In a few weeks, Sega will release Sonic Superstars, a video game that evokes elements of the classic, original Sonic the Hedgehog games from the 1990s. Unlike those games, which used pixel art, Sonic Superstars will be using 2.5D visuals to bring its gameplay to life - which the team thinks is the future.
During the recent Gamescom convention in Germany, Takashi Iizuka, the head of Sonic Team, spoke to GamesRadar+ and explained the reason behind this decision. He revealed they don't see pixel art as something that is viable for the future and are, as a result, incorporating a new art style.
In his words, "We look at the pixel art - it's great - but when we think about 10-20 years in the future, we don't think it's going to be a viable art style or presentation for our players. And in order to advance and really step things up, we did want to make sure that we're presenting something that 10-20 years down the road we're still evolving and creating new content for."
During the interview, Iizuka, who is also the producer of Sonic Superstars, touted 3D visuals as the future of Sonic games. However, he wants them to co-exist with classic Sonic 2D games - something that helped the franchise stay relevant all these years.
He said, "When we talk about the brand, we definitely need to have a modern Sonic 3D game. We also feel we need to have a classic Sonic 2D game. Those are our fundamental pillars that we need to have. We're expanding into movies and TV, but we still need to have both the 3D and the 2D line up for our gaming audience."
Iizuka pointed to last year's Sonic Frontiers, the franchise's first open-world game and a massive hit on Steam, as an illustration of what the Sonic Team is trying to do with 3D. According to him, the 3D Sonic gameplay's viability will enable to "continue bringing new gameplay experiences to players."
Pixel art worked well for Sonic video games and fans loved them that way. Besides, the latest pixel art Sonic game, Sonic Mania, had a better critical reception than Sonic Frontiers which Iizuka referenced. In addition, there has been an upswing in pixel art games in recent times with good results. Because of these reasons, we wonder why the Sonic Team is trying to fix something that isn't broken.
From the comments we've seen online, many Sonic fans have a similar trail of thought. Many pointed out that the industry has been trying to do away with pixel art for decades without success. The art style persists and is better than ever before, thanks to technological advancements.
We do understand the need to plan for the future, though. For the sake of fans, we hope the Sonic Team's decision works out. However, it is still early to tell, but with time we believe the team will gain clarity and make the best decision for their fans.
Regardless of what happens with Sonic Superstars, there is a real possibility that Sega will sign off on more reboots and remakes of the franchise to fans' delight. Last month, Yukio Sugino, Sega's president and chief operations officer, hinted at the possibility during an interview with Dualshockers.