July 14, 2024

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The developers of Sonic Superstars explain why they are finally giving up on the Green Hill Zone

The developers of Sonic Superstars explain why they are finally giving up on the Green Hill Zone

For the past few years, the Sonic franchise has had a problem with the Green Hill Zone. Sure, the opening level of the original 1991 Sonic the Hedgehog is iconic, but it looked like Blue Blur was returning to Green Hill just as Star Wars is revisiting Tatooine.

Sonic fans have played through levels set in the Green Hill Zone in 2011’s Sonic Generations, Sonic Forces and Sonic Mania in 2017, and last year’s Sonic Origins and Sonic Frontiers. But in Sonic Superstars – the newly announced Sonic game with 3D graphics and four-player co-op – the series finally accelerates away from the classic levels we’ve seen time and time again. In an interview with IGN, Sonic series producer Takashi Iizuka said that Sonic Superstars will be full of new locations.

“In Sonic Mania, Green Hill Zone has changed a bit,” Iizuka said through a translator. And even Sonic Origins, we have Green Hill as part of Sonic the Hedgehog. But what we wanted to do with Sonic Superstars is really create something new and go out there and create these brand new islands that you can explore as Sonic…we wanted to take Sonic to [the] All-new North Star Islands and let Sonic run wild in this new environment. So we wanted to make completely new places for Sonic to enter in this new title.”

That’s right – there is no Green Hill, no chemical plant, no levels you’ve seen in previous 2D Sonic games. However, Sonic Superstars is set to return to the Sonic Foundation from a gameplay perspective. Sega’s announcement for Sonic Superstars said that Sonic’s movements, physics, and controls will feel familiar to longtime fans, and Iizuka also explained how Superstars is a return to the classics.

“One of the things we wanted to do was make sure we really got the roots of that classic gameplay. Classic gameplay, I’m sure, you play as Sonic, you jump, you get in the ball and you attack enemies. The first thing the team did was iterate on that classic gameplay.” Very precisely. So when you play Sonic Superstars, you go through the basic classic Sonic game loop. You jump, you get into the ball, you defeat the enemies and you keep moving forward.”

But you won’t just play as Sonic. Sonic Superstars brings four-player local co-op into the mix, where players can choose between Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy Rose. Additional characters retain the unique actions you’d expect from the series: Tails can fly, Knuckles can slide and climb, and Amy can use her hammer.

The classic approach will also carry over to the storyline in Sonic Superstars. Iizuka said there would not be a voiceover or much text in the story. Instead – in classic Genesis fashion – the story will unfold simply by watching characters move and interact with each other between levels.

The Green Hill area, shown here in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. It’s a distinct area. Image source: Smash Bros. Wiki.

Of course, the biggest difference you’ll notice right away between Sonic Superstars and the 16-bit originals is the graphics. Sonic Superstars uses a 3D aesthetic, which we’ve seen previously in the Classic Sonic sections of games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Forces. But now a whole game is being built around this style, which Iizuka said would provide new gameplay opportunities.

“It’s classic 2D Sonic, but because we’re using 3D models to create the world and the characters. We’re able to do things within the 2D gameplay mode that we couldn’t do before. So sometimes he’ll send the character back into the world. Maybe. It’s going to transform the character, rotate the character in a way that we can’t do with classic looks and pixel art. Or it might be a boss fight that we’re going to have in this kind of 3D space. There are all these things that we can do because we have 3D models, even though we have 2D gameplay and game format, yet we’re able to play and do things that classic Genesis and Game Gear titles couldn’t.”

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Sonic Superstars is coming to PlayStation 5, PS4 and Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC this fall.

Logan Plant is a freelance writer for IGN covering video game and entertainment news. He has over seven years of experience in the gaming industry with minor lines at IGN, Nintendo Wire, Switch Player Magazine, and Lifewire. You can find him on Twitter @LoganJPlant.