For many fans, the big sell of Sonic Forces is that you can create your own original, playable character. But don’t read too much into this — Custom Hero mode isn’t exactly an in-depth, fan art-inspired mode so much as one using parts from the existing Sonic Forces universe, according to the game’s developers.
“It’s not gonna be as in depth as Fallout or some of those other extremely complex creation mechanics,” producer Shun Nakamura told Polygon about the character creator during a pre-Tokyo Game Show event. “What we had in mind when we were making the whole create a character scenario was, out of all the people being depicted in this world, you can choose those characters that populate the world.
“It’s not complete free creation, but we’re going and making a lot of parts and features and animals that could exist in this world and you’re going to be able to put them together.”
So instead of thinking of the Custom Hero mode as your first chance to create your original character — like, say, Coldsteel the Hedgehog or Sonichu, etc. — it’s actually a tool to take a pre-existing character and customize them with a set of pieces to your liking.
That’s not to say that Sonic Team isn’t well aware of how much Sonic fan art is out there. They’ve seen it, alright, as studio head Takashi Iizuka told us with a laugh.
“I’ve seen so many things in my life, that I have the knowledge of what people want to create or what they have created in the past,” he told us. “I’ve been seeing that for decades now, and I do understand on a certain level, but when the team was creating the customizable character, when they were making content, they just went out and did what they wanted to do.”
Hence original avatar characters that come from an array of different species, each of whom are strong — but, importantly, not quite as strong as Sonic, as Nakamura pointed out.
At the same time, Iizuka, Nakamura and the team did pick something up from the Sonic fandom. When I mentioned that anyone can Google their name plus “the hedgehog” and find a fanmade character in the series’ style, the pair laughed. It turns out that they’re aware of that goof, too, and the fascination with Sonic-style hedgehogs influenced how they designed the Custom Heroes.
“Most of the fan art that we see are hedgehog characters,” said Iizuka. “A lot of the characters are created and designed matching the Sonic the Hedgehog body shape. That’s pretty much what I see in the fan art out there. Nothing really deviates too far from that, so when we were thinking about the customizable character feature ,we didn’t really go to far in creating different body types and shapes, because most of what is saw had a similar type of body shape to Sonic.”
You can play as your own lanky, inorganically colored character when Sonic Forces launches in November. But the dream of really playing as our own original heroes remains just out of reach.