Sonic Superstars takes us back to the 2D era of the franchise, where the gameplay is more straightforward, the story premises are simpler, and the character roster is small. That’s certainly the case for the playable roster, featuring just Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy, but it’s also true for the villain roster. Sonic Superstars sees the return of Dr. Eggman, as well as Fang the Hunter (previously known as Nack the Weasel and Fang the Sniper) from Sonic Triple Trouble and Sonic the Fighters, but they’re not alone. They’re joined by Trip, a new character introduced into the Sonic universe through this game.
But with both Dr. Eggman and Fang already set to hassle Sonic and friends, one could argue that duo alone is enough to keep the heroes’ hands full. But Sonic Team and Arzest wanted to lay it on even thicker for the Sonic squad. “When we think about the three enemy characters in the game, we have Dr. Eggman, we have Fang, and we have Trip,” Sonic Team creative officer Takashi Iizuka says. “Eggman is kind of always there in Sonic games as a villain, and he’s always there causing problems. But we really wanted to revive one of the older, more minor characters from the Classic series. That’s where the idea to bring Fang back into the picture came up. So we have Eggman, who’s always there, then we have Fang, who’s back after a long time of being gone, but we also wanted to introduce a new character as well to go with, like, the old and new in addition to the always-there Eggman.”
The Creation of Trip
Trip joins the roster of enemies as a joint creation between Iizuka and Arzest president and Sonic co-creator Naoto Ohshima, who oversaw much of Sonic Superstars’ development. “When speaking with Ohshima-san about making a new game together, we wanted to have a new story,” Iizuka says. “We thought about, well, what story can we have? What characters are going to be there? And how’s this all going to play out? As we were talking about that, we really felt we needed a new character for the story – we want to introduce a new character. And we don’t just want to have a character with no background with nothing going on that’s just going to ‘boop’ pop up in the world. We really want to show a character with some kind of unique characteristics, some character backgrounds, some storytelling elements that are going to make the character unique and stand out and be a character that people can kind of relate to and empathize with and enjoy as a character in the world, not just because they’re there, but because they mean something to the world.”
That last point is of particular importance to Iizuka and the team, as he recognizes past patterns when introducing world-ending threats seemingly out of nowhere that players are supposed to care about. “In the past, when we’ve had new enemies come out, we’ve always had really strong, powerful enemies,” Iizuka says. “We have Infinite [from Sonic Forces]. There are lots of these kinds of, boom, they’re in your face as an enemy, and you know right away that they’re very strong. They’re a formidable enemy and, ‘Oh no! How am I going to deal with this enemy?’ That’s been the way enemies have been presented in the past, and we wanted to do something different.”
The resulting character is Trip, the first creation by Ohshima for the Sonic franchise in decades. Ohshima is most well-known for being the creator of the original designs for both Sonic the Hedgehog and Dr. Eggman. However, he left Sega and Sonic Team following his work on Sonic Adventure in 1999. Ohshima worked closely with Iizuka to come up with ideas for the new character. “We sent visuals back and forth and had an ongoing dialogue about what the personality should be like,” Ohshima says. “Ideas came up for the character’s actions and themes, like an armored lizard and the ouroboros. I worked on the design while discussing the ideas with Iizuka-san.”
“When you look at her, obviously she’s covered in armor, and the reason why she’s covered in armor in the game is the base of her character is a sungazer lizard in English,” Iizuka says. “In Japanese, it’s more direct – it’s literally ‘armored lizard’ in Japanese. But the sungazer is that animal that was being referenced for the deign of Trip.”
Changing the Script
My only direct interaction with Trip during my hands-on session comes during Act Amy in Lagoon City Zone. After stumbling upon her, she doesn’t seem like the standard world-ending threat we’ve come to know in the Sonic franchise. Even a character like Chaos in Sonic Adventure, who started out weak, was still a formidable foe in the early stages. In my encounter with Trip, she seems lost, sad, and even helpless. Amy offers to help Trip, and the second half of the stage becomes an escort mission of sorts, with Amy carrying Trip to the goal. These character-specific acts are meant to give additional context to the story of Sonic Superstars, but my takeaway from that initial encounter isn’t that Trip is some evil character bent on destroying our heroes, but rather there’s some complexity behind her eventual turn to intimidating villain.
“The team wanted to show that Trip is not that usual enemy, and we wanted to introduce her in a way that’s not the obvious ‘Oh, I’m super strong’ way,” Iizuka says. “When we presented Trip in the very beginning, I think she even falls on her face in the very first scene that you see her in. The first thing I think people will be thinking is, ‘Who is she, and why is she a super strong enemy? What’s going on?’ We wanted to introduce the character in that way to make it different from how enemies have always been presented in Sonic games.”
Arzest and Sonic Team also had to contend with getting these ideas across through storytelling without compromising the core presentation tenets of the Classic series. “We’re in the Classic format for storytelling as well, so we’re not going to be using voiceover, we’re not going to be having long monologues about this and that,” Iizuka says. “We really wanted to present it in a way that fits in that Classic storytelling way of just showing the actions of the character and still being a cool character with all these interesting traits. We think as people enjoy watching Trip and watching her go through the story as an enemy, they’ll really appreciate her as one of the enemies.”
Why Isn’t Shadow In Sonic Superstars?
In the past, Iizuka has told me that Shadow is his favorite non-Sonic character, and since he had a hand in creating him for Sonic Adventure 2, many have posited that Shadow could have been the third adversary in Sonic Superstars. However, that is not the case, and Iizuka doubles down that Shadow doesn’t have a place in the Classic series.
“Shadow is from the Modern series of characters and gameplay that we have introduced,” Iizuka says. “The Classic series exists before the Modern series, so they haven’t met at that time. There’s no relationship, so we won’t be bringing Shadow into the Classic series.”
“Unfortunately, Shadow was in a capsule at that time,” Iizuka follows up with a chuckle.
We’re sure to learn a lot more about Trip in the lead-up to Sonic Superstars’ launch. Sonic Superstars comes to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC this fall. For more about this highly anticipated 2D platformer, head to our coverage hub by clicking the banner below!