easier", it's mostly Colors/Forces that are really easy, Generations was easy but not as much as those one, and I remember people finding Lost World "unfair" in it's difficulty (with several "one-hit-kill" moments).

That's all the complexity of the subject : he have made good and bad things, but with other people. He is partly responsible for some pretty nice stuff, but also for big failure (like Sonic 4). And the whole company policies have effect on what happens. How much budget the game have, how much time they have to develop stuff. t doesn't mean that he is perfect, or that he'll be only source of good stuff. But that trying to pinpoint a sole responsible isn't really relevant with what knowledge we have (especially when tbh SEGA's management is pretty known to be kinda… bad). Yes, it give "hopes" of a simple solution (because it mean that if the "bad man" is out, stuff would be solved), when saying that the problem is more profound and related to the system the Sonic games are made on. It's for me like all the "SEGA should be bought by <insert here another company here>" : it give a "simple" (not really that simple in fact, but eh) solution, even if there are chance that it's not a realistic depiction of the issue.

Maybe having another produceur might make some stuff better. Maybe it might make some other stuff worse. Maybe the better stuff would be pretty cool, even. But for most part, there is a big chance that doesn't change the deeper problems about SEGA's management, that might be sources of problems in Sonic too.

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These games are generally made made by a team, with people like Iuzuka, Kishimoto, and the occasional third party like Whitehead and Sumo Digital as spearheads and overseers who nonetheless give generally directions of a game's intent that the designers, programmer's, and writers execution. So ultimately, much of what we see is a combination of different ideas, conveniences, and efforts coming together.

In Iuzuka's case, it does seem like while he is the producer and likely gives the okay on a chunk of what gets released, how much he's actively contributing is kinda nebulous beyond what few reference points can be picked and assessed. From what bit I understand, he would've given the order for the last decade being simpler and more accessible, but what that actually ends up being sounded like it was his approval of Kishimoto, Pontac & Graff, Otake, and Nakamura's ideas.

Funnily enough, it sounds like the biggest input he personally has is on spinoff materials--while Sonic Boom was more about hasty streamlining of what was gonna be two outside products, IDW(albeit certain aspects of things the writers pitch), the presence of returning zones Mania(I think), and at least the gameplay gimmick of TSR are documented cases where he personally stepped in and contributed.

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I feel like I've had a much better understanding of how mind numbingly difficult game development is, and what the workers have to go through in actually getting the game created. Developers have to deal with their publishers enforcing deadlines and mandates, often times with limited resources and they're just expected to accept that. And when the product doesn't meet either the Publishers or the fan's expectations, guess who is getting the heat for it. It's honestly made me extremely sympathetic and understanding of the game development process, not just for Sonic, but gaming in general. 

What it comes down to; most of the fanbase are either too young or ignorant of this process, all they understand is that they didn't get what they wanted, and they need someone to point their fingers at, so they go after the most public figure. It's completely unfair and uncalled for, but I get it. This is why Iizuka, Kishimoto, etc all get so much shit, because they're the main names attached to these games. What doesn't help is the lack of transparency about the difficulties they're probably facing in making these games. I'd imagine there'd be SOMEWHAT more goodwill if they just came out and said how fucked up things are, but that would potentially damage their credibility too. It's a no-win scenario for anybody. 

What makes it even more difficult and fucked up is that Sonic is a much older franchise now; it simply cannot get by with just catering to either casuals or hardcore fans specifically. So another difficulty has been actually finding the right balance between what casual gamers would enjoy versus what hardcore gamers would enjoy. You can honestly tell that Sonic Forces really did want to appeal to everyone within it's design, they're trying. They're REALLY trying, but managing this behemoth of a franchise is probably just so damn difficult. 

I'm not making excuses for them mind you, because at the end of the day, they're the ones who are responsible for this series and we know from history that Sega are just notorious businessmen when it comes to managing their IP's, to say nothing of their flagship Sonic. I have no idea what's happening behind the scenes and I would love to be a fly on the wall in Sega HQ to be privy on what's being said in there. But the fact of the matter is that Sonic the Hedgehog cannot survive on the goodwill of it's brand forever, people will eventually stop caring and move on to something else. and I'm sure somebody at Sega understands this to an extent and is trying to address it. But until these changes are made and they're CONSISTENT, it's just gonna be more of the same to be honest. 

Even if Iizuka was removed, and they got fresh blood in the series...they're still Sega's mercy when it comes to management and resources. 

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40 minutes ago, Kazhnuz said:

Nobody here have said that he was responsible only for good things. Both post you quote says that he have made stuff other than the "good game". So no "selectiveness" here

Apologies if it seems like it was directed towards you and Tornado it just reminded me of some arguments from other sonic communities I've been around.

39 minutes ago, Kazhnuz said:

For instance, we know that the wispon gameplay is mostly related to Kishimoto, that wasn't really fond of the first instance of "all are shot weapon and have an strenght and a weakness" and wanted something more adrenaline-filled. (We also know with that interview that the occidental branches have some influences, as they said that they were a bit afraid about lyrics in song because of that).

Do you have a link to the interview?

41 minutes ago, Kazhnuz said:

And to be fair, the recent games doesn't have exactly the same vision in every points. Gameplay vision is pretty different in a game made by Kishimoto (and in a way : even between Kishimoto boost games and Lost World) and in Generations, and Lost World and Forces are polar opposite : especially with Forces having a focus on storytelling, which is kinda the opposite from every game before since Unleashed or 2006

Sure the Boost games and Lost world have different gameplay styles and Forces is different Storytelling from Lost World, but they share some fundamental problems with the direction of the Series since Colours, 

For example, They always say in interviews that they want to cater to anyone but Sonic fans, Casuals and newcomers, and for Lost World Mario fans, the over usage for 2D section when modern Sonic should be 3D (I'd say it's at it's worst in Forces), The plots are too simple to the point where nothing is ever explained, for example, they never explain what the Lost Hex in Lost World, it's just there with no explanation, or Omega in Forces coming back at the 3rd Act, despite Tails not being able to repair him, and they never address it, or Infinite's backstory contradicting itself.

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The interview is here : https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https://www.famitsu.com/news/201711/11145786.html

15 minutes ago, Johnster4 said:

For example, They always say in interviews that they want to cater to anyone but Sonic fans, Casuals and newcomers, and for Lost World Mario fans, the over usage for 2D section when modern Sonic should be 3D (I'd say it's at it's worst in Forces), The plots are too simple to the point where nothing is ever explained, for example, they never explain what the Lost Hex in Lost World, it's just there with no explanation, or Omega in Forces coming back at the 3rd Act, despite Tails not being able to repair him, and they never address it, or Infinite's backstory contradicting itself.

Fans are only a small proportion of the potential buyers, and they have to at least says that they are targeting a larger group. Sonic Forces is full of fanservice, if they only cared to cater to other fans than Sonic fans, Forces wouldn't have as much other characters. Same for Sonic Generations, that is full of fanservice.

And about the story, the lack of explications doesn't seems that much a problem of "vision" in Forces than a big execution problem (which is as much important than a problem of vision). Lost Hex not being explained is related to what the story is : the story pre-Forces were actually simple. In Forces… I wouldn't call it "too simple", as it's also convoluted on some points, with too much plot point. There is a common lack of explanation, but it's not really related imo. It's more related in pre-Forces games between them, than between Forces and them. It's more the superficial layer of writing style that is the same for me (which isn't strange when a part of the writing team is the same), the vision behind the story are polar opposite.

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3 hours ago, Johnster4 said:

When people praise his involvement in Mania but say he wasn't involved with Forces  it feels like like there being selective and saying he's only there for the good games and not there for the bad games, which I'm not convinced on.

Or they're simply noting the fact that Iizuka was heavily involved with Mania and the decisions surrounding its scope and design and working as a middleman for that team and Sega (even if he wasn't doing the work himself); and he wasn't heavily involved with Sonic Forces since he's been primarily been working in the US on behalf of Sega of America (in a role similar to what Naka was originally lured there for in 1992) since well before Forces came out while Sonic Forces was made in Japan under primarily Nakamura's eye.

 

 

Iizuka has gotten plenty of deserved shit for the creative decisions on the series entries he was directly involved with where heaping ones on him that he was only tangentially related to (it seems like the main idea he had for Forces was the Avatar system) is unnecessary.

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36 minutes ago, Johnster4 said:

 The plots are too simple to the point where nothing is ever explained, for example, they never explain what the Lost Hex in Lost World, it's just there with no explanation, or Omega in Forces coming back at the 3rd Act, despite Tails not being able to repair him, and they never address it, or Infinite's backstory contradicting itself.

I know it's partly speculatory,but those generally seem like instances of there being things cut or simply lost in translation over the course of development. Which happens somewhat often in the production business, but Sonic has obviously had it consistently for the past decade or so(Blaze in 06 and Knuckles & Shadow in Unleashed).

Things like concept art of Infinite in some sort of void thing, Greenhill having spider webs & barbed wire, Phantom Zavok seemingly lacking the telltales of the Ruby during his boss fight, interviews claiming that Shadow had a big role to play in the story, and certain versions of the leaked script mentioning Mephiles proves that Forces really was a game with a bunch of ideas and concepts that went nowhere. 

Ken Pontac admitted that Lost World just sorta dropping off near the end was down to them running out of time and having to wrap up quickly, with the fact that they just sort of...leave with a minimal resolution/climax and Eggman's line about the Zeti clearly indicated that they wanted to do something more along the lines of a sequel. 

And even Color clearly went through some changes throughout it's development, since Yacker is specifically noted as going missing with no scene/mention of them finding him before the final boss, Eggman has an unused line comparing the Wisps power as supposedly exceeding the Chaos Emeralds, and Ian Flynn was able to confirm under NDA that the script he was tasked to write had more characters & Wisps types involved.

Need I mention things like Perci's role, the time travel, and the idea of Sonic's origins being explored in Rise of Lyric? How about Zavok's motivation and an unused Phantom Ruby sound effect in TSR? Granted, those are spinoffs that were under a direction developer, but yeah.

Clearly, something has been going on behind the scenes for these things to happen, but there's little to no commonality in rhyme or even reason thus far. 

And that in itself can only be blamed on how making and releasing a game people will hopefully enjoy in certain timeframe seems to be the one absolute. The worst that can be said objectively is that maybe Iuzuka needs to crack down a little more to make sure things are at least cohesive before shipping.

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I checked the credits for all the modern Sonic games post Unleashed lately, and Iizuka is really not that involved in most of them.

He usually is credited as a supervisor/producer, so his role isn't different than Miyamoto's in regards to Mario. Miyamoto hasn't actively worked on a Mario game in quite a few years, he helps molding the general idea of what the game will be, but the building blocks themselves are set by game director, to my understanding.

Ironically enough, he was way more hands on with Mania than he is with most of Sonic Team's output. The name that Secret Rings, Black Knight, Colours, Lost World and Forces have in common is Morio Kishimoto, Director/Lead Director. When you put all of his resume in one place it starts to not sound that great, does it.

I think Iizuka is fine, maybe a bit out of touch, but he's not the one I would directly point fingers at. I'm very hesitant to do it with anyone actually, even Kishimoto, since most of Sonic Team seems to be very competent, Hoshino is insanely good at what he does, Ohtani is a great musician, so is Jun, the team is artistically very valid, but even great artists fail under mediocre direction.

That said, I do not agree with Kishimoto's vision of what Sonic is in the first place, it doesn't seem to me that he has any clear idea on how to handle the "speed" aspect of the character, so he resorts to generic platforming tropes that do not fit Sonic's gameplay style at all.

The main issue with the Kishimoto boost games, to me at least, is that it feels like they took a framework that worked pretty much okay from Unleashed and tried to fit some ideas into it that really clash with the identity of that original gameplay (blocky, slow, precise platforming and stop and go powerups).

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