GZ Interview: Sonic Team Returns to GameCube With an Exclusive Adventure

Sonic Team Returns to
GameCube With an Exclusive Adventure


Louis Bedigian


With Billy Hatcher’s
release only a few weeks away, Sega held a conference call to provide the
press with vital game information.


The sun had just come over
the horizon when its smell filled my nose.  Eggs…bacon…green pepper…  It was a
pleasant scent I had smelled before.  As I exited my bed and moved towards the
kitchen, it dawned on me what the smell was: omelets!


I flew into the kitchen,
hoping that by some miracle I could stop it before it was too late.  Then I
saw it – eggshells in the garbage.  There were even a couple broken eggs lying
on the floor.  This can’t be happening!


“Chill out man,” a fellow
reviewer remarked.  “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. 
Isn’t that what they say?”


But they didn’t understand. 
Eggs are no longer a source of nutrition, but rather a source of power.  They
hold much more than a yellow yolk – there’s a little creature inside those
things.  Honest!  I saw the creatures with my own eyes after playing
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
for the Nintendo GameCube.  Billy
comes from Yuji Naka, the man who created Sonic, and Sonic Team,
the development team that helped make the game a reality.


Once I began salting the
omelets with tears, the people from the psychiatric hospital came and took me


Six months later I’m back
and sane again.  I now know that those little creatures aren’t real.  Eggs
don’t hold great power.  My name is not Louie Hatcher…


Finally I can prove those
psychotic clinic people wrong!  I got a top-secret message this morning
informing me of a conference call involving Sega’s next GameCube release,
Billy Hatcher
.  Ecstatic, I gave the Sociopath Society a ring and told
them to take me off their Top 100 Nutcase list, ‘cause today I ain’t crazy!







Heather Hall, product
manager for Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, began the conference by giving us
a brief overview of the game.


"You [play as] a young boy
named Billy Hatcher who puts on a magical rooster suit.  In trying to save the
land from these evil crows that have stolen day–   So you are trying to
return daylight to the land by rolling around giant eggs through the level,
hatching magical creatures, using the eggs as weapons, and destroying the evil
crows and restoring the light.  There are seven stages in all, there are a lot
of unique missions, and all of the levels have a different look and feel. 
There’s a dinosaur level, a pirate level…  There’s also a four-player co-op
mode where you can play split-screen and compete against your friends."


Following the overview,
Heather answered our questions in a revealing Q&A.


Regarding Billy Hatcher’s
GameCube exclusivity, Heather commented, "As you may have heard previously,
Yuji Naka is a huge Nintendo fan.  [That] was one contributing factor.  Also
the style of gameplay, the platform/action-style is something that GameCube
players are really familiar with and it just seemed to make the most sense to
put it on that platform for that market."


One of GameCube’s highest
selling points at launch was Sega’s best multiplayer release to date, Super
Monkey Ball.  Billy Hatcher continues to make GameCube a great multiplayer
gaming platform with its exciting features.


Heather told us that there
are three modes within the multiplayer mode.  "It’s all battle.  You can do a
Time Battle, where the player that has injured the most opponents in the time
period wins.  There’s also a Stalk Battle mode, which is kind of a
last-man-standing-game (the last player standing is the one who wins).  And
there’s also a Hatch Battle, where the player who has hatched the most eggs
and received the most points wins."


"Most definitely, but there
are no current plans."—Heather on whether or not Billy Hatcher’s gameplay
lends itself to portable game systems.



When asked how many eggs can
be hatched in the game, Heather didn’t ease our anticipation.  "Well, we’re
kind of hoping that gamers will play through the game and figure it out for
themselves," she said, making us all the more curious.  "But I can tell you
that there is a lot."


Regarding the egg and
creature types, Heather reveals that each creature has an element associated
with it, such as water, wind or fire.  She gave an example of how the various
elements would be used, saying, "If there’s fire surrounding an area, you can
hatch a water creature and send him over to put the fire out."  That will then
give you the chance to explore an area that was engulfed in flames and thus
could not be crossed before.


Looking for exploration? 
Heather confirms what the screenshots have hinted at.  "The game is fairly
open," she says.  "However, there is a certain path that you’re going to need
to follow to get on to the next stage.  But in terms of exploring, you can
explore all over and continue to find and hatch eggs, collect items, etc.  The
seven stages are pretty expansive.  There are eight missions within each one."


Heather also spoke briefly
on the game’s difficulty: "The game was designed in much the same manner [as
the Sonic Adventure series] so the difficulty is much the same.  It’s
something that can appeal to kids but also to the older gamer."


I have had the chance to play Billy
Hatcher and the Giant Egg and I totally agree with that statement.  As many of
you know, Nintendo released a special Preview Disc a couple of months ago. 
One of the top demos featured on the disc was Billy Hatcher.  It looks like a
kid’s game, but it is really much more than that.  So please adult gamers,
don’t make the mistake of tossing it aside just because it’s a game that
involves hatching eggs.  Billy Hatcher may not have a development connection
to Super Monkey Ball, but the gameplay follows in Monkey Ball’s high-quality,
ultra-addictive footsteps.


"The music is different from
the Sonic titles," says Heather. "It’s all original score.  It’s featured in a
trailer that we are going to be distributing later this week."



In addition to the information provided,
GameZone asked Heather some questions to learn more about
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg


Where did the concept for
Billy Hatcher come from it?  It has some relation to Super Monkey Ball – there
are some down-spiraling areas in the game that feels a lot like Super Monkey
Ball and I was wondering if there was any relation to that title.



Essentially Yuji Naka wanted to create a four-player game where players were
rolling around balls.  In order to make the single-player experience more
compelling, he thought it would be more interesting to have the balls be eggs
and have something hatch out of them.  So that is, in a nutshell, where that
came from.  There is no relation to Super Monkey Ball though.


What kind of an ad promotion
is being used to promote this game?  How are you going to promote this game at
launch and through the Christmas shopping season?



We have retail kiosk demos in over 10,000 retail locations that will go till
the start of the holiday season.  We also have television running on things
like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, WB Kids, targeting more towards boys 8 to
11.  We also have a pre-campaign targeted to both kids and gamers.  Obviously
because of Naka’s appeal with Sonic and with the hardcore gamers we feel that
kind of credibility will lend to that audience.  We also have an online
campaign, and lots of other promotions that haven’t been finalized as of yet.


How would you describe the
gameplay to someone who has only seen still images and has never played the
game before?



You can use the egg in a variety of ways.  You can use it as a weapon [by]
tossing it at an enemy.  You can actually jump up into the air and bounce down
an enemy.  You can travel with it, so if you’re going down a slope you’re
latched onto it [the egg] and rolling with it, say like a roller coaster-type
rail.  You can go through portals.  They’re these rings that you jump into and
the egg is shot somewhere else, so you can shoot through the air with them. 
There are a variety of ways that the egg can be used in addition to hatching
magical creatures which will accompany you on your mission and help you.


Are there any boss battles
or any kind of ending stages that you have to complete?



Yes, there are bosses within each stage.  There generally will be either a
large quill or [something similar].  You need to unlock the Chicken Elders in
order to return the light to the land of that particular stage.  The bosses
are [usually] holding the chicken elders, so you will use your egg to throw at
the boss, or pound at the boss to defeat them and get the Chicken Elder.



"There are some surprise
eggs in the game with some surprise things to be hatched."—Heather Hall



Do the night and day effects
change in real-time?



When you unlock the Chicken Elder, which is in the Golden Egg, then the light
is restored to the land, so it’s an event that occurs.  In some levels the
Chicken Elder will be placed at various parts, so he might be at the beginning
or middle of one level, and at the very end of another.


Does the game support any
force-feedback features?  Are there any unique rumbling effects that occur
when you unlock an egg?



Not when you unlock an egg, but the game does support force-feedback.


When in particular does the
controller rumble?  Are there specific times or is it just during action



It’s during action sequences.


Are there any voice-overs in
the game that help tell the story?  Any spoken dialogue?



There are some sound effects for Billy, but I don’t believe there is any
spoken dialogue.  When Billy un-hatches an egg he’ll say ‘cock-a-doodle-doo!’
to get the egg to hatch.


The graphics look great on
paper, but what sort of special effects will gamers see once they are actually
playing Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg?



The egg, when you’re using it as a weapon it lets off special effects.  When
you bounce it off the ground there’s a definite glow and rumble.  There are
special attacks that you can do with the magical creatures that you un-hatch. 
Those unleash lightning and other special effects that are very visible



Thanks to everyone at Sega for having a
wonderful conference call.  I’ll be sure get in my nest and hatch a few eggs
when the game releases this September.