Sonic Superstars

TGS 2023: ‘Sonic Superstars’ Aims To Deliver Classic ‘90s Vibe With A Modern 4-Player Couch Co-op Twist

With just a few weeks left till the release of Sonic Superstars on 17 October, Geek Culture caught up with the game’s producers at the Tokyo Game Show 2023, where the conversation went into overdrive with Sonic designer and co-creator Naoto Ohshima, and Takashi Iizuka, the current head of Sonic Team and producer of Sonic Superstars.

Naoto Ohshima and Takashi Iizuka.

Iizuka-san shared excitedly that Sonic Superstars is set to be the big comeback of the classic 2D side-scrolling Sonic onto the latest game platforms, which was what debuted back with Sega’s Mega Drive, and the Sonic team is definitely looking forward to having long-time fans be able to enjoy the classic gameplay mechanics again, the way the iconic video game mascot was originally designed. What’s new though is also the ability to steal rings with friends, as Sonic Superstars was designed as a co-op game, to build a sense of group gaming, instead of the solo adventures that video games are now known for. 

And who else would Sega bring back to the fold than Ohshima-san, who left Sega after creating Sonic the Hedgehog. In fact, Oshima-san has been constantly approached by many fans over the years asking about his return to Sonic so when Sega came knocking, Ohshima-san agreed.

“I was reached out by Sega and was asked to help out with bringing back a certain element of Sonic to the audience again through Sonic Superstars. And I was more than willing to do that and saw it as a chance for me to give something back to the community for having supported and loved Sonic all these years,” said Ohshima-san in an interview with Geek Culture.

Meanwhile, the shared elements of playing together, and alone, should players feel like it, fell on Iizuka-san. 

“A big part of Sonic Superstars is how the team managed to create an experience that is enjoyable for both solo and co-op players when it comes to challenge and level design. When it came to game development, we’re really focused on the solo gameplay experience. And then once we were able to perfect that we moved on to the co-op experience,” explained Iizuka-san in the same interview. 

“Obviously when it comes to co-op, players can all move in one direction, cooperatively. However, there is a tendency for players to move in different directions and want to do their own things. Or they might even want to challenge one another to outperform each other. And with that in mind, we used elements such as split screen in order to facilitate those moments.”

But unlike traditional co-op games where groups of players have to move together in the same direction or be knocked out of the screen, Sonic Superstars grants players the ability to go at their own pace, so players can either cooperatively work together to beat a level, or compete with one another by speeding off to do their own thing. This allows for another added layer of fun where players in a couch setting would be calling out to each other to slow down or to speed up, or even go their separate ways with the screen splitting four ways.

At this point, Ohshima-san jumps in to add on that there is also a new warp element, where if one of the players enters a warp mode, the rest of the players will get dragged into a wormhole together. The warp acts as a shortcut to help move all the players a little closer to the end goal and of a stage. This gameplay element is not just a gimmick, but it allows players to have a moment of togetherness while they’re in a co-op setting, which helps add a brief moment of unity to the gameplay.

Online Battle Mode.

Sonic Superstars also sees the addition of collecting medals in each stage. These medals are placed randomly across different areas and once players manage to collect them, it will unlock a bonus stage, similar to the original Sonic the Hedgehog. Players will then be able to collect even more medals during the bonus stages, which can then be used as currency in the new Online Battle Mode. The currency will allow players to customise their character’s appearances for online play.

Another fun aspect added to the game, which Iizuka-san proudly shares in greater detail is the addition of Chaos Emerald powers to each character. Each playable character can gain up to seven of such powers, which will grant them special abilities. In the game demo, we were able to try out on the TGS 2023 show floor, we got to try out four of Sonic’s Chaos Emerald powers such as his cloning ability that spams the screen with multiple Sonics, the water climbing technique that helps Sonic traverse waterfalls vertically, the bullet power that turns Sonic into a molten ball to dash at object, and a vision power that enables Sonic to see hidden platforms and rings. Check out our hands on session during Gamescom 2023 for more details on our impressions of the game.

One of Ohshima-san’s favourite things to work on was the creation of a new character, Trip, who is a little bit of a trickster with a unique personality.

“Trip has this very cute helmet on her face and you don’t really understand what she’s thinking or how she’s going to behave next. She has a tad bit of evilness in her, as well as good sides to her, and there’s just so much going on with this new character that I really like. When it came to the design of Trip, we (with Izuka-san) worked together collaboratively on the design, and we really put in as much as we could when it came to the character design.” Ohshima-san shares candidly.

“In addition to that, the story itself is very interesting for us so we’re hoping that a lot of people will be able to enjoy this take on the Sonic series, and enjoy the new 2D/3D mashup appearance of the game.”

Closing off the session, Ohshima-san shares his final message to the fans, “It’s been a really long time since I was able to work on Sonic again and I’m really glad that I was able to get the opportunity to work on Sonic alongside Izuka-san because as there were many fun times, there were some tough times in there as well. But I think in the end we really gave it our all and we have an amazing Sonic game coming, and I hope all the fans and media will be able to enjoy Sonic Superstars.”

Ultimately, both Iizuka-san and Ohshima-san want to deliver a Sonic game that’s great for family gatherings or even casual gatherings with your friends and family, and they really hope that players will be able to play together and experience Sonic Superstars to the fullest when it releases on 17 October across PC, PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X|S, and Xbox One.